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Thursday, 30 October 2008

I am a Counterfeiter

I am a counterfeiter
Yet another self-centered post, huh? Im a heretic, I'm a counterfeiter, I am plain... I'm only clueless sometimes.
Oh, and, I'm not a very good counterfeiter

An interesting article in the New York Time on, of all things, ugliness. Which, sorry, that's just wishful thinking, will NEVER be "the new pretty."
It's in the fashion pages but it could just as easily be thought of as an article on philosphy, economics, psychology, anthropology, civil rights, art.... (okay, that's me trying to justify the fact that I wouldn't miss the Fashion page in the NYTimes on Thursdays.)
It's difficult to imagine, but there are, apparently, people who have standards of beauty for those whom they will allow to make beds and clean toilets:

Few laws prohibit employment discrimination based on lack of attractiveness, although some plaintiffs have pursued cases under broader statutes: a Vermont chambermaid who was missing her front teeth and was fired won a case against her employer when in 1992 the State Supreme Court upheld her suit, ruling that she was protected by the state’s Fair Employment Practices Act.
Some cities, including Washington, San Francisco and Santa Cruz, Calif., have passed ordinances banning discrimination based on looks. But legal action on behalf of the unattractive can be complicated.
“One pitfall is the distinction between people’s identities as members of a race or a religious group or gender versus as a member of a group of ugly people,” said Sherry F. Colb, a law professor at Cornell. “Because of successful identity politics, people have come to identify profoundly with other kinds of groups — ‘I am a Jew,’ or ‘a French person.’ But it’s not likely with ‘I am an ugly person and let’s have a meeting of all ugly people.’ Most people in general would want to disclaim membership. It’s like declaring yourself a member of the clueless.”

Well, no, Miss Colb, being clueless is more like being unshod -- you can go put some shoes on. Ugly, I guess, would be more like having no feet.
And of course, the clueless are, de facto, unaware of their misfortunate state, whereas most of us pretty much do know what we look like, despite occasional bouts of denial.
Oh, and that includes the gorgeous women who love to tell interviewers that thy look really awful without their make-up.
I guess I could attend a meeting for the Proudly Plain, but yeah, I'd stay away from the Unabashedly Ugly meeting.
I know this is partly a function of the need to vary vocabulary over the course of a long article, but the author doesn't seem to make the distinction between "plain" and "ugly."
The idea of beauty of the most superficial kind continues to fascinate me because I think its want has affected my life, professionally speaking. (Not necessarily, I see now, to the bad.... )
I remember when I first began auditioning professionally, I thought, despite a plain-ish face dazzling high notes and brilliant comic timing, (see? I wasn't the modest type, that is not what led to the self-assessment of my looks,) would guarantee success, especially in a branch of the business where when the actual performance came, people watched you from several yards away.
And I stubbornly failed to do as much as anyone with more sense would have done to look attractive -- a kind of reverse snobbism, what does it matter what I'm wearing or whether the way I wear my hair is fashionable, do I WANT to work for someone who has so little imagination that he cares?
Once a casting director said, "Wow, that was gorgeous. But we're probably going to go with someone blonde," and I, snarkier than usual, and knowing the show would be mostly wigged, said , You know you can say 'someone prettier', it's not going to hurt my feelings," and he, not at all non-plussed, said, "Oh. Okay."
Of course America Ferrara is mentioned in the article. Likewise, whenever Sondheim's Passion is performed, or The Rainmaker or 110 in the Shade, feature articles especially, but reviews too, are at great pains to assure the reader that their author knows the actress is acting, and that in reality she's attractive outside of the role. (You'd have thought for the press for one revival of 110 in New York that the woman had undergone Charlize-Theron-in-"Monster"-level cosmetic machinations...)
When "Frankenstein shoes" were highly touted by the fashion forward a few seasons ago and got scads of editorial space , some snarky writer finally acknowledged what us civilians already knew, the clunky platforms with misshapen heels "could only be worn by pretty girls," only the beautiful could get away with layering on such ugliness and still be pretty.
The rest of us are expected to use clothes and lip gloss and tonsorial techniques to counterfeit beauty.

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