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A Funny Thing Happened at the Forum

mellyrn, aka L. Hunter Cassells

An audience of 800+, roughly equal male/female, all having spent a truly inordinate sum for the privilege of spending two weeks in Maui under the tutelage of Tony Robbins. Most evenings, a new guest speaker.

This one evening, the speaker began by announcing that he will open his talk with a beauty contest — a male beauty contest. He divvied the audience up into 6 regions, we were so many, and had all the guys stand up, and each region send up a finalist to the main stage. Women started in with whistles & catcalls, and demanded that the guys take off their shirts. They insisted Tony Robbins and Mr. Guest Speaker take off their shirts and be judged, too. Some guys really dug all this, peeled off their garb and flung it to the ravening lionesses; some grimly folded their arms as if to dare anyone to pry that cloth off their backs. Robbins was one of the six finalists, but not the winner (the winner not being my first choice, but oh well).

So there we are with a winner. Yay. Mr. Guest Speaker pats him on the back and points out that, with this fellow #1, that meant 399 other men just had the charming experience of being judged — and rejected — on account of their looks alone. Moreover, while at women’s beauty contests, there’s no end of cattiness before the event, afterwards the losers band together, commiserate, and generally buck one another up. These 399 losers standing up on the various platforms throughout the room are locked into their loss & rejection alone, no support: guys just don’t do that sort of thing.

But we’ve only just begun. With all those seats vacated by the guys having to stand up on platforms, there’s plenty of room for the gals to move about in. So Mr. Speaker says, OK, fill in these rows, from the front of the main stage back, like this: first two rows are for those of you who make >$100,000. Next row, $90,000+. And so on back.

Weeell — this was back when I was a prisoner in a pizza shop, making $12,000/yr, tops, if I could have gotten full full-time hours instead of mostly full-time hours. Still, there was a lady in the row just ahead of me, and even one behind me!

Now, says Mr. Speaker, here’s the game. Ladies, take a good look at #1, at the finalists, & at the guys in your region. Guys, get a good look at who’s sitting where. When I say go, ladies, you’re going to have 20 minutes to pick out a guy and see how far you can get with him; there’ll be a buzzer to summon eveyrone back to the seminar room.

Right, I think to myself. Not only am I terminally shy at the best of times, now I get to be an untouchable, too. I can see where this game is going. I think I’ll just sit here and save myself and some poor schmuck a mite of embarrassment. And at that very moment, Mr. Speaker said, “And if you’re thinking about not playing — you’re already playing.

Aw, shit. OK, I look around, find a nice-looking fellow, who really deserved more votes than he evidently got [note: it does not even cross my $12,000/yr mind to try for the Beautiful Guys!]. Strategy: Mr. (Ms.?) Nice Guy: I’m just going to be a decent human being (I hope) so if he still doesn’t like me, I can think, hey, that’s his loss.

Remember there was one woman in the very last row, behind me? Just before the Speaker gave the signal to begin, she stood up and said that this was all very interesting. She had put herself back in the back, to see what it would be like; strictly speaking, she had no “income” — however, her investment proceeds would put her in the very front row. She just wanted to see what things would be like, at the bottom.

Mr. Speaker did not laugh in her face. But he did point out (maybe with more glee than was warranted; it’s been years since then), that if she really had wanted to see what it was like at the bottom of the barrel, she would have kept her mouth shut until the very end of the exercise. As it was, she was effectively (and here he did act up energetically) waving her hands and hallooing, “Wait! I’m more valuable than you think I am!”

Now, being as I’m terminally shy, the recollection of that evening is not one of my favorites, so I shan’t go into details; I invited him out to the water coolers (!), and from there out onto the beach. I did have a goal in mind — to see if I could get as far as holding his hand; my first attempt was deftly avoided; but I actually got “further” than expected: I actually got to put my arm around his shoulders (with a little difficulty; I’m not short, but he was taller).

That was the longest twenty minutes ….

The best part was the post-mortem. You heard things like, “The women from those front two rows — they were so pushy! It was like they thought they could just buy you or something!” My favorite was the guy who said, “This is my scene — I go out Thursday, Friday evenings looking to pick up chicks. And here I am in this seminar and this woman’s coming on to me and my first thought is, [melodramatic voice] ‘What does she want of me??’!”

How easily we took up the alternative patterns! My strategy, I learned later, is quite a common one among guys. The closest female parallel that I can think of is, “I’m just not going to bother with makeup: this is how I am, no false advertising. If he isn’t going to find my real face acceptable enough, then he’s somebody I don’t need to keep fooling for the next fifty years.”

Speaker was Warren Farrell, PhD psychologist & author of Why Men Are The Way They Are, which I’ve made my daughters read. Feminists hate him, but, hey: Ms magazine does contain more ads for porcelain Cinderella figurines and for cosmetics than it does for mutual funds and spreadsheet software ….

This page was last updated October 2, 1997.