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The Language of Attraction, Essay Example

Pages: 4

Words: 1128

Essay

The mystery of what attracts us to one another has intrigued us throughout the ages.  From the first glance to the weeding aisle, as we get to know a special someone we continually explore the reasons that bring us together.  Curiosity leads to the study of one another, and under the complexities of our various societies many similarities in how we connect have been discovered.  In using Helen Fisher’s chapter on courting as a guide, many of these physical gestures can be observed in the romance between the two central characters in the motion picture Along Came Polly. The movie is the story of Reuben, a socially conservative man who rarely takes risks, and Polly, a free-spirited woman who travels through life with no set goals or agenda.  Once childhood friends, Reuben and Polly run into one another after Reuben’s ill-fated marriage to a bride who left him for another man on their honeymoon.  The two are instantly drawn to one another, and a romance grows through a constant dance of give-and-take.  While many outside pressures – like family, friends, and careers – factor in to the future of their relationship, it is obvious to the audience that these two people enjoy each other’s company.  In looking at this relationship, we see that Fisher’s work diagrams this relationship soundly, and once societal influences are pulled away, this universal dance of courtship is easy to follow.

In Along Came Polly, the two main characters go through many of the motions that Fisher notes as innate courting rituals.  Ruben and Polly meet at an upscale art exhibition/party, a social setting that provides the perfect backdrop for Fisher’s theories, as they relate to American courtship in singles bars (p. 25).  After being left for another man on his honeymoon, Ruben isn’t necessarily looking to meet a woman, but is dragged to the event by his aggressive, oversexed best friend in an effort to break him out of his depression and back onto the dating scene.  When Polly – who is working at the party as a waitress – and Ruben meet, Fisher’s non-verbal signs of attraction are very relevant.  Although Ruben and Polly have a previous relationship as junior high classmates, that bond melts away to reveal the beginnings of courtship, starting with the exchange of smiles and facial expressions.  When two people begin to flirt, Fisher notes that smiles are the first sign of attraction, and Polly definitely follows the pattern of staring, using the bared-upper-teeth “upper smile” and looking away throughout the conversation (Fisher 21 – 23).  On their first date, Fisher’s ideas of “grooming talk” come into play, as Ruben and Polly converse about their food and what they like best about life. Ruben, who is normally a stiff, careful individual who avoids risks and frivolity, begins to adopt the higher-pitched, gentler tone that helps to put the listener at ease and more trusting (Fisher 27).  Ruben also appears to incorporate a form of the posturing that Fisher attributes to males (20 – 21). Instead of the literal and figurative chest thumping, Ruben attempts to hold a masculine demeanor as he eats a spicy Moroccan dish with Polly. Although it sounds simple, Ruben always has a bad reaction to spicy food, but does all that he can to prove to an unaware Polly that he is unfazed, thus appearing stronger and more attractive.

Ruben also recognizes the need to utilize one of the more universal tools of attraction:  suggestive movements and sounds. Fisher points out that much like in the single’s bar scene, body language is incorporated into courtship throughout the animal kingdom.  From the Hopi Indians of the American Southwest to the sage grouse, males incorporate strong dance rituals and complex songs that prove their suitability as a mate (Fisher 35 – 36).  Ruben’s take on this courtship element in the form of salsa lessons.  After seeing Polly dance provocatively with another potential boyfriend, Ruben confronts him to challenge him for her affections.  When he reveals himself to be uninterested in Polly (he is actually a close homosexual friend of hers), Ruben takes dance lessons from him, and ultimately shows Polly how willing he is to step outside his comfort zone and prove his attraction and affection.

While Fisher’s physical cues are apparent in the courtship of Ruben and Polly, her theories are also supported in the back-and-forth of their relationship.  As a free-spirited woman who rarely commits to anything, Polly takes a somewhat passive role in furthering the romance.  After their initial meeting at the party, Ruben and Polly begin a series of phone calls that routinely consist of Ruben asking Polly out on a date and Polly saying yes at first but then backing out with a host of excuses.  Initially, one could view this as a rejection of Ruben’s advances, but this rhythm actually seems to follow Fisher’s thoughts on the leadership roles of a relationship.  Fisher turns the traditional view of the human male as sexual predator on its ear by actually attributing sexual persistence to the human female, thanks to her natural responsibility to continue and nurture the species (32 – 33).  However, once attraction is achieved, it is then the responsibility of the male to complete the ritual and do things that will arouse and entice her to mate.  Likewise, this game between Ruben and Polly is played to pull both characters out of their roles as singles and into the rhythm of a committed relationship.  Once they both clearly define what they need from each other, their relationship blossoms.  On a primitive level, Fisher likens this notion to be as simple as a male taking on the role as protector and procreator, but when the layers of civilization are considered the idea becomes clearer.  Often in today’s society we put an emphasis on couples’ need to  “understand” one another; to help one another define the role that the other needs to play in order for them to feel secure and loved.

Helen Fisher’s work and stories of courtship like Along Came Polly help us to uncover the many mysteries of attraction.  While the movie has many exaggerated situations that lend to comedy, both of these resources emphasize the patterns of attraction.  There may be many variables that lead men and animals down different paths, but if the correct steps are taken in the right order the end result is a relationship that is complimentary to both parties. Moreover, it is important to observe these patterns in the world and pairings around us to learn where mistakes are made and how to attract the best mate.  Fisher’s work and Along Came Polly, while looking at the same issue from different perspectives, come to the same conclusion:  when allowed to, Nature will take its own course.

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