"Whenever I go into a restaurant, I order both a chicken and an egg to see which comes first"

Friday, January 18, 2019

Fat Boy–Dealing With Ugliness In A Beautiful Culture

America is not a beautiful culture by any means.  Its casual, off-the-rack, comfortable line of clothes is the standard not the exception.  Of course the runways of New York rival those of Milan and Paris, but haute couture never makes it way very far down the ladder.  ‘Who cares?’ is more the byword than ‘everyone cares’, the essence of French culture, Italian bella figura , and even classic Edwardian style.  No one really cares about fashion in hyper-democratic America  where ‘anything goes’ is a proud statement of democratic inclusivity.

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Clothes, style, and fashion may be items dismissed in modern America – a frivolity, a throwback to elitist days of wigs, lace, and bustles – but beauty is an industry.  Every man, woman, and child in America wants to be as beautiful or handsome as the Hollywood ideal – sexy and alluring or masculine, commanding, and strong as the best of Hollywood.

Unfortunately,  given such a culture of beauty, most Americans must deal with second, third, or fourth best.  We are not a culture of natural beauty like Ukraine where every other woman on the streets of Kiev could pass a screen test.  We are a race of mongrels where only genetic chance produces classic beauty; and where most often the mix of white and black, black and Asian, Indian and Pacific Islander somehow never turns out right.  White-on-white mixing also goes awry.  Darwin and Mendel warned against too much genetic proximity; and the ugly genes of Uncle Bosworth and Great Grandfather Hiram somehow seem to show up at the most unexpected and inopportune times.

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he culture of inclusivity is aimed at these misfits – the lantern-jawed, high-forehead, tulip-nosed, parsons’ lipped boys and girls who, through no fault of their own, were born in a country which prizes classic beauty.  Despite claims to the contrary, there has always been one standard of beauty – symmetrical features, height, musculature, physical grace and allure.  The standard has not changed since the ancient Greece and Rome, and has been expressed in Pompeii, Persia, India, America, and modern Europe.  Anyone born outside these classical limits will have a harder row to hoe than those within it.  Beauty has always meant status, wealth, and well-being.

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As much as modern progressive culture wishes to ignore the physical anomalies which leave most people on the cultural periphery; and which prefers to dismiss the very concept of beauty, no one is buying it.  One look in the mirror is enough to confirm the obvious truth. Few women have even the faintest resemblance to Vivien Leigh, Hedy Lamar, Ava Gardner, or Marilyn Monroe, and few men can ever match up to the classic lines of Gregory Peck, Burt Lancaster, or Farley Granger.

So what to do next? Accommodation.  Women who fall far from the classic ideal of feminine beauty may prefer to challenge any such notions – work shirts, overalls, shit-kickers, and butch do’s are not only for the tough girls of Bernal Heights, but the heterosexual, feminist avant-garde women of Milwaukee and Sioux Falls.  Ugly is the new beautiful – rough, unclaimed, deliberate, in-your-face, take-it-or-leave it neo-femininity.  Or not, and choose to by the latest skin creams, eye-liners, blush, and lip gloss to accentuate whatever bits of beauty one might have, and to at least gesture towards the ideal.

Herschel Benoit was  a fat boy and had been ever since he was a child.  Roly-poly, happy-go-lucky, easygoing and easy to be with, but left on the sidelines at recess, picked last, impossible to fit except by New York Big Man tailors, Herschel was uncomfortable in his skin.  Every morning he looked at his dewlaps, love-handles, skin folds, and buttocks with dismay.  He was given a body that no one wanted – fat, uncoordinated, and undesirable.  There was nothing that could compensate for the bad genetic hand he was dealt, no possible makeover, no hoped-for reconfiguration of oversized belly, ham hock thighs, and Porky Pig jowls. 

The ‘inclusivity’ phenomenon had just taken root, too late to affect Herschel.  In his generation the slow, the unattractive, the inept, and the one-step-behind would have to deal with a world which wants nothing of them.  Herschel grew up in an era of bullying, aggressive honesty, and realism.  He would simply have to face facts, and maneuver however he might in a world whose values did not include him. 

At times he wished he could ‘display’ his corpulence – wear three-piece suits with tight vests and key chains; show off his neck rolls with shaved baldness; and duck-walk with confidence into the office.  A man to be reckoned with, a man of weight, posture, and presence.  Yet he had been born too early for any of this to have any salience.  He could no more strut down the corridors of his international bank, past the sexy young things in cubicles, head held high, proud, and handsome than he could run a Mayan gantlet.  He was fat, encumbered, and unattractive, and that was the beginning and end of the story.

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Plato was right – without higher-level, unattainable ideals, the human race would remain mired in mediocrity.  No man could ever be Apollo, nor any woman Aphrodite, but the un-achieved attainment was the whole point of human being – striving, aspiring, and desiring were the most essential aspects of human nature and responsible for progress, improvement, and enlightenment.

Suspension of disbelief is another way of putting it.  If Herschel could look in the mirror in the morning and suspend any rational, practical, objective assessment of his undesirable body and prefer to see its potential, its good points, and its hidden allure, so much the better.  There is no point whatsoever in accepting an unattractive reality.

The cosmetic industry is a multi-billion dollar business, and medical enhancement therapy is not far behind.  Why not cover up unsightly blemishes, highlight one’s few Hollywood features, and nip and tuck to accentuate or preserve them?  Looking good is not only for bella figura Italians and fashionista French but for everyone.  There is no doubt that when genetic selection becomes a reality, the DNA of Marilyn Monroe, Ava Gardner, Hedy Lamar, and Vivien Leigh will get top dollar.  Who, if given the chance, would buy the feminist cant of ‘beauty is only skin deep’? Who would not opt for sexual appeal, allure, and attractiveness?

Meanwhile, what was Herschel Benoit to do other than accept second class citizenship?  He was too old, too fat, too misshapen for even the most radical cosmetic surgery to be any good.  He neither had the personality nor the desire to be a Jackie Gleason caricature, imposing as a big man, giving no ground to svelte; nor the desire to show off an ‘I am what I am’ dignity.  He was purely and simply unhappy that he had been born fat, grew up fat, and continued to be fat.  Marry a fat girl? Have fat children? Hang out with fat friends?

Few people can match up to Hollywood beauty.  Our noses are too long, our lips too fat, our cheekbones too low, our foreheads too simian, our ears too low-hanging and elephantine to give us even an even chance in the world of beauty.  And yet, there are few fallbacks.  Short of Bernal Heights flannels, Joan Rivers multiple surgical makeovers, or layers of Rodeo Drive makeup, we are stuck with what we were born with.  Some manage, others never give up, and some seem to gin up enough personality, theatricality, and drama to fool most people.  ‘Ugly is as ugly does’ is an aphorism never quoted but is as salient as its opposite.  Born ugly in a beautiful-desiring world defines a person even more than than one born beautiful.

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