Suzanne Fields

Ted Bundy, the infamous serial killer, is cited as an example of an attractive criminal who used his looks and personality to challenge justice. "Handsome, arrogant and articulate," wrote Hugh Aynesworth and Stephen Michaud of Bundy in "The Only Living Witness," their masterful study of the killer. "Bundy drew dozens of rapt groupies to his trial. Some were cookie-cutter blondes desperate to catch Ted's eye. Then there were the blue-haired and dew-lapped geriatrics from their retirement bungalows." Bundy was convicted and executed on forensic evidence, but Sandie Taylor notes that "if the forensic evidence hadn't been there, he might well have got off, because he was quite charming and knew how to work people."

But it's not just defendants in criminal cases who use their looks to confound judgment. Two research psychologists have discovered -- only in academe do people get paid to discover the obvious -- that men have only one thing on their minds when spring arrives and the sap(s) rise(s): the female "WHR." That's her "waist-to-hip ratio," calculated by dividing waist circumference by that of the hips. This can range from a curvy 0.67 (think Marilyn Monroe) to "an almost tubular 0.9" (think Kate Moss).

This is politically incorrect but defensibly scientific, because the authors, Prof. Devendra Singh of the University of Texas and Dr. Peter Renn of Harvard, published their findings in the prestigious Proceedings of the Royal Society, Biological Sciences in London. They found evidence of a "belle curve" ingrained in the male brain, uncovered by their study of Playboy centerfolds, ancient Egyptian carvings and "tests" on men from Africa to the Azores. They found -- surprise! -- that in every century the female breasts, waist and hips are more often referred to as "beautiful" than other body parts. (Even more than elbows, knees and callused toes?) You could ask Solomon, Shakespeare or the ancient Chinese author Xu Ling (507-583 B.C.), who wrote that in the palace of Chu "there were none who did not admire their slender waists, the fair women of Wei."

Chinese waists can get the most unlikely men in trouble. The Arkansas Court of Appeals this month denied the appeal of an 85-year-old Hot Springs man (there's clearly something in the water in Hot Springs) who, pleading his advanced age, asked the court to cut alimony for his ex-wife, who accused him of spending their life's savings on expensive gifts, including a new car, for two nubile young Chinese girls. The court said no dice: "We think that appellant has demonstrated that he retains a considerable amount of vigor and ability." Justice, in Arkansas, anyway, comes with a nice waist-to-hip ratio along with the big hair.

Suzanne Fields

Suzanne Fields is currently working on a book that will revisit John Milton's 'Paradise Lost.'

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