Almost a year ago I wrote a column in this very space ruminating about who the perfect man would be. It didn't take much speculation. I figured out long ago that the perfect guy, in fact or fiction, is Gomez Addams. Not a GQ model, but so what? What enthusiasm, what romanticism, what panache with a tango. With Gomez you would never experience the exchange, "What do you want to do?" "I dunno, what do you want to do?" He's passionate, exuberant and affable, and he leers the same way whether he's about to kiss Morticia or blow up a toy train. Gomez is a man for all reasons.
This column elicited a great deal of response, the most important of which, I'll have you know, came from John Astin himself, who gave life in abundance to the character in "The Addams Family" TV show. His reaction, as you might expect, was gracious and gratified. My response was to have to be pried off the ceiling.
But among other responses, one from the guy's team offered some thoughts on The Ultimate Girl. I seem to recall he mentioned two names as "goddess next door" types: Helen Hunt and Meg Ryan.
I'm still puzzled. Helen Hunt and Meg Ryan? Next to Gomez Addams? No Emma Peel, no Bond Girls, just Helen Hunt and Meg Ryan? That's like sticking to your diet on your birthday. Are people so used to one-size-fits-all that even in the wildest wanderings of their imagination they still buy off the rack?
All right, yes, I do have a personal problem with Meg Ryan. It's incredibly dorky to concede that any celebrity can elicit such an emotional response, but we each have one celebrity who makes us roll our eyes and invoke the name of Jesus, and not in a flattering way, every time they show up on screen. For me, this person is Meg Ryan. And with the release of "You've Got Mail," she's like Droopy Dog; there's no getting away from her.
What makes her as irritating as a piece of escaped underwire is her inexhaustible supply of cuteness. At first she was perky and adorable and then she was ... perky and adorable. I might as well have been watching Shirley Temple fake an orgasm for Billy Crystal's benefit. I'm aware that my tastes often veer into the "You're kidding, right?" zone. But come on. Is the ideal woman really someone who, if you put a green hat on her, could pass for Herbie, the elf who wanted to become a dentist?
Asked to consider the women I most admire on an ideal level, the two that spring to mind are the characters played by Anjelica Huston in "The Witches" and Salma Hayek in "From Dusk till Dawn." Both first appeared as jaw-dropping femme fatales, but under that reel-'em-in facade of beauty both actually were hideous gargoyles who feasted on human beings. That I consistently and subconsciously admire this in a woman is a subject for costly analysis and not your problem, really. But on the surface it means I'm no better a judge of feminine iconography than the guy who can't see that Meg Ryan should be baking cookies in a hollow tree and not turning up on wish lists.
This being the case, I decided to ask a few other guys to name the ideal woman in an unreliable, nonscientific survey. (I insisted on famous names we all could recognize and thus be judgmental about.) A few said they couldn't say because individual characteristics counted. This was not the get-in, get-out answer I wanted, but it proves these guys were considering this thoughtfully. Or else they were trying to act all deep and shit in order to look impressive. What you think about that depends on whether you have a "the guy is half full" or "the guy is half empty" outlook.
Among those who ponied up, the responses were partly expected (Uma Thurman, Sandra Bullock, the latter valued as "a nonsmoker") with a few slight surprises (Bonnie Raitt, Linda Ronstadt, Kate Bush), although some answers were as individual as you could imagine (Tank Girl, David Bowie). One said, "Talent is an aphrodisiac." (Talent at what wasn't specified.) One said, "The ultimate girl is a car. ... It will drive you anything but crazy." (This guy's car had a rather expensive breakdown shortly after he said this, if you want to get some ironic mileage out of that). The grrrls' girls named Jodie Foster (surprise), Queen Latifah and "Amanda Plummer, because she is a complete freak." And talented to boot.
As much as they get thrown in our faces, not one supermodel or "Baywatch" babe merited a mention. Or maybe I just asked the right guys. One even said his wife was the ultimate girl, proof that it pays to shop around for a second opinion ... and a third, and a tenth.
Actually it proves there is really no ideal. And that is an ideal state for things to be in.