Saturday, April 30, 2005

Pretty Women

I'm watching Farrah Fawcett on the David Letterman show. She's leathery tan with her usual blonde hair mop. Her nose resembles Michael Jackson's (which might explain why she always sounds like she has a cold) and she can't move her frozen mouth when she smiles or laughs. Dave is gushing all over her and she starts to bounce up and down in the overstuffed chair. When he asks her to do it again, she does. I'm feeling sick.

She's hawking her latest project: a reality series where cameras follow her around and try to make something out of nothing -- just as they have with other pseudo-celebrities who only have the bizarre-ness of their lives to market. This comes after decades of the merchandising of Farrah: first, there was the blockbuster masturbation-inducing swimsuit poster, her stint as a "Charlie's Angel" on TV until she wanted too much money, Playboy centerfolds, an erotic video that showed her acting as a human paintbrush covered in slippery pigment rubbing up against various surfaces ("I was an art major before I went into modelling!"), and most recently her partnership with a sculptor who immortalized her in a show at the Los Angeles County Museum. I don't why, but that one makes me the saddest.


I was fat for most of my life, so I've only felt the occasional glimpse of what it's like to deal with the issues that come with "pretty". And at an age where I should know better, I still feel twinges of envy when I see the admiring looks from men focused on pretty women. But I think being really beautiful must be like being very rich. You never know if someone wants you for YOU or for what you have to offer them -- visually, socially, sexually, whatever. I think I stayed overweight to avoid all that nonsense since I had to watch close-up how pretty women are marginalized by men when I was growing up.

My Dad married my mom largely because she was an attractive arm piece half his age (unfortunately she came with two kids who required some attention). Once while they were working out in the yard under blazing hot sun, some friends stopped by unexpectedly. My mom, dressed in a bikini top and shorts, waved enthusiastically and started over to greet their guests when my Dad hissed at her: "Go put something on." And she did.

For years, he insisted on coming to her office to pick up HER paycheck and when she insisted on buying her own car, the arguments seemed to go on for days. In his eyes, being pretty meant weakness and dependence. These were big steps forward from her previous life. Pregnant at 15, she eventually had two kids with a violent bully who -- among his other credits -- was dishonorably discharged from the Navy, hit my mother while she was pregnant with my brother, refused to let my mom feed her crying baby, and preferred to be thrown in jail rather than pay any child support. For my mom, being pretty meant being treated as a foreigner in a family full of boys, disposable by the first attractive man who promised to get her out of the house, and as a defiant child by her second husband.

My Dad had another family before us. Two girls and a boy who shared the most infectious and magical sense of humor. I could never get enough of their company. I still can't. The middle one, step-sister Lynn, grew up to be incredibly striking. She was always able to get men to do things for her and I admired the mastery she had over males. They were the moths and she was the flame. They waited patiently for any word or nod that showed special attention or interest. For awhile, being pretty meant power and attention.

A teenaged bride -- another beautiful woman so desperate for male attention that she got knocked up in high school -- Lynn made a bold strike (as a single mother) to New York City to start a modelling career and to turn her beauty into money and fame. She discovered that even women treat pretty women badly during her first meeting with mega-agent Eileen Ford: Eileen was screaming at the exquisite black model Beverly Johnson as she stormed out of Eileen's office. Next, it was Lynn's turn. Eileen slowly perused her modeling portfolio, spitting out a commentary about how many girls she saw every day with a dream of making it big and gradually Eileen slowed down, her voice sweetened, and she offered Lynn a contract on the spot. Instead, Lynn signed with the much warmer Wilhelmina (a former Ford model) who treated her "girls" more like family than commodity.

But no matter how much success she enjoyed, she still hooked up with lousy guys. Even the men she loved took advantage. On a brief return home, She and my Dad went to lunch at a local restaurant. As the meal ended, he asked if she would kiss him on the mouth to make it look to the other men in the dining room like they were a couple. And she did.


Lynn committed suicide a little over a year ago. Her modeling career had long since ended and the weight of a deadbeat stoner husband (who was preceeded by a much younger deadbeat, abusive boyfriend) must have been too much for her. She left behind a devastatingly beautiful 15-year-old daughter who is pursuing her own modeling career. As sad as I am for Lynn, I'm grateful as hell that she's not sitting in a chair next to David Letterman, bouncing up and down at his command, trying to hawk a cable reality show just to make a living.

1 Comments:

At 10:37 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You are wonderful!!! I love your stories and I wish we lived closer, I miss talking to you on a more regular basis... Take care Christy

 

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