Woman’s Own – Nov 4th 1954

DIRK BOGARDE answers the question in every woman’s mind

What do men think about you?

as told by Vyvyenne Necwcombe

‘The kind of woman few men can resist
‘We don’t talk about women behind their backs, unless…
‘A woman doesn’t need to be clever to hold a man…
‘The most attractive age for a woman is any age…

I swore never to write another word about women for women. For men, yes, but not for women. And here I am, going back on my word and cluttering the field once more.

What do men think about women I have been asked. Remember, these are my opinions, formed from my own experience, and no one is to blame for them except me.

I am not stating a law, merely a personal like or dislike.

First, that awkward question, “Do men like to be sought after by women?” Of COURSE they do! After all it is perfectly natural. It shows a man that he is desirable, attractive, worth seeking … either because he is handsome, has a large income and broad shoulders, or just one or the other.

Or because he has the wherewithal to provide a home and garden, a mink coat, or a refuge. And in any case, whatever the lady is after, it makes the man feel good. She might even be a pretty lady too.

She looks pathetic

But the difference between ‘sought’ and ‘caught’ is very wide. I’ll just say this. I have never known a man who enjoyed being chased by a woman. It is the most unsatisfactory state of affairs, and always makes a woman look pathetic.

Somehow a woman generally comes off worse when she chases a man.

The sight of a woman whose pride has been hurt is a very sad one. It always seems to colour her outlook for such a time a afterwards. She develops a wild sort of bitterness and and ‘I-don’t-care’ attitude which makes her terribly hard to know, or even to be social with for a few hours.

It really makes her very, very, unattractive.

Just give him time

Whatever you do, don’t chase a man. If he runs away from you, it must be that either he doesn’t like you, is shy of you, wants to think things out, or has someone else.

Whatever his reason, he has one. Leave him alone, and give him time, and he’ll come back – if he wants to. But don’t hunt him down like a bloodhound. It will panic him more than Income Tax or running the gauntlet.

I have been asked at what age is a woman most attractive? Well, in the words (almost) of Gertrude Stein, the author, a woman is a woman. And a woman is attractive to me at any age.

I know one who lives in Chalfont St. Peter. She is one of the most attractive girls any man could hope to meet. Her name is Janina. And she is just a little over four; but, my goodness, what charm and wit. What manners and poise. And what exquisite prettiness.

But to be a little more to the point, though not more serious, I think a woman is at her most attractive when she nears her thirties, or over.

Mai Zetterling, for instance, who is twenty-nine. This lovely blonde Scandinavian actress, who is a mother and housewife, starred opposite me in a film I made in Germany. She was good fun to be with, an excellent conversationalist, and calm in the face of crises.

A woman of this age rarely laughs too loudly at poor jokes, wears unsuitable clothes, too much jewellery or too much make-up. She has outgrown to an extent, the wild desires for Frankie Laine and Johnny Ray and Jive Music.

She doesn’t try to copy her favourite film star’s hair and make-up which may be fine for the film star but ghastly for her. All of which make her more natural and pleasing to be with.

She may even have learned to cook by this time, paper a room, wash a baby, read a book and hem a dress. She may not. But the evens are that she will and that’s very important.

When she’s thirty…

Don’t think for a moment that I mean any woman under thirty can’t do all of these things and a great deal more. I’m just saying that by the time she is in her thirties she will be pretty well expert in these things. Or she should be.

A woman develops much faster than a man as we know; a man is still very adolescent at thirty in comparison to most Women of that age. And I should say that between thirty and fifty is the most attractive age for a woman. Remember, I am getting into the thirties myself, so naturally, I’m biased.

There are, of course, many exceptions. Eighteen to twenty-five is great fun too… but as I have been asked for my preference, there it is.

Sue Stephen is twenty-two years old, and is an exception to the rule. She is a good example of a very young woman who is practical, can drive a car, is a good horsewoman without being horsey, and can run a home for her husband as well as her career.

You want to know how intelligent men like a woman to be? Well, I can’t stand a dumb blonde, or dumb brunette or any other type of dumb- belle for that matter.

No information please!

She is just not my sort of woman. But, a great many men I know seem to like women I think are fairly dumb, and apparently find great happiness with them.

At the same time, I don’t want my sort of girl to bore the legs off me telling me just what the Roman god Mithras was, or did. Nor yet do I want to know the position of each semi-colon in Hamlet, or how the Five Year Plan For Tractors in some country or other is working.

I couldn’t care a jot less.

But a woman must have some intelligence… even gleaned from popular digest… for it does help a man if a girl can talk a little about his job, his sports, his hobbies, and about her own job too. It helps if she knows a little about music, or books of the month, or whether red and yellow would be a good idea for the bedroom colour scheme.

It’s fun if she knows a bit about woods and fields, about plants and chickens. She’ll have to know these things anyway if she is fortunate enough to live in the country. But she’s no use to me if she lives and dies for horses, and creaks like a saddle whenever she crosses a room.

Intelligence is such a pompous word really. All it ought to mean in this case, I think, is an awareness, an appreciation, of the general things in life.

Virginia McKenna is most intelligent, practical and beautiful. She astonished me when we co-starred in Simba, by proving that a real beauty can have brains, speak several languages, and still have an enormous sense of fun. Virginia is also abreast of the world’s events without in the least being dogmatic.

If a woman only reads strip cartoons she’s a dead duck for me… but if she has a slight knowledge of the front, middle and last pages of any daily paper, she’ll be doing fine.

As far as being able to talk about my job, good food I like, or my ails and ills… that doesn’t need intelligence… it only takes craft in any woman.

In nine cases out of twelve, women do this wonderfully well anyway.

An intelligent woman is the woman who knows that her partner is much less clever than she is, but makes him feel that he’s brilliant.

After all, it doesn’t take much doing… we men are simple most of the time, and a drop of flattery at the right moment is better than a bottle of wine for making us think you are THE one for us.

You are the soft duster which brings a gleam of gold to a piece of dull brass. (The brass in this case being us.)

If you know that this is so, and how to polish, you don’t need any more intelligence!

A word of warning

Do men talk about women among themselves? Well, here’s the rub. I can’t honestly say we do. I mean, not all that amount.

When a number of men get together they talk more gossip and rubbish and scandal about their own sex than women do. I’m almost sure my friends would agree with me on that score.

We don’t talk about women a great deal behind their backs… unless it’s to warn one of our sex to avoid a woman for various reasons.

Reasons like: “Talks too much. can’t get a word in edgeways, myself,” or, “Lose her, old boy. She’s got a ghastly mother with a catch-him-quick gleam in her eye,” or even, “paints her nails, old man, a lovely red, but forgets to clean her nails underneath.”

And just the other night I heard a very famous actor say of a very famous actress, “Oh, brother! The things she decks herself up in. It’s like going out with a Christmas tree. Never again!”

No, we don’t go in for talking about you too much. Usually it’s sport, or business, or cattle and crops, the quality of beer, or Old So-and-So we last met in Singapore in ’45.

Nothing that would make you prick up your ears.

Naturally, if we do happen to be discussing a definite girl we go into the matter with great attention to detail. What sort of clothes she wears – unsuitable or good; embarrassing to be seen with or just plain dowdy.

Someone I am always proud to be seen with – and so are my other men friends – is Kay Kendall (now 26). She is always impeccably dressed and you know you’ll never see anyone else in the room, restaurant or at a première who can quite match up to her.

Kay makes everyone look at her with admiration, not curiosity.

No room likes to look a fool with some over-dressed woman, and unless he knows her terribly well he can’t tell her to remove those dreadful green bows, the fourth clip, or the absurd hat with a whole pheasant which gets in the way of everything.

He can suggest or hint, but he feels that if she doesn’t know she looks absurd then she never will… and he’ll start to think of some young woman who looks terrific in a twin set, twin skirt, pearls and a neat little hat, who won’t make him embarrassed.

Shooting a line

The women who brag and shoot a line are usually pretty well left alone. Those who still live in the war are the worst offenders.

The number of ex-WAAFs whom I’ve heard claim to have sunk the Tirpitz, would fill the Pool of London … and the women who have clever husbands who can lay crazy paving, bath a baby, cook cabbage and so forth, leave everyone cold. Lots of poor unfortunate men can cook cabbage and bath babies.

The other line-shooter one avoids is the one who ‘knows Famous People.’ Usually a peer or a film star.

They are awfully boring and the greatest mistake any woman can make is to be a bore.

Generally line-shooters can be deflated. I remember at a party about a year ago meeting a young woman whom I’d never seen and didn’t know me, telling me in great detail, all about myself.

She said she knew me well, that I was this, and that and the other… some of it quite nice, but a lot of it nonsense.

It was a horrid half-hour, because she was the only one in our small group sitting round the window who didn’t know that in fact I was me!

I’m awfully afraid that she didn’t feel too good when she was told later about her gaffe.

However, be that as it may… that sort of bragging never does anyone any good. Whether they are male or female. You usually get caught out in the end.

For that reminds me, here am I writing about women, which I vowed never to do again. But how can I help it? You are such amazingly complex, annoying, sentimental, idiotic, lovely, and necessary creatures. And for Heaven’s sake, never stop being any one of those things… as if you ever could!