Monday, June 23, 2008

The Insanity of Vanity

I'm not sure if anyone has ever studied this, but suspect if there's a government grant available a researcher will be visiting you soon.....are humans the only species aware of our looks, and then attempt to change them in the hopes of improving them?

We do the changing part a lot--I make my wife and children smile by growing a moustache and a beard (of sorts) on a regular basis. I think it looks really cool while growing in, though I am in the minority on this. Then, sadly, when the beard should be very cool, it is, instead, incredibly icky-grey making me look like a bedraggled street person searching for my cardboard sign, 'Will lick your leg for a quarter.' The upside is I get the senior discount at Dunkin' Donuts. Well, sometimes.

Hitting the gym or the weight room or the stationary bicycle. The Pilates workout in those skimpy please-look-someplace-other-than-my-chest leotards with the goofy pull up socks that always seem to bunch up at the ankles, you remember that stuff in Flashdance?, those socks. The sweatbands, headbands, wrist bands and, for all I know, boy bands. All of that rigmarole. And all we're doing is a version of shape-shifting. We're not improving the contents, just the dimensions and appearance of the container. But we still work at it.

Cosmetics is a multi-billion dollar industry here and I have no idea how much around the world and you don't see lemurs hitting the Revlon counter at Macy's (at least not around here) and I've never read any accounts of a spotted leopard forgoing a share of the gazelle kill because red meat goes right to its hips. I buy aftershave, because I like the smell and deodorant because I don't like to smell. Some wag suggested with all the potential and possibilities for violence in our world these days that we're never certain in the air, in our car or on the street-but under our arms, there we are safe. Call me bulletproof, Pepe. Safe as houses.

But I have problems with the stranger who shows up in my morning mirror (he sort of looks like the person on the driver's license, but that guy only vaguely resembles my mind's eye reflection) and the other day, coming up an escalator in one of the mall stores, I caught a glimpse of the back of my own head on the surveillance camera--yikes! That little, tiny, bald spot--I mean the one that's so small the only one who can see it is me and it's on the back of my head and so I can't see it, that bald spot--it's HUGE! It's visible from space. All that was on the monitor was that bald spot! Sweet Mary, Mother of all that's Holy! From overhead, I look like Friar Tuck!

On you, this is funny but I'm not talking about you. I'm obsessing about me and the least you can do is pretend to be interested and STOP SNICKERING! I went directly to the drugstore and got Rogaine. (I'd never seen TV commercials for the fifty-five gallon drum size and didn't even know it existed until they rolled it out to the car. I have no idea if it works but I'm avoiding department store escalators until it's had a chance to at least try to work. The stuff I use says apply 1.0 ml (it comes with a dropper like I'd know the difference between 1.0 and .01 milliliters otherwise) twice a day and massage it into the scalp in a clock-wise motion with my fingers (as opposed to what? I wondered, but only for a moment). If the directions had said 'hop on one foot while whistling' I would have trouble typing this right now, if you follow my drift.

I'm not sure what's in it--except there are numerous prohibitions and injunctions about women using it, or coming into contact with it and women are incredibly tough--they give birth to live children, remember, so it must be a serious health threat, right? The label also instructs me to wash my hands 'thoroughly with soap and water after each application.' My fear is that if I don't, I'll grow hair on my palms (I had this fear years ago but still had a head full of hair) and I'll have nothing on my pate to show for any of this. Hey! Isn't that Carly Simon over there, getting on the up escalator?
You wave 'hello', I'm too afraid to take my hands out of my pockets.
-bill kenny

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