Ammo Grrrll believes in POINTLESS BEAUTY. She writes:
A few weeks ago we discussed the convenience of having a large seasonal animal to herd us away from harm when we are veering off into obvious lunacy. It’s not the fault of the Easter Egg Roll & Hunt that a senile old husk wandered off to discuss Afghanistan with children like the demented enraged buzzkill that he is.
Because really, the White House Easter Egg Hunt, a tradition since 1878, is yet another in a long list of inessential things done to try to enrich or engladden our lives. Which is the topic of today’s column – Pointless Beauty.
On some nice mornings I awaken to a text from my Floridian Friend TonyP173 with a picture of his beautiful “Creole Ladies” flowers. It is an exotic flower that is one color in the morning and, like fancy Creole ladies, changes its “dress” to a different color in the late afternoon! It is a miracle that The Creator thought up and a caring thing Tony does periodically to cheer me as we soldier on in Biden’s Build Back Bankrupt and Bigoted America.
I have tried to cultivate flowers in Arizona with limited success. Although I am a big fan of the desert, I get tired of the tans, grays and browns and long for some color. When I first moved here I planted a great variety of flowers in pots. Most perished fairly rapidly from the heat, but I also lost several very expensive ficus trees from a week-long 27 degree cold snap. Gotta love the extremes in the desert. The Paranoid Texan Next Door asked why I kept trying with the flowers and I told him the apocryphal joke about the Biblical Garden in Israel.
There is a Biblical Garden that is like a zoo with the plants and animals mentioned in the Bible that are native to The Holy Land. A tourist noticed the “lion lying down with the lamb” and exclaimed in great surprise, “How do you manage to have the lion and the lamb together?” to which the elderly Israeli caretaker replied, “Every day, a new lamb.”
So my stuff kept perishing, but especially if guests were coming every day I would plant a new “lamb.” The people in the Gardening departments of Walmart and Ace were always happy to see me, credit card in hand.
I ponder on the purpose of pointless beauty every time I visit museums that feature prehistoric pots and bowls. Okay, our wise ancestors needed dinnerware and utensils to be sure. But somewhere along the line, the culture – or one talented potter – thought that the object should not only be functional, but PRETTY. Why? You can drink water from an ugly pitcher as well as a pretty one. But something there is within the human spirit that tries to make things beautiful.
Women take a lot of guff for throw pillows, cute guest soaps, and fancy guest towels. Men reflexively hate these items. But those are little things that even the poorest housewife in the ’50’s could buy to make her house prettier. Even in our most desperate days I would try to put up a nice travel poster or a print of “Starry Night” on a wall to brighten up some of the dumps we lived in. Of course thumb tacks left holes and masking tape peeled off ugly, stained wall paper and even paint (always men’s room green), but that was the next renter’s problem.
I have often thought that the cave drawings in France stemmed from the nagging of a cavewoman wife: “Ooga next door has deer on her living room wall and it shows her husband killing it and bringing it home to her. All we have are some crummy marks on the wall for the heights of our kids. How come YOU never paint anything on our walls? I thought some dogs playing some kind of card game might be amusing…or a portrait of me. I bet THAT would frost Ooga’s cupcake, if ovens and baked goods and dogs and cards had been invented yet.”
People in every culture go to great lengths to have pretty clothes for special occasions, different kinds of jewelry and face paint. In Matt Walsh’s brilliant and courageous What Is A Woman? he visits the Masai people in Africa and the beautiful women come out in their exotic and festive best.
As for us, without Shout, Max and I would have no clothes at all. But on special occasions, Max will wear his dress black sweatpants and I might put on lipstick and earrings. Clothes signify wealth and status; they separate “festival” or “worship” garb from regular work clothes. And they also just make people feel good about themselves by looking good. Any clothing keeps us modest and warm – I have seen old ladies in the subway in several layers of bathrobes — but we all have favorite garments that make us feel comfortable or festive. That slinky Little Black Dress or a pair of soft-as-buttah bluejeans.
It must have been a very special time indeed in human history when dyes were invented and used. To be able to have a colorful garment must have been a real treat. And yet, of course, there is no functional reason (or even a “gain of function” one) why clothing should not all just be black or white. (The Handmaid’s Tale freakettes envision us all in shapeless long red dresses and bonnets for some reason because of – you guessed it! – icky Christians! Never gonna happen, loons.) Actually, there is a theocratic patriarchal group that completely covers its women in black, including over their eyes, but for some reason the loons never mention them.
Let’s move on from personal beauty to community beautification. Traveling back to Arizona from Minnesota in late November one year, I was struck by the Christmas lights in the downtown areas of all the small towns along the way. Some decorations looked a bit dated and forlorn, as though they had been dug out of attics one too many times, but the point is, people were TRYING to make the street look pretty. There had, at least at one time, been an investment of time, money and labor.
Here we run up against the “I” in the au courant acronym “DIE” which stands for Diversity, Inclusion, and Equity. Usually it is presented as “DEI” to avoid the obvious connection with cultural death that springs to mind. But, anyway, “Inclusion” is just the fancy name for “urinating all over somebody else’s celebration.” Few people suggest that a Cinco de Mayo festival of drinking Tecate or tequila and dancing to salsa bands is racist because it leaves out Polish polkas or Jewish klezmer bands. But, somehow, a Nativity Scene in the public square will cause non-Christians to feel “unincluded” and so must not be allowed.
In our gated geezer community, there are approximately 2000 homes, maybe half of them for “winterers” and the other half permanent residents. With no hard data, I am going to guess that maybe 50-100 of those homes contain Jews. That is definitely not as accurate a guess as the guy who told little kids that at a baby’s birth doctors just “guess” at the sex of the baby. Usually with a 100 percent accuracy rate.
Anyway, at Christmas time, neighborhoods within the complex seem to compete to see who can put up the most elaborate or interesting decorations. They have welcoming nights to walk and see the decorations and people put out food and drink to share. Naturally, this waned during COVID, but it is a nice tradition with music and candles in bags lighting the way.
I have seen two or three homes with blue and white lights, but I don’t know if they are Jewish homes or people who just like blue and white. We don’t decorate for Chanukah which, frankly, looks like a lot of work, both putting the lights up and taking them down. And at our ages and level of expertise in home handyman work, we are not enthusiastic fans of extension ladders. Self-knowledge is important. I know us. Our decorations would be pathetic and askew, and one of us would fall off the ladder and be paralyzed for life. A bad bet in the field of Geezer Risk Management.
There is a menorah along with the Christmas tree in the community clubhouse and sometimes they even have the proper number of candles lit for the day in question, although they seem to think it is more festive if they just go ahead and light them all at once. Whatever. But the point is, they are TRYING to be “inclusive.” But, to tell you the truth, it wouldn’t bother me if they didn’t. Christians and Mexicans and Chinese New Year celebrants and Indian powwow dancers all have the right to their own celebrations as far as I’m concerned, without including me. Besides, I would be scared to eat any of the food at the parties lest I be accused of culturally appropriating tacos or fry bread.
Oh, speaking of nice, inclusive things, I just got a touching email from one of the several arms of the Republican Party. They asked: “We have tried to contact you 35 times – are you okay?” I laughed out loud at this faux concern for my well-being and especially for the health of my wallet. The funniest thing about that is that for at least 30 of those 35 times, they have assured me that this is my “last chance” to give them money. What marketing genius told them that threatening potential donors with being banned from contributing would increase donations? And then, like a bad parent, failing to follow through with the preposterous threat.
I might give some money to individual candidates. But the GOP per se is not getting a wooden nickel. Not if Liz Cheney, Lisa Murkowski and Romney get a share. Not just no. Heck no. Ya basta.