Thursday, July 16, 2009

PRETTY GIRLS (A Perspective)

I know, I know, “pretty” and “girls”, both words are offensive to some people. There are also those who would have little kids wear safety helmets and goggles to finger paint. Hysterical as one group or another is being about most everything these days, the real world is still there. And like it or not, the real world includes pretty girls. They are real. Special, but real.

Pretty girls have ruined my life and I love them for it, I wouldn’t have had it any other way. (There were twenty, twenty-five kids in my early 1950s kindergarten class. I remember two, the pretty girls, Natalie and Virginia. For eternal life, a money machine, and Paris Hilton for a month, I couldn’t name the teacher or a single other kid.) I’ve had great jobs with bright futures, friends, hobbies, peace of mind, and money, but they last only precisely until some little honey smiles my way and pow, I’m a goner—used, amused, and defused. Then I’m ready to start it all over again. (I like them feisty ones.)

But it’s not necessary to know pretty girls intimately; it makes it all worth it just to see them around. When none are in sight, just knowing they exist in the world can keep you going.

According to some folks, it took advertising and men’s magazines to tell us what is desirable in a female. I think not. I’m sure guys were walking full speed into trees and tripping over their own feet while checking out a pretty girl long before beer commercials. Heck, we wouldn’t be here if they weren’t; let’s lose that notion right now. I don’t know how the same body parts put together basically the same way can have such a varied appeal. I’m not saying it’s fair, or right . . . only true. Some people don’t even want “pretty” to count. Ha! I don’t want summer to ever end. (Bet I get my wish first.)

I like to watch other people’s reactions to pretty girls. In the back of a Santa Rosa/San Francisco bus the other day rode a young copper-top with milky white skin, wearing a brown leather bomber jacket. (Reading James Joyce.) She had folks shooting sideways looks at her all the way, even from the front of the bus, men, boys, and two women couldn’t look at her hard enough. And recently in Healdsburg, I spotted this dark-haired goddess entering a market with a pretty blonde girlfriend. I stopped at a fast-food restaurant up the street and a few minutes later the two girls came in. (The power of wishful thinking.) Then through the window I saw him coming, a guy with his mother and his about ten-year-old son. He walked in normally, innocently, but when he saw her he could have snapped his neck he looked elsewhere so fast. After regrouping, then checking where mom, the boy, and the guy behind the counter were looking, he started copping glances. There ought to be a law. Sometimes I think the Ayatollah was right . . . cover them babes up. Give us a break.

No. Yes! Nooo . . .

(Allah, help us.)

I had a deprived childhood . . . no sisters. My grandfather was a big help. He told me he planned to write a book: What I Know About Women. “It’s going to be this thick. And every page is going to be blank.” When I decorated my room with Life Magazine pictures of Brigitte Bardot, my mother promptly redecorated with a razor blade, slashing away any images of offensively located skin or obscenely shaped clothing. I ignored the warnings on the TV commercials and used Brylcreem by the pint. My favorite song was “The Wanderer”. It’s a stage of life that some of us manage to live through.

Now, over sixty, a survivor of the sexual revolution, after many years as a California get-naked-and-party hippie, three unconventional marriages, and being a dedicated ‘60s, ‘70s, and early ‘80s swinger, (until AIDS got turned loose in the world), I feel about as qualified to have an opinion of pretty girls as anybody.

I remember telling my first wife some of my observations on the subject back in the middle ‘60s. I told her I thought pretty girls were so accustomed to the red-carpet treatment all the time, big come-ons from guys wherever they went, that by being casual, like going through a door ahead of one, or scratching your nose while you’re talking, or handing a pretty girl a jar to open that you’re having trouble with, can make you stand out a bit in their world full of gallantry and posturing. (Getting the silent treatment in the car on the way home from a party one night, it finally came out what was wrong. Apparently I’d absently rubbed my nose while talking to some gal and seeing it my wife had surmised that I was making a play for the other woman.)

Pretty girls have told me that looking so good can get mighty lonely sometimes. Men are afraid to talk, figure somebody looking so fine has to have all kinds of boyfriends and wonderful things going on, wouldn’t care to meet them. Other times guys who do talk won’t deal with her beyond her looks, that’s all that matters to them.

Ahhh . . . but when it’s good, it’s great. There are pretty girls who thrive on the attention, enjoy dressing up that body, revel in the opportunities that looking good present, exploit their looks like any other asset or ability, are centered enough to handle unwanted advances without coming unglued, enjoy life.

John Lennon sang that a pretty face lasts only a day or two. An old cha-cha song said if you want to be happy, never make a pretty woman your wife, to get an ugly girl to marry you. It’s said that beauty is only skin deep. In an article on looks I read, “Although she feels that she looks better now than she ever did, [she] says looks don’t even cross her mind anymore.” (Huh? Then how’s she know she looks better now?) Janis Joplin wasn’t pretty, but boy was she beautiful.

Ever see Barbii, the dancer/porn star? (“Back by urgent demand.”) I didn’t particularly want to spend big bucks to see her in person like some tourist, but I did go apply for a job where she was dancing, hoping to catch a glimpse of her. I’m sorry, but I doubt if I’d have been so inspired by, say, Janet Reno, back at that same time, intelligent and successful as she may have been.

Just being with a pretty girl makes for changes. I was walking with Jessica in West L.A. As we passed a gas station, one of two motorcycle cops parked across the street yelled at a guy pumping gas, “Put those eyeballs back in your head or we’ll shoot!” Up a couple blocks, I was waiting for her outside a store when the cops came roaring by, and when they spotted me they both spontaneously waved to me as they passed, just because I’d been with her! Another time I was in an Oregon hospital about to be released. The Saturday shift, nurses and aides I hadn’t dealt with before, was on. I was pretty much riffraff compared to the wealthy rancher in the other bed getting lots of attention . . . until Kathy, with her mane of blonde hair, wearing cut-off jeans and a skimpy top, came in with my clothes. Suddenly all the nurses got noticeably concerned with how I was doing. Amazing.

I’m not sure if there can be an actual point to this story. Pretty girls, easily as holy as any spectacular sunset or moon-lit ocean scene from a TV commercial for religious tapes. Whew, they can all take your breath away and make you glad you’re alive. That’s all I know.

Some folks seem to confuse beauty with obscenity, call a topless woman at the beach or a nude centerfold pornographic, not the work of nature that it is. Spending lots of time in Canada during the 1970s, I noticed no such nonsense up there. There was regular nudity on the six o’clock news, on family camping shows, in daytime network movies. Many here in this country seriously agree with the Ayatollah; luckily others have some fun with skin and beauty and such.

I managed an adult book store in Idaho for a few months. Groups of girls would hit the door from time to time, always with a burst of laughter. (“We’ve been sitting in the car for almost an hour waiting till nobody we knew was around so we could come in here. We’re looking for favors and gifts for our friend’s bachelorette party. Where’s the edible underwear?”) Several daughters brought in their reluctant mothers, always heading to the twenty-five-cent movie booths in the back room. (One mom came out for more quarters. “If I’m going to watch this,” she told me defiantly, “I’m going to see the end.”) Every time was the same when they left: Mom, eyes glazed and riveted straight ahead, made a bee-line for the front door, while daughter, grinning triumphantly, strolled along behind. Mostly the customers were couples and military men. (The store had a pretty tame selection of boy/girl magazines and videos, but did have four bondage magazines on display in the corner. Never sold one, but about three times a week somebody’d lift one to show a friend, “Hey, this is what you need, yuck, yuck,” and then put it back on the rack. One day three grandmother-types came in, never so much as glanced up at me, they spread out around the store. A committee, I’m sure. They perused the covers of magazines, the selection of paperback books and videos, the marital aids and sex toys, never touching a thing or saying a word. Then they spotted them . . . the bondage magazines. Zap—like a magnet. The three proper ladies spent the next fifteen minutes shoulder to shoulder, going one page at a time through all four magazines. Then, noses high, aghast, out the door they marched. They had certainly found what they were looking for, God love ‘em.) (Like the magazine cartoon, a similar woman standing at her window looking through binoculars, “Harry, come quick. The neighbors are offending us again.”) (My personal favorite is the people who were outraged by the mere outlines of two humans, a male and a female, on the outside of one of those rockets NASA shot up. Some called it “pornography in space”, like our very shape is indecent.)

Pretty girls . . . the hobby. (Remember ‘The Rifleman’ episode where disaster would strike whenever this pretty girl walked by? She thought she was jinxed. Nowadays it’s often cars getting rear-ended by similarly distracted drivers. Cute waitresses make more in tips. I’ve seen a taxi driver offer a free ride just because a pretty girl was in the group. Emergency-room staff work harder to save an attractive person. Even babies smile more often at good-looking mothers.) It’s not a crime.

So anyway, I have always been blown away by those before-and-after makeup pictures in magazines. The models look like totally different people, from plain to gorgeous. I know one girl myself who has that dramatic of a change after doing her makeup every morning. I know another who’s an after/after. First thing in the morning, without so much as a comb to her red hair, Beth is cover-girl material; she can’t look bad. Riding with her in her little Mazda truck on a rain-slicked freeway, she pulled out to pass three vehicles just before our exit. Doing just shy of eighty-miles-an-hour, ready to cut off the third car we had passed to make our turn, the girl with us screamed. Beth laughed as she made the exit, told the girl that I’m the only person who isn’t afraid of her driving. Hey, I just figure: What a way to go!