Thursday, January 23, 2014

Winter and the limits of beauty

Toward the finish line...
There is a lot going on in my world right now and for that reason, I haven’t been very active in blogland.  Sorry, if things work out the way I think they will, there will be a lot to write come early March…  By then, maybe winter will be winding down.  We’re having a real winter here this year.  Yesterday afternoon, I got to serve as a judge at a high school ski match.  My daughter is on the team and they needed bodies to stand out in the wind and subfreezing weather and make sure the competitors stayed on course and didn’t split a gate or do anything else to that would disqualified their time and to help anyone who wiped out.  It was fun but by the time it was over, my feet were getting cold even inside my ski boots.  It is hard to imagine, but this post is about a time when I was slightly older than my daughter is now… 

Homeroom in the eleventh grade was the highlight of my rather dismal high school career.  I didn’t mind being on time for sitting right in front of me was Dee (names have been changed to protect the guilty).  She had just transferred in from the private school for rich kids that had jumpstarted in response to court-ordered busing for the purpose of a racial balance in all the schools.  There were two such schools in our city: “the Academy” from which she came and the school at the Baptist Church where parents of more modest means sent their kids off to keep them isolated as they pretended to live in the antebellum South.  But I digress…  

One of the few things I remember about that homeroom in my junior year was De.  I don’t even remember my homeroom teacher’s name, although from what I recall he looked a little dorky and wore tweed jackets.  And I don’t remember any other students in that “class”—mostly homeroom was a waste of time, a place to take attention and listen to announcements as you tried to finish homework due in first period.  But I can still conjure up an image of Dee.  She was beautiful.  Her long straight light-brown hair draped halfway down her back.  Her petite body and shapely legs, which were displayed in the short skirts that were popular in the 70s, attracted a lot of attention.  I thought she was smart and knew she came from a family with money.  Perhaps that was the reason I spent the whole year thinking about her but could never venture the courage to talk to her.  I don’t remember having any other classes with her, but that wasn’t unusual as this was a rather large high school.  The next year she was eight or ten places ahead of me when we, all 750 or so of us, marched to the podium to receive our diplomas. 

I had forgotten about Dee until a few years ago when she showed up among other friends from high school on facebook.  I was glad to learn a bit about her.  She’s still beautiful and with some of the photos she's posted of her family, she and her daughter could be siblings.  We’ve not exchanged many comments, mostly “happy birthday" and things like that.  I still haven’t let her know of my infatuation as an awkward teen.

With that background, let me now get to the point of writing this.  For the past two years on or about Martin Luther King’s Day, Dee has posted some of the most mean-spirited and bigoted comments I have heard in recent decades and this would include watching Fox news when visiting parents and in-laws.  I was shocked.  When she repeated it this year, I was appalled.  “I am so sick of the Civil Rights issue!!!” she wrote.  The she began to shoot off about our President in a way that is not only inaccurate and inflammatory, but makes no sense.  Her command of the English language is almost as appalling as her rant.  And since MLK Day, she had continued to make derogatory comments about our President and his wife, all while insisting that she’s not a racist.    

Beauty is only skin deep may be a cliché, but it also rings true.  It was a good thing I was a shy and awkward teenager when I first saw her in homeroom…  


  1. Oh dear, such a shame that she's blown her cover! That saying about being careful what you wish for, makes perfect sense here. Imagine if you'd ask her out, dated, got engaged and even married! Yikes. Of course, I bet the real her would have surfaced before you ever got near any church. I envy you helping out and joining in on school activities. I've always like that and always will, it's just so fun and rewarding, even in those bad temps. Minnesota is having a good old fashion winter too this year. Brrrrrrrrrrrrrr! Most schools were closed again today because of the severe cold, and high wind chills.

  2. Sounds like you dodged a bullet on that one.

  3. Oh, how lucky you were that yo0u didn't end up with her. We are acquainted with a couple whom we like very much. The guy is a former policeman and the only fault I can find with him is his rampant racism. He speaks in a terrible way about other races, but when he is face to face with someone of another race, he is a first class hypocrite. Luckily, we don't spend much time with them.

  4. Sage: I once had a Philosophy class in college where we studied the Pre-Socratics. Whoever said, "Let reason be your guide. The heart when left to itself, misses the road" came to mind with this post. Sad to read that such a beautiful young lady could be so lacking in social skills and more.

  5. ah beauty is only skin deep and when we open the mouth se let a bit of the heart out and that trumps looks any day....i wonder what it was that poisoned her so...experience or family or...

  6. You most definitely dodged a bullet here Sage. Good to see a post from you sir. I hope all is well.

  7. Yipes. I knew a girl like that, too, for whom I had a quiet crush on. A few years later, she married a man I knew and quickly proved to be an unapologetic slut and social climber.

    Thank the stars for bullets dodged.

  8. My mom used to use an expression, "Pretty is as Pretty does." Sounds as if that applies to Dee.

    Yes - I spend so much time hiding hateful stuff on email, and it's sometimes from people I can't unfriend. Surprising really.

    Looking forward to hearing the news!

  9. I agree - it's good you were a shy young man and didn't get involved with her!

  10. Or possibly had you been more assertive you could have counteracted the incorrect information she was getting from home. *shrug* The funny thing about hate and yes i do me humorous, is that it hurts by far the one doing the inhumane thinking much more than the recipient, Instant Karma.

  11. Inner beauty shines through no matter how attractive or not someone is. The same is of course true for inner ugliness. It mars the most beautiful of faces. Even if you hadn't been a shy, awkward admirer of hers, your infatuation would have probably been short-lived.

  12. Kids don't lick such attitudes from the stones. If her parents weren't that way then her chosen cohort provided the indoctrination. But you have to call out others too. Here in Europe there has been an up-swing in tea party type political parties. They have some very odd configurations being mostly right socially and left economically. You have the Front National in France which is an unholy concoction of Catholics, Communists held together by a profound dislike for emigration. This marks UKIP in England and Geert Wilders in Holland. But you have them in Austria Italy Finland, Poland.
    What's odd is their dismissal of the centre politics which has been the main political force here. But in a way what's bugging all is relatively simple and it isn't racism. They are terrified. Here in Ireland people bought houses at unreal prices simply because they were told that was the correct thing to do. They bought into pensions they were told were safe. Now they don't believe those that are telling them anything about anything. They are reacting with their gut.
    They are of course correct. They were seen as sheep to be fleeced by those appointed to watch over them. However the core issue is that the Visitation of the Angel of Unemployment that passed over the rust belt from the Urals to Minnesota from the 70s to the 90s has now focused on the lower middle class.
    You Jeff are educated enough to know everything is designed in the socio-economic context. That there is no such thing as a happening. There may be unintended consequences but someone tipped the egg off the table.

    I knew there was a double tier or even a triple tier system of schooling in many of the States. What I've got quite a bit of difficulty with is the staffing and administration of the public system is virtually exclusively by those who have never attended or could conceive of their kids going their either. This then turns the school from a place of real opportunities to one of oppression. And the argument that one or two gets to a top university is meaningless when held against fee paying schools sending 80% plus. I had real hopes that MOOCs and the internet in general would be a boon to education for people but the more I audit the providers the less I see that coming through, yet.

  13. Beautiful anecdote. And at least you are getting a winter. We're getting only a pretend one. :-)

    Greetings from London.

  14. Derogatory comments, racist, bigoted, are a turn off. A few years ago I wrote a post on running and hasidics. I told how I used to make fun of them in their long coats in the heat of summer, only to find myself running in the same conditions or pouring rain and getting the same looks from people. Running made me appreciate that whatever they do is based on something they feel strongly about it, just like I feel strongly about running. I respect them now as I want to be respected when I run.
    A friend sent me a personal email because she didn't want to comment on the blog. She told me how she had never found a good Hasidic or Jew, how all blacks stole, how all XYZ were lazy, bad, whatever. That totally changed my friendship with her. It made me see a side I didn't like and one I don't want to be close to.

  15. Great post! Very thought provoking...
    Seeing her comments must have been a major letdown. Who knows though, she might not have been totally brainwashed at that time (I assume, by her father). Just a thought.

    I have very good to say about my mother, but she did instill in us that we're all people. We may not look alike, have the same beliefs, or live the same lifestyle, but we are basically the same. I never heard her say a negative word about anyone based on who or what they were. She also wouldn't allow anyone else to do it in her presence. I carried that tolerance with me into adulthood. I don't have any intolerant friends either. If they turn out to be that way, I walk away and tell them why I'm doing it.

  16. Moving post, Sage.

    I have a feeling that even if you weren't shy, as soon as you saw past the facade you would have moved on to more beautiful (as in "inner beauty") pastures.

    Note: I can't imagine anything more ignorant than FOX NEWS; that says mountains about her (lack of) character.

    We're all exactly where we need to be in life; where were supposed to be. But that doesn't make me scratch my head when I hear things like this.

    Fear is absence of love.

    I suppose she's never known true love (in the inner world, but in the temporal world).

    I hope you're staying warm.


  17. I was bussed across town to attend a mostly black school. I often wonder how I would have turned out if I hadn't been. My father had some very strong opinions...

  18. Just popping in to say hello! Hope you're staying warm, and not snowed in!

  19. That was a great post. Loved the ending--your reaction