Monday, June 17, 2013


I’m going to date myself horribly in this piece, so let me admit the disgusting truth up front: I’m old. I have worked hard to reach this age, and the exertion required to continue climbing the ladder of years gets more and more difficult as time goes by but, I suspect, it is not nearly as taxing as the effort in which so many engage to remain young, or the self-abuse and struggle required to remain beautiful. Because I don’t give a rodent’s rectum about appearing to be half my age, and because I feel that those that prize form above function range from the sadly misguided to the laughably ludicrous, I am able to quash any shred of empathy for these poor souls and pass judgment on them without the slightest twinge of guilt. What fun.

While surfing television the other day, I encountered a short report on some terribly vital and celebrated fashion show. I watched a minute or so of the exhibition; stick figured women of indecipherable age slinking up and down an elevated walkway as onlookers photographed them and a commentators spoke of what the “right” people were wearing this season, as they implied that only the alarmingly unaware among us could even consider appearing in public without being draped in one of the magnificent creations on display.

Fashion bugs me. I do not engage in its pursuit. I am not concerned with labels. I do not care if a garment says Hillfiger or hill climber, Prada or nada. I consider those that are dependant upon such trivia to be as laughable as those that are famous for merely being famous. But this time, while watching the parade, my scorn of the fashionistas and the enriching shot of superiority that came with watching such a tableau while brushing dog hair off my Walmart sweatclothes and drinking coffee in the living room, was pushed aside by examining the women skulking up and down the runway. My God, ladies. What’s happened to you? When did such women, many of them only girls actually, so thin as to be emaciated, become beautiful? Did Twiggy start all this?

Those of you old enough to remember Twiggy…think back. How odd we thought she was, almost alien, nearly something from the mothership in Close Encounters. This big-eyed, no breasted, switch of a girl…asexual…boyish…painfully thin. Different? Sure. Attractive? Hardly. I have a tendency to shout “Eat a sandwich!” at these emaciated denizens of the vomitorium. Evidently Twiggy heard me. Some years later she appeared in a movie with Robin Williams and actually had a figure. Well past thirty, she was cute, womanly, attractive, and rather normal looking.

Let’s go back a decade or two before the madness struck, and recall some of the sex symbols of old. We will forego Marilyn Monroe and Jane Mansfield, for they were nearly human cartoons of sexuality, and look at some others. Gina Lolabrigida, Elke Sommer, Ursela Andress, Jane Russell, Senta Berger, Ann Margaret…no walking skeletons these, no body builders either. And let’s not forget another shining example, Sophia Loren. Lovely in youth, outstanding in adulthood, amazing in age, giving lie to the bull that women must be young and thin to be attractive. It is simply not true, and yet we have sold this bill of goods to society’s daughters for several decades now. Who’s at fault? All of us of course, to varying degrees, but possibly women more than men. I hear the screams of protest, but think. Unlike many of the other species on this planet, it is the female human who most often displays color and plumage to attract suitors. It wasn’t always that way. Men wore makeup, wigs and high heels first, but over the last few hundred years, in this society at least, the gals have blown the guys out of the water! And these same marvelous creatures, these same wonderful women, dressed to the nines, made up fit to kill, tucked and plucked, surged and purged, complain bitterly if the wrong man leers, weep if they gain two pounds, and scrabble until their French manicured nails break trying to hold on to youth, a complete and total impossibility.
And men, don’t think for one minute that we’re off the hook. Many of us deplore age in women, turning instead to ending longtime relationships in favor of trophy wives, or pursue arm charm and eye candy, lying to and cheating on someone else while stealing from ourselves, in the vain belief that associating with attractive youth will keep us young and attractive, too. We, men and women, tend to focus on the perishable and neglect the substantial. Age is ugly. Youth is beautiful. And, as we all know, youth is slim, firm, and taught. It is also temporary. But, for only the giving of money and the acceptance of pain, we can reshape, rebuild, restore, remodel and, hopefully, reclaim lost youth with the pinch of a needle, the slash of a scalpel, and the denial of the inevitable. 

Speaking of the denial of the inevitable, regard Suzanne Somers. Some of her personal history is horrible. She is a survivor, no doubt about that. She is also a caricature of her former self. Like someone who keeps adding chrome and accessories to a motorcycle until the madness of accomplishment takes over and the motorcycle itself can no longer even be seen, she has so disfigured herself with surgery and stem cells as to look nearly like something from the Muppets Take Manhattan. I don’t know if this aliment has a name, but I find it sad. Sadder still, any of us run the risk of catching it.

My wife of over forty years, the coveted Laura, was a model when I met her. An attractive girl with a pretty face and a lovely figure, mindful of a young Shirley MacLaine. She’d been the whole route, from duct tape in strategic places to the eternal smile that comes from applying Vaseline to one’s teeth before hitting the runway, thought it ridiculous and, with at least ten years of easy work and good money ahead of her, she quit.

She and I were watching the tube the other evening when a makeup commercial came on, a lovely young face with pouting lips and gleaming eyes, extorting how marvelous the product was in a seductive whisper.

            “Fourteen,” Laura said.

            I responded with the typical male reply. “Huh?”

            “Fourteen,” she repeated. “Maybe younger.”


            “All you have to do is make up little kids to look older and it drives the older women nuts. They pay through the nose trying to look like their daughters. It was starting when I was in the business. Just makes you sick, doesn’t it?”

            It makes a lot of us sick. It makes some of us dead. Anorexia and bulimia are not the problem. They are merely a couple of the symptoms. It comes back to societal focus. We actually believe that something outside ourselves is responsible for our happiness. Oh, to be one size smaller, or one decade younger. God, just to have bigger boobs or a smaller butt, or a larger home, or a younger wife or a fancier car, or dozens of other things that are outside us that we’re convinced will make inside us all better.

Of course, I’m not saying we should neglect our bodies, we shouldn’t. We have to live in them. Nor do I think that cosmetic surgery is completely wrong. That is simply not true. But, if you believe that clothes make the man or woman, you are what you drive, young is good and old is bad, or that your body is really who and what you are, if you can still think independently at all, perhaps you should consider re-thinking things a bit. There is one particular hazard that affects all of us, I’m afraid. While I do not believe that the devil necessarily wears Prada, I do believe that the fashion fire-lover is out there, watching, waiting to pounce. Any of us are available to his wiles. Should you encounter old scratch while walking down the street, do not issue that immortal phrase, “Devil! Get thee behind me!” Sorry. Those jeans really do make your ass look big.

After I watched the snippet of the fashion show that started all this excess verbiage, the regular program returned to the TV. A talk show of some variety. The current guest was the lovely Keira Knightly. Beautiful girl, funny, sweet, poised, popular. Keira, my very dear, if not for your sake, then for ours, EAT A SANDWICH!