Archive for January, 2011


January 19, 2011

Jan. 17  MLK Day.   A day on.

The word for the day is rapacious, predatorily greedy. Today, I visited a Kokomo brewery with some friends. The invitation was extended Saturday night from one partner, but not so heartily from the other. However, I received a call today and so accepted. I could see what the problem was when we picked up two friends. The size of the car was small; the size of the friends was not. The drive would be an hour long. One of the hosts graciously indicated she would sit in the middle of the back seat. I rapaciously dibs the shotgun seat. The three other passengers stuffed themselves into the back seat, but didn’t really fit. I sheepishly offered to exchange places, although I remarked I am not exactly on the waning side of the moon myself. I also knew once they had wedged themselves in, they would be reluctant to pry themselves out. My host, squeezed in the middle and without her seatbelt, perched awkwardly on the ledge of the back seat and leaned toward the front. I did not feel the least bit guilty, on the contrary, I felt lucky and sensible.

With our arrival at the brewery, the three in the back uncrumpled from the car like wadded balls of failed essay exams with a large, letter F underlined on their front pages. At any rate, the mood improved with a panel of beer and some fresh, battered onion rings. On the trip home, having surpassed the lowest rungs of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, I blithely volunteered to sit in the back. The beer and full-bellied sleepiness made us all rather squishy in the backseat. Without territorial guards and flexing muscles, the ride went as quickly as a snooze.

That night, I met with my church’s social justice committee.  I was so satiated, I was willing to give up my rapacious behavior to do something for someone else.  Perhaps the moral of the story, a little lager goes a long way to lean the world in the right direction.



January 13, 2011

The other day I was staring into a young woman’s face, when I became distracted. She was so beautiful. I told her so, which surprised her. It also surprised me. Why should I be so struck by her beauty?

Although babies respond to symmetrical faces, and the fact that our tastes may be rooted in evolution, a fair amount of brainwashing is involved.  Think about the difference of the 1950s potbellied Marilyn Monroe versus the 1960s top model Twiggy.   Or the more serious example of African American children in a 1940s study.  When given the choice between a black doll and a white doll, black children chose the white doll.  Furthermore, they associated negative concepts with the black doll and became agitated when asked to identify the doll they most looked like.  Significantly, the notion of “black is beautiful” became entwined with the black power movement of the 1960s.

Why is the female form exalted over the male form, when in nature nearly all the males forms are the center of attention?  Male turkeys strut, puff out their waddles, and their faces may turn a brilliant blue.  In the old TV show, Seinfeld, Elaine explains that the female form is good naked, but the male form, bad naked. This gender bias goes back to the days of the Venus De Milo. Or does it?  Consider Michael Angelo’s David.  Everyone is trained to admire women, just as young girls are trained to abhor crawly things and focus on the cute.  Male beauty, albeit a short time, took me a moment to realize. The discovery that a man’s skin could be soft and nice to touch, as opposed to shoe leather, came with my first boyfriend. He was an Adonis. He had olive oil skin, a crown of dark curls, and ridiculously long eyelashes. He was a black belt in Taekwondo and possessed a deliciously muscular body. I relished watching him practice his Katas, his choreographed routines, in bleached white briefs. He did not have a particularly high I.Q. For a while, who cared? In turn, he was attracted to me.

For a small period in my life, I pulled off beautiful. I never believed in my pulchritude. I always considered it a magic of hair, make up, clothes, and flirtatiousness. For many woman that is enough.  Princess Diana was transformed from a ruffle-bloused baby-minder to the tailored, straight-lined fashion icon.  Few women look good in sweats, sans the trappings of eyeliner and Versace or Sasoon.  Few, except maybe Elizabeth Taylor.  My sister is such a creature.  A friend and I visited during my sister’s brief stint in the army.  My envious friend took one look at her in fatigues and blurted out, “She really is gorgeous after all.  I always thought it was just the glitz.”

Surprisingly, I handled losing my youthful ability to turn heads with a modicum of grief.  Not like the French ingénue, Leslie Caron, who on turning fifty found herself reflecting into the bottom of a bottle.  What I have not handled as well is invisibility. The first time I experienced it was at a writers’ conference.  People no longer vied for my attention or seem to value my opinion as much. The beautiful, constructed or not, receive better treatment, more consideration and garner a certain amount of power.  My father-in-law, a political science professor, slyly noted at the beginning of each semester’s classes,  that he shared with the majority of American presidents.  Namely, that they were over six feet tall.

A physical therapist once told me, I could not possibly have pneumonia, I was too strapping of a girl.  Would I receive better treatment from doctors, if I were more diminutive, young and pretty?

After the recent tragedy in Tucson, the networks aired photograph after photograph of Gabrielle Gifford.  I caught myself thinking, Not her!  She’s so attractive. Fortunately, I quickly became aware of my wrong-headed thinking.  No one should be so assaulted, ugly or not. Yet it made me wonder.  How often are we unaware of our prejudices?  Would the out-pouring of attention have been as great if Gifford were old, ugly or infirm?

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