Dangers

The main dangers in the role of the Ideal Lover are the consequences that arise if you let reality creep in. You are creating a fantasy that involves an idealization of your own character. And this is a precarious task, for you are human, and imperfect. If your faults are ugly enough, or intrusive enough, they will burst the bubble you have blown, and your target will revile you. Whenever Tullia d'Aragona was caught acting like a common prostitute (when, for instance, she was caught having an affair just for money), she would have to leave town and establish herself elsewhere. The fantasy of her as a spiritual figure was broken. Casanova too faced this danger, but was usually able to surmount it by finding a clever way to break off the relationship before the woman realized that he was not what she had imagined: he would find some excuse to leave town, or, better still, he would choose a victim who was herself leaving town soon, and whose awareness that the affair would be short-lived would make her idealizing of him all the more intense. Reality and long intimate exposure have a way of dulling a person's perfection. The nineteenth-century poet Alfred de Musset was seduced by the writer George Sand, whose larger-than-life character appealed to his romantic nature. But when the couple visited Venice together, and Sand came down with dysentery, she was suddenly no longer an idealized figure but a woman with an unappealing physical problem. De Musset himself showed a whiny, babyish side on this trip, and the lovers separated. Once apart, however, they were able to idealize each other again, and reunited a few months later. When reality intrudes, distance is often a solution.

In politics the dangers are similar. Years after Kennedy's death, a string of revelations (his incessant sexual affairs, his excessively dangerous brinkmanship style of diplomacy, etc.) belied the myth he had created. His image has survived this tarnishing; poll after poll shows that he is still revered. Kennedy is a special case, perhaps, in that his assassination made him a martyr, reinforcing the process of idealization that he had already set in motion. But he is not the only example of an Ideal Lover whose attraction survives unpleasant revelations; these figures unleash such powerful fantasies, and there is such a hunger for the myths and ideals they have to sell, that they are often quickly forgiven. Still, it is always wise to be prudent, and to keep people from glimpsing the less-than-ideal side of your character.

Most of us feel trapped within the limited roles that the world expects us to play. We are instantly attracted to those who are more fluid, more ambiguous, than we are—those who create their own persona. Dandies excite us because they cannot be categorized, and hint at a freedom we wantfor ourselves. They play with masculinity and femininity; they fashion their own physical image, which is always startling; they are mysterious and elusive. They also appeal to the narcissism of each sex: to a woman they are psychologically female, to a man they are male. Dandies fascinate and seduce in large numbers. Use the power of the Dandy to create an ambiguous, alluring presence that stirs repressed desires.

Continue reading here: The Feminine Dandy

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