Consider yourself a classic catch like Jackie Onassis? Then looking for men at a local watering hole is not for you. If you're in need of a better way to make some acquaintances (and reel in a big fish worthy of your worldly self) then throw on your favorite big glasses and follow the lead of the master of subtle seduction. In this excerpt from What Would Jackie Do?, authors Shelly Branch and Sue Callaway reveal the icon's rules of attraction.
Unlike her classmates at Vassar (which, mind you, was the all-female equivalent of Harvard or Yale in her day), Jackie had little use for giddiness when it came to men. A fierce competitor who accepted only winning, she treated the acquisition of suitable men as both an art and a business — a discipline to approach with the utmost seriousness. One might fault her father, John “Black Jack” Bouvier, with giving her such an unromantic view of the male species.
Yet it was his cocktail of womanizing, drinking, money woes and vanity that ironically prepared her for the less attractive side of men. In fact, her father convinced her that cheating was in a man's DNA, a lesson that helped her never to take such behavior personally. Jackie's arsenal of wooing weaponry was vast. Among her more successful spearing techniques:
Use flaws to your advantage.
Women today, obsessed with ridiculous beauty standards, often strive for a measure of sameness. Pity how these copycats don't recognize — as did Jackie — an opportunity to leverage their beauty marks, Roman noses and generous behinds as a way to stand out from the crowd. In an essay that won her a prestigious Vogue magazine prize, a young Jackie wrote, “I am…5'7”, with brown hair... and eyes so unfortunately far apart that it takes three weeks to have a pair of glasses made.” The lady doth protest too much. As we all know, Jackie would later become famous for wearing a pair of those supposedly awkward (sun)glasses. She also managed to turn her ugly-duckling hair into an international phenomenon, “the Swan.”
Don't spook men needlessly.
Although she was curious and well-read, a young Jackie opted to deflate her smarts around bachelors, feigning nervousness, for instance, about exams or her ability to finish coursework. As she astutely understood, an independent woman can afford to reveal her true, strong self to a man over time. So don't overwhelm your dates with early shock-and-awe tactics (trilling in Russian over dinner, for example, or gloating over high grades). Give them a chance to appreciate your other, more womanly arts first.
Speak softly (and carry good lipstick).
Jackie made a concerted effort to temper her conversational voice sometime during college. She willed herself to speak sotto voce — typically drawing out the S in words like “yessssssss.” Gentlemen callers found the trait seductive; it also afforded her the kind of attention a conspiratorial whisper can conjure. Even as a young man, admirer Thomas Guinzburg (a college-age friend of Jackie's and later her boss at Viking) “found that pretty attractive.” Since this breathy technique compels a man to lean closer to hear you (thus bringing your mouth into greater focus), be sure to have your lips primed with a flattering — and preferably unflavored — color.
Don't scoff at matchmaking.
Jackie was by no means a fan of the practice, but it is how she and Jack got together. Be particularly open to matchmaking overtures when the fixer-uppers know you and the gentleman equally well. To make the rendezvous worth your while, arrange to meet over lunch or dinner — not just drinks or coffee. After all, a girl's got to eat. And beverage-only dates are an early sign of commitment issues or, worse, cheapness.
Be detached, and tune out all “dating” shows.
Jackie's father had firm opinions about how a woman should capture a man: “Play hard to get!” he'd admonish repeatedly. She took his advice seriously, preferring to exude nonchalance rather than commit quickly or easily. Admirers complained that it was tough to get a chaste kiss out of her, let alone anything more. Women today, who often fret that their dates have an abundance of bed partners, should take heed. After JFK proposed to Jackie, she took off to Europe for several weeks to supposedly mull over the merits of such a union. Upon her return, the young Kennedy was waiting for her at the airport. Her refusal to let him take her for granted, even after a yearlong courtship, sealed the marriage deal.
Make him the epicenter of your universe — at least until dessert arrives.
Always appear intensely fascinated by the man you're with. Never look bored, never glance over his shoulder, and always draw him out with endless questions. The side benefit, and perhaps the real art, is that this tactic allows you as a woman to remain enigmatic by staying mum about yourself. And few men can resist such a flattering amount of interest. When all else failed, Jackie was able to hold forth on certain subjects — animals and art in particular — but her (soft-spoken!) reporter-like questioning was a strong offensive. So talented was she that Jackie even made a party crasher — writer Bob Colacello, who showed up at her home with Andy Warhol in the late seventies — feel special by sharing her glass of Perrier with him when the waiter couldn't be found. “It's ours,” she purred.
When three's a crowd, make it four.
Remind a roaming man that he isn't the only one with outside love connections. In early 1968, during her courtship with Ari Onassis, Jackie went off to Mexico with Roswell Gilpatric, an old acquaintance from her Washington, D.C., days — even though he was still married. (Subtext: As long as they are eligible, divorcing men are not necessarily off-limits.) They went so far as to kiss and flirt in public, and their exploits became fodder for a story in Women's Wear Daily.
Cozy up to the family kingpin.
Many women seek to win over a man's mother while overlooking the parent who may well hold more influence over him (not to mention the reins of the family fortune). Thanks mainly to her grandfather, Jackie knew how to handle older, powerful men — especially her father-in-law, Joe Kennedy, who favored her and her smart spunkiness over his other daughters-in-law. She worked her magic on him, knowing how influential he'd be in getting his son to move toward a proposal. If a ring is your goal, get to know your prospective father-in-law's favorite sports teams, car models, liquor brands and hobbies. Carry relevant periodicals and scalped tickets in your purse as necessary. Above all, dare to flirt a bit. Jackie did.
It isn't over until the altar.
Practical to her core, Jackie had no qualms about keeping her options open during her first — yes, first — engagement, to John Husted in 1952. She went about town with, among others, a dreamy journalist who had been at the Washington Times-Herald. Was this good-girl behavior? Probably not. Did she follow her gut instincts, and eventually land a future president instead? You get the idea: An engagement is a quaint plan, yet one that is subject to change if you happen upon a more suitable mate. The real dance, dear, begins at your wedding reception.
Excerpted from What Would Jackie Do by Shelly Branch and Sue Callaway. Published by arrangement with Gotham, a member of Penguin Group (USA), Inc. Copyright © January 3, 2007.