WASHINGTON - Women are faking it in bedrooms all over America."When my husband says, 'Can you believe how much better this is?' I say, 'Yes, honey, it's amazing,'" one woman told me. "I really don't see that much difference, but he's so happy, I just pretend to."
As an explosion of pixels hit our TV screens last weekend, with the digital and high-def revolution, my unscientific survey shows women are less excited about high-def than men.
I prefer life and TV to be a little gauzy. I don't want to see every blemish in a harsh light.
Joel Brinkley, author of Defining Vision, says HDTV technology was developed totally by men.
Alfred Poor, author of the HDTV Almanac, says men drove its success, too.
"Men are all about the bigger, better, more," he said. "And sports are infinitely better in high definition."
The advent of sleek flat screens began to shrink the gender gap.
"Women went, 'Ah, now it's not just high-def, it's a stylish piece of furniture,'" said Phillip Swann, founder of the Web site TVPredictions.com, which features lists of HDTV "horribles" (Cameron) and "honeys" (Angelina).
Everywhere I look, products are being pitched for a world in keener focus.
At my eye exam last week, Dr. Jay Klessman used "Wavefront" technology, which he said could "make sort of like high-def glasses, with sharper, crisper vision." (It originally was used to fix blurry images from the Hubble Space Telescope in 1993 and also has led to more-precise Lasik.)At the Georgetown Sephora, a big sign in the window hawks high-def makeup to use with the Sephora High Definition Air Brush. The point, said a Sephora "product expert," Jei Spatola, is to look "like you literally have nothing on."
In a high-def culture, we have to wear more makeup to look like we have on no makeup.
Armani offers "Lasting Silk" foundation, "a new high-definition cosmetic textile."
"Obviously, if you are on HDTV, that's great," said Mara Stimac of Armani. "But we're of the mind that there's no more true HD than real life."
Yet concealing can not keep up with revealing.
"The red carpet looks different," said Jeffrey Cole, director of the Annenberg School's Center for the Digital Future at USC. "Actresses in particular have come to hate HDTV."
Don Malot, a top L.A. makeup artist who works with television and movie stars, says high-def is turning Tinseltown topsy-turvy.
"People who thought they looked younger on camera than in real life see themselves in high-def and say, 'Oh my God!'" he said. "We can't use the heavy makeup that used to cover flaws like a drinker's broken capillaries any more."
He said television actresses in their 40s and older are starting to insist that their contracts say they have to be shot slightly out of focus.
"It's getting rarer to see tight shots of a woman's face," he said. "Now, the camera guys shoot from the waist up."
He said that, "sadly," women are going to their doctors for more cosmetic fixes and gallons of Botox, but that high-def acts almost like an X-ray to show the slightly bluish tinge of some fillers or the lumpy bumps and ripples from fillers and surgery.
MSNBC's luminous Norah O'Donnell went to New York to do a promo in high-def in advance of unveiling new sets designed, colored and angled with HD in mind.
"I was wearing a nice dress," she recalled, "and standing there saying, 'MSNBC is the place for politics' when the production had to be stopped because there was a spot on my dress that was invisible to the naked eye or the wardrobe guy with the lint brush or the director who didn't have an HDTV set.
"The promotion folks saw it looking through the HD camera at the HD screen," she said. "It's impossible to achieve that level of perfection. But people like authenticity. And if it means they see more of my wrinkles and freckles, and where I tried to wipe clean where my kid spit up on my shoulder, so be it."
David Shuster, another MSNBC anchor, says the growing prevalence of high definition is disorienting for men, too. When he started shooting his HD promo, he was asked to take his pants off so they could steam the creases. And they dulled his shiny shoes, which were picking up green tones from the green screen. Now he's dreading high-def 5 o'clock shadow.
As the CBS White House reporter Bill Plante said, "You go in knowing every mole and random facial hair will be visible to somebody watching closely."
I didn't get the high-def glasses. I don't want more acuity. I'm keeping it fuzzy.
Maureen Dowd is a columnist for The New York Times. Reach her c/o The New York Times, Editorial Department, 620 8th Ave., New York, NY 10018.
© 2009 New York Times News Service