I recently watched a public television documentary about birds of paradise. I saw brilliantly plumed males do elaborate dances in front of females. One lucky bird was going to have sex. The rest had to move on. Their courting ritual reminded me of a high school dance I chaperoned once. I watched a young man bust out his best dance moves while staring at the young woman he was trying to impress.  When she demonstrated a total lack of interest, he moved on to do the same thing in front of another girl. A bird of paradise strutting his stuff. Maybe he got lucky, maybe not.

Another documentary on public television followed a scientific experiment where genetic testing was done on a group of men. Scientists determined which men in the group had the strongest genetics based upon their immune systems and a lack of genetic markers for diseases. They tagged the genetic winners, formed groups ABC, and hypothesized that females could select the strongest male group based solely on a small, exposed patch of skin. They covered the men up completely except for their cheeks. (I know what you’re thinking. Not those cheeks—the cheeks on their faces.) The women had time to examine each group, and then they wrote their top group choice on a piece of paper and handed them in to the scientists. The group that had the strongest genetics won hands down. Hmmm. We are attracted by strong genetics, the best plumage, the biggest biceps, etc. So, is all the dressing up a way to appear the strongest/best, genetically speaking?

Got me to thinking about everything we humans do in the name of love. For instance, haute couture, designer fragrances, makeup, expensive haircuts and colors highlights and lowlights, and I’m not just talking about what the females of our species do to attract a mate. The cars we drive, the houses we live in, the jobs we do, it’s all about proving we are the best potential mate in the flock, isn’t it? It’s all plumage, and the brightest, biggest and most enticing wins the prize—the guy. The girl. A mate.

We sell products based upon sex appeal, write epic tales and poetry on the subject, make movies about it, create adds, the list goes on. And when you get right down to it, it’s all about getting laid, mating, appealing to the object of our desire. Hmm.

While I was working on my masters degree, a professor of psychology told us that humans really have very few needs: food, shelter and sex.  Yep. I get that. Everything we do can be put under one of those categories, and most can be put under all three.

We have a whole set of body language revolving around attraction, don’t we? The purposeful brush-up against him/her, the hair toss, tilted head gazing thing. Our pupils dilate when we’re attracted to someone. Our pulses quicken and we become breathless.

We are no different than the birds of paradise, except that we’ve built entire cultures and civilizations around the act of finding and keeping a mate.

It’s a function of biology run amok. I wonder about our distant predecessors. Was it simpler for them? Prove you could hunt and protect. Prove you could successfully bear young and keep the cave neat. Presto. Match made.

No profound point to make here, this is just the muse caused by the birds of paradise. We have so much in common with them.


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