It was sometime in the 1960s on a rainy, bone-chilling November day at the office, the dark, gloomy views from the window making the indoor florescent lights glare too cold and bright, bludgeoning your spirits, and telling you to go back to bed where you belong. With no energy to go out for lunch, most of us picked up something from the vending machines and were eating at our desks, praying that the day would pass quickly.
I wandered into our file room and found our file clerk, a pretty blond recently hired right out of high school, reading a magazine while eating from a cellophane package of sickly-yellow cheese crackers. She was the perfect file clerk, fully challenged by her job’s modest intellectual demands. With only half interest, I asked her what she was reading. Little did I know she was about to lay on me the most insightful piece of wisdom I have heard to this day.
A magazine devoted to hair styles, she told me. I never knew there was such a thing, and she paged through it to show me. She stopped at the center section of about a dozen pages, each showing a full-page photo of a particular hair style. “Which of these models do you think are attractive?”
I flipped through the pages. “No . . . No . . . Oh, yes! . . . No . . . ,” I replied, selecting about four.
She turned back to one of the pages I had rejected. “I thought you would have liked her. I think she’s pretty.”
“Well,” I said in a patronizingly deep voice, “many women are pretty, but only a few have that special animal magnetism that turn men into Smucker’s preserves. All of the famous sex symbols had it—Marilyn Monroe, Sofia Loren, Bridgett Bardot. It’s much more than just looks—it’s an age-old mystery of human nature, ethereal, transcendent, impossible to describe.”
She thought for a moment, then said seriously, “You just like big lips.”
“No, no,” I protested. “It’s not that. It’s a mysterious attraction that defies definition.”
“Sure it is,” she replied. “Look at the ones you picked. Big lips, big lips, big lips. And Marilyn Monroe—big lips. Sophia Loren—big lips. I bet you like Julie Christie, too. Big lips. (She had me there.) I bet you think most black women are sexy. (Had me again.)”
I was stunned. She was obviously right. It was not mysterious at all. Ockam’s Razor, the principle in physics that says the simplest theory is the correct one, is also true in everyday life. Big lips is my trigger.
All of the girls in high school I lusted after had big lips. Marian Bell had them. Arnett Ware did, too. Katherine Tashjian, when they weren’t flapping too fast to see. Joan Anderson had great ones and I even briefly dated her after graduation.
My wife, I’m proud to say, has generous lips that were a factor at the first attraction. The lives of my children and grandchildren, the future history of the world, are determined by that one simple fact: I like big lips. (Or, to be precise, lip—only the lower one. A big top lip can look like a fish.)