Cohen dismisses the current crop of sculpted hunks that Daniel Craig represents as "some marbleized man, an ersatz creation of some trainer," but the standards for what makes a man sexy that he’s describing are no more natural or objective. And I’m curious if he’d identify the beauty of the women he cites in his column, like Ingrid Bergman and Mary Astor, as effortless and natural, rather than the product of beauty standards and the punishing regimes and restrictive clothes that helped women accomplish them. One of the earliest contradictions I understood as a young teenage girl reading fashion magazines was that I was supposed to look "natural" and "effortless," but that it took an enormous amount of work and money to recreate the looks that I was told embodied those standards.
I learned that my own lip color and texture was less natural than a glossy pink, that the blush of my unadorned cheek looked less vital than a layer of foundation, powder, and blush. I’m glad I had that education so I could see the distance and the contradiction, enjoy wearing bright red lipstick for its artificiality and sense of performance, not because I believed that my own hue was an error or imperfection. But it’s not an easy education to acquire, or to shake off in favor of truly discerning what I want to look like and feel, and I don’t envy someone like Cohen coming to his own version of it later in life, or reckoning with the work he’d have to do to meet the standards laid out for him. I feel a lot more concern, however, for teenage boys who are turning to steroids or working out more than is actually healthy to meet those standards.