Belfast Telegraph

Monday 21 April 2014

Men prefer flirts to beauties, just ask Dame Eileen

This week, I was treated to a lesson about what makes a woman sexy from a wise old Dame three years from her 80th birthday.

The esteemed actress Eileen Atkins has a long established theory about feminine allure.

And bearing in mind that, despite being one of the few British stars with a back catalogue to rival Maggie Smith's, she's best known in Ireland as the woman who knocked back Colin Farrell at the age of 70, it's well worth listening to.

When she was a teenager Eileen overheard her drama teacher discussing her with a successful actor. The teacher was worried that although he considered her very talented, he felt she simply wasn't striking enough to make it in the ruthless world of the theatre. "She's not obviously pretty," the actor agreed. "But she's really sexy."

"After that," Eileen told me, "I never in my life lost any confidence in my being attractive. I remember, when I was about 15, waiting for the boys from the local school to pass by and flirting furiously with them. And I'm ashamed to say I still flirt today. I have this theory that if you like sex and you're confident, there's no reason why you shouldn't be sexy. I think most people who really like sex are attractive."

Her belief in the curse of extreme beauty - which she's seen close-up numerous times during her many years in theatre and film - will be welcomed by plenty of us normal woman. "A lot of very beautiful people are told they're beautiful when they're young and they think that's all they have to be. So they don't develop. They don't think they have to be funny or witty in a conversation, they don't think they have to be entertaining.

"They just think, well I'm beautiful, you're very lucky to have me on your arm. And some men are so bloody stupid they're happy with that, they think it gives them kudos.

"Good luck to them, they'll have a boring night. But most interesting men want an interesting woman. If you're bothering all the time about how you look, you're going to be boring. I think pure beauty is very boring. And often I've found it means the person will be very dull too."

And Colin Farrell will no doubt be buoyed by Dame Eileen's admission that the attraction between them was mutual.

"I thought, my God he's a good actor," she said. "And he is a wildly attractive young man. I like rough, naughty looking men, wicked men who look like they're up to no good. And Colin Farrell is one of those."

It seems likely that it was her obviously undiminished lust - for life, laughs and love-making - which attracted Farrell to the Upstairs Downstairs actress.

And it's to his credit that he isn't one of those vapid men who can't see past the more manifest charms of the stony-faced supermodels the fashion and advertising industries so covet.

And yet it's those images of womanhood - stick-thin, boob-less, bum-less, empty-eyed - which are increasingly presented to young girls as the ideal. She's never been short of male admirers, but fashion supremo Karl Lagerfeld announced this week that, despite singer Adele's warmth, her cheeky spark, and her joie de vivre, he considers her 'a little too fat'.

If I'm ever looking for advice to give my daughter on female magnetism, I know which guru I'll be quoting. And it won't be the human tangerine.

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