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Ah yes… the People magazine “Sexiest” list is out.  Last year, they declared Matt Damon as sexiest.  As usual, I took issue with their choice – and set about making my own list.  The man formerly known as my favorite British polemicist, Christopher Hitchens, appeared atop my list in 2007.  As I noted after the “waterboarding” incident – my man Hitch has been wiped off the map.  Pity.  But the truth is… I discovered something about our British friends – there is a quiet, but equatorial heat lurking just beneath the surface. 

My sexiest list tends to be a bit more quirky, less targeted at 13-24 year olds of either gender, and any sexual orientation.  

What IS Sexy?  Brilliance for starters.  Nothing is sexier than a fine, agile, complex mind.  Other qualities: kindness, humanity, core values, discipline, confidence, and – well.. a voice that communicates what words do not. 

This year, People chose Hugh Jackman as the Sexiest Man Alive.  Overall, the 2008 list is a bit better – and most notably, it features a handful of very sexy guys.  What makes them sexy?  Being smart and more importantly, they are men who have long-term marriages &/or relationships – and are great at it.  Men who are good fathers.  Hugh Jackman certainly fits the bill, Blair Underwood, and even David Beckham – among others – really are sexy.  It’s not their physique – they remind women of what we really (if we are being honest and not catering to the Steinem crowd) – really want, and need.  Nothing is sexier than a stable relationship.  Think of the late Paul Newman and his bride of many years, Joanne. 

For what it’s worth, here are my picks for sexiest:

8. Mark Steyn – Conservative thinker, provocateur and all around interesting guy.

7. Hugh Laurie  – This guy appears at the request of my informal pool of girlfriends. I prefer the Laurie of Jeeves & Wooster, or Blackadder.  But hey, if they have a thing for the doctor from House – more power to ’em.   (I haven’t watched House, and probably never will.)

6. Hugh Jackman – Perched atop the People magazine list, most women see the 6′ 2″ physique and the winning smile.  Just details as far as I am concerned.  Jackman delivers as an artist – and what’s more, he is a consummate family man.

5. Javier Bardem – Every list needs a bad boy. 

4. Terry McAuliffe– Speaking of family men, this guy takes the cake for Democrats nationally.  An unlikely friend to notorious adulterer & former President Bill Clinton, Terry McAuliffe is the happiest of happy warriors.  He’s been married for ages, has oodles of children, and has earned a (deserved) reputation for being a generous man.  He takes care of employees and volunteers, and – now he’s ready to go to work as  he campaigns for the Democratic nomination for Governor of the Old Dominion, Virginia in the 2009 race there.

3. Eric Cantor– Brilliant guy, great husband, devoted father, and the face of the future.  His delectable Richmonder accent, gorgeous skin, Clark Kent / Superman looks, and a vice-grip on policy – Cantor has proven to be a master at making the ladies swoon, all while protecting the people’s money.  He’s charismatic, the brightest light on the Right side of the aisle – and made an appearance on the short list for McCain’s running mate.  My prediction for his future: a short trip to the top of the heap, maybe Speaker of the House – should the GOP get it together.  Certainly, that’s where the Fitzhugh Mafia would like to see him.  For me, I think he’d do well to shed that Old Dominion baggage and go straight for 1600 Penn in 2012.   Cantor is savvy, raised millions for his fellow GOPers – and was humble while doing it.  He has access to a national network, and he’s the guy no one sees coming. Kinda like Barry Obama was two short years ago.    

2. Mal James– Here is where smart and hero start coming into focus.  A combat photographer barely, barely approximates the coolness that is this Fox News cameraman.  From Afghanistan to Pakistan to Iraq and Georgia and every hell hole, war torn country, and hot zone in the world – stories are captured and communicated via the lens Mr. James turns on for us.  He’s replaced Clive Owen for hot in my book.  Rugged and gorgeous, he also happens to write with precision and insight.  Read his blog, Unholyland News and you will have a better understanding of the conflicts the globe over.  Humanity needs more men like Mal James.  Not to mention, once you’ve read his work – you will realize how sanitized things are once they are condensed and packaged in a six-minute segment.  Truth is sexy.  Writing with attribution is sexier.  Thank you, Mal for bringing it strong.

1. Ian MwEwanDaniel Craig.  Building the perfect man, that is what being “sexiest” is really all about.  What is the recipe for the “Sexiest Man Alive?”  We all have our different likes, dislikes, desires, fantasies, practical considerations and hopes.  China blue eyes.  Or kindness.  Or thoughtful.  Every girl has a man she conjures up in her youth… some of us find him.  Some men never live up to that “Prince Charming” title and disappoint.  They are more Lancelot than King Arthur – dashing heroes in combat, wounded and vulnerable when they return – but all to happy to take a pound of flesh from another man’s marriage.  

The Sexiest Man Alive.  Husband, Father, Complex, Brilliant, Kind, Passionate, Wit and a great laugh.  For some women, finding Mr. Right is an endless parade of Mr. Right Nows – and men get a cavalcade of Ms. Right Nows and Real Easies.  But what do they bring to the table?  When Mr. & Mrs. Right find each other, if they have given everything away – every piece of innocence or wonder – replaced with a 1001 positions from a $2 used copy of the Kama Sutra – what are they really bringing to the relationship?  Garbage.

Why does People magazine put the Zac Efrons and Joshua Jackson’s of the world in their list?  Because there is still some tangible innocence to their eyes, in the countenance.  The Hugh Jackman choice perfectly illuminates what women, most of us any way, have searched for: that fantasy figure we created in our mind as young ladies.  Nothing is sexier than a devoted, passionate husband – with whom a woman shares her innermost thoughts.  A man she feels comfortable being vulnerable with.   Why do epic love stories and romantic chick flicks almost always make it big at the box office? 

Because there is a “happy ending” – where star-crossed lovers fade from view, in full blossom together with a promised future.  Happily ever after is just the beginning.  Being the Sexiest Man Alive means something different to each of us. 

Ian McEwan – author of Saturday and Atonement– captures and expresses two truths in his writing.  How a man sees his betrothed – AND – how a woman feels when he wants her for all her imperfections, not in spite of them.  McEwan’s research and meticulous attention to detail enthralls, it is the heat and tension he brings to tender moments.  One of the iconic love scenes of all time is the moment of consummation shared between Robbie and Cecelia in Atonement, at once urgent and tender – McEwan reveals the ultimate truth between a man and woman: when real love has been found, embraced, explored – it lasts for a lifetime, and excludes all but the two in love. Enlaced together with an abiding confidence in what love means.  That is sexy.

Strength, thoughtful planning, and that singular masculinity possessed by some men – who happen to be intellectual as McEwan but are also captives to passion… it provides that overwhelming sense of urgency that ignites a woman’s fidelity and lifelong devotion.  That is sexy.  No one captures this, on the silver screen anyway, more beautifully than Daniel Craig.  If you marry his performance in Flashbacks of a Fool, with his turn as James Bond in Casino Royale… he is supremely self-aware, self-possessed, strong, duty-bound, honor and justice driven. 

That is sexy.   It matters because the world needs heroes.  Women need heroes.  Our children need heroes.  Men who are revered for their intellect as well as their strength.  Politics, the masses, pop culture – have all forgotten the Hero.  Now, they call him the Sexiest Man Alive.

—Media Lizzy