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

Tuesday, April 2, 2024

You Can't Fix Ugly - Nature, Nurture, And The Superiority Of The Bright And Beautiful

Elvira Brand had gotten every one of her family's crooked genes. Uncle Charlie's hook nose, Aunt Bertha's warts, and Grandpa Dooley's tics.  Not one strand of beauty, brains, or allure got passed on.  Her genetic soup was a tasteless, unappealing mess.  'Why did God do this to me?' she shouted. 

Of course God had nothing to do with it.  Darwin did, and the luck of the draw was all there was - minor, incremental changes which assured better mates, better territory, and better adaptability.  The Elvira Brands of the world were the victims, to be culled, left on the curb, their defective DNA left to fade, wither, and disappear.  

Unless of course the remarkable happened and she met a young man who would add beauty and brains to the mix; some Boston Brahman with Lancasters and Yorks in his family tree, money a birthright, tanned from summers on the Vineyard and winters in St. Bart's, a perfect product of careful breeding.  Then their children would have a good chance of inheriting something positive.

Of course this was a vain hope. Take the Harrison Potters, for example, who did everything to assure a successful pairing of their son Harlan. 'Keep the old line moving', said Bigby Potter, patriarch of the clan as he engineered his son's genetic future. His job was to protect his family's legacy and to ensure that it grew exponentially.  Only the best matches were good enough for his son.  There was Holly Davenport of the Boston Davenports, heiress to the family fortune but more importantly as smart as a whip and as beautiful as starlet.  Her ancestors like his had made sure that purity, grace, beauty, and brains would be favored and enhanced through the generations.

Nature-nurture was a very simple calculus in the Potter and Davenport families - you might be a product of your genes, but careful husbandry and proper outlook could make things even better.  

'Nazis!', yelled the Leftists at Harvard, on their high horses about legacy admissions and the persistent matriculation of the best, the brightest, and the wealthiest; and condemning the corrosive inbreeding of the high-class families of the East.  By manipulating the system - generating the money to preserve their position and social status, and using it to arrange marriages to promote, preserve, and continue privilege - these legacy families were preventing diversity, the long hoped-for progressive mix of peoples. 

Of course they were right in pinpointing the modus operandi but quite wrong to call out the privileged for perverse eugenics.  Families up and down the social scale have practiced this genetic triage since the first human settlements - marry up, marry smart, and marry beautiful. 

So it was the destiny of the Elvira Brands of the world to try to hook a Potter or Davenport, to dilute the ugliness and add some patrician good looks and ability to the sorry genetic mix, so not surprisingly she spent a fortune on cosmetics, cosmetic surgery, and fashion in her quest.  That was of course just whistlin' Dixie, for the patrician well-heeled knew an upstart when they saw one, saw through the batted eyelashes and puckered lips to the unsatisfactory core; and even good manners and the presumption of breeding never did the trick.  As much as Elvira tried to mimic the rich and well-to-do, she failed miserably. 

Sex was the only avenue open to her, and men being the irremediable 'put-a-flag-over-her-head-and-fuck-for-Old-Glory' indiscriminate dolts they were, her disadvantages might be overlooked, and pregnancy always being the woman's choice and prerogative, once these johns were in bed, who knew what might happen?

Trolling the watering holes of the beautiful people was never her thing, and these days there was far too much democratic mixing at singles bars to pick out the true-bloods from the faux; so she was left at sixes and sevens - what's a woman to do? A blind rich man?

Her mother and father fawned over her out of love and affection but also out of guilt for having contributed, if only indirectly, to her misfortune.  It wasn't exactly their fault that some of the worst DNA in their combined past got tangled up with the best and somehow pushed its way to the fore.  She could have had Great Grandmother's smile and fetching figure. But she didn't, and her life was now her own, come what may. 


They, resolutely religious people, were concerned about their daughter's libertinage - a bit too 'outgoing' for a good Catholic girl and increasingly seen in the wrong places, but 'a girl's got to do what she's got to do', said Elvira's mother who had not exactly been pursued by football heroes and prom kings, found a complaisant and rather ordinary man who would be a good provider and buy her things.

What could Mrs. Brand have expected given her rather sketchy genetic profile - non-descript immigrants from places like Montenegro and Bohemia who never made the adjustment to life in America and who were on the dole from day one.  There was one - Nikola Lukic who had worked himself off the factory floor of New Brighton Tool and Die to foreman but who had fallen to his death from a New York, New Haven & Hartford trestle as he tried not to get hit by the 3:42 from Bridgeport.  A candidate for the Darwin Awards, so a little nucleic acid boost did absolutely nothing for him. 

All communities do what the Brands, the Potters, and the Davenports do - sexual vetting - but the social system in which they operate is closed.  The less genetically gifted tend to marry those with the same genetic profile, maintain a stasis of quality at best, and with never a chance to refresh the gene pool, are consigned to the same intellectual penury and physical questionability. 

The more gifted are no different except that they are not confined to Beacon Hill, Park Avenue, or Georgetown.  They choose to graze there, and when they find the right mate, go on to produce brilliant, beautiful offspring. 

Now, of course there are always glitches in the grand scheme of things.  A diamond in the rough can be found in Anacostia and a real dummy on Beacon Hill is always possible - genes have a way of combining in the strangest of ways - and that is why parents are always on a wait-and-see watch after their children are born.  But all in all, things generally work out well, nature does its thing and beauty is allowed to do as beauty does. 


There really is no nature-nurture debate except in academia.  Most parents accept nature - the luck of the genetic draw - and do what they can to enhance whatever version comes out.  However, society being what it is, always favoring the most beautiful and the most intelligent, even the stone ugly never take their fate quietly; and this is what Darwin would have expected.

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