Eve & the evolution

humour

Eve & the evolution

I was playing Jane Goodall. Except that, as a visiting mother, I was observing the family dynamics of not my ancestors, but my descendents.

“This is getting on my nerves!” the alpha male said with exaggerated exasperation, “Look at her! She is forever standing in front of the mirror and admiring herself!”

 “Relax,” said the female, without taking her eyes off the laptop, “It’s just a phase. It will pass.” The male refused to calm down and continued to growl. “I think it’s just getting worse,” he muttered, “I don’t understand how she got this silly idea of dressing up in the first place!” The barb hit the target as was evident from the way the woman squared her shoulders and brought on extra focus to the screen. Oblivious to the drama playing around her, the three-year-old adjusted the pink princess hair-band on her little head and smiled approvingly at the pretty image.

I am not taking sides, but I too fail to understand how the notion of dressing up entered the human female’s psyche. For, in nature’s design, the female is programmed not to dress up, but to fall for the dressed-up guy. In quite a number of species, which the peacocks, baboons, pheasants lead in style, it’s the male that is the flashier sex.

Darwin explained the origin of such beauty as a product of sexual selection. Some traits — like extravagant plumage or complicated dance routines — that are energetically costly to the male apparently signal good health and quality genes to the female.

Coming back to the humans, when and why did the role reversal happen? Why do the human females paint their nails and lips in bright colours, straighten the hair and curl up the lashes? Why are little girls drawn to frills and fancy accessories and, of course, mirrors?

Darwin provides the clue to understanding this seemingly pointless behaviour, too. Comparing a large number of species, Darwin concluded that species with brightly-coloured, large, or dangerously-armed males were more often polygynous. Polygyny in Zoology refers to a mating pattern in which a male mates with more than one female in a single breeding season.

Now I get it! In monogamous species (like us), the males need not, do not and would not bother to dress up or look nice, even to please the mate. Flashy or faithful, take your pick. You can’t have both is Nature’s law. But then, when it comes to getting around Nature’s rules, we Homo sapiens are the champs. Somewhere down the ages, the human female figured out how she could have the cake and eat it too. The answer was there right in front, in the mirror.

Crave to see something pretty to lift the mood? Don the accessory you fancy and say hello to your pretty self. Anytime; anyplace; it was as simple as that. And with the mind thus freed from distractions, the female could more effectively keep the focus on the signals of good wealth, while choosing the lifetime mate. The benefits were so huge that evolution just had to take over from there. Darwin didn’t say this. It’s my own deduction. I told you that I was playing Goodall.


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