June 18, 2018
I was at my 40th high school reunion, tired from two days of chatting with people I hadn’t known for decades (which is fun but exhausting). I was sitting lumpishly on a sofa listening, delighted, as a guy I barely spoke to in high school – Phil Clark – told a fantastic rabble-rousing story that ended up explaining why he hadn’t been allowed to walk with his graduating class at college.
I was digging Phil Clark big-big, and I decided that if someone had said “Let Phil hold your baby for a while, there,” I would have done it, handing over my infant son to a relative stranger who told a good story, had a glorious mop of leonine hair, and the ability to wear a sports coat with an undefinable brio, and all I would have thought was “I hope my baby is cool enough for Phil Clark.”
Of course, my baby is now 6’4” and dwarfs the magnetic Phil Clark, but this fantasy-on-the-fly made me think about the nature of beauty.
There are lots of studies about how much better handsome people are treated than homely people. (I’m just a slacker blogger; go look ‘em up yourself.) Of course, these studies aren’t just about women thrusting their infant sons into the arms of bejacketed men with Andrew Jackson hair. They’re more scientific – something like most of the Fortune 500 CEOs are taller than average and more than usually good-looking; things just happen for pretty people that don’t happen for the ugly.
Then I wondered: DO things happen for handsome people because of cheek bones and slim hips? Or is it the confidence that comes from cheek bones and slim hips?? If you took identical twins and spent a lifetime praising one’s beauty and berating the other’s homeliness, you’d end up with one successful person and one guy who lives in a van down by the river.
In high school, Phil Clark was just a guy. I don’t remember even having a crush on him, and I had a crush on EVERYONE. Somehow, in the intervening 40 years, Phil uncovered a well of self-confidence, and it made him – technical term coming up here – yummy.
So then I swiveled my regard onto my own experience. By objective measures, I’m now more attractive than I’ve been in decades. I’ve carved inches off my eminent posterior, I hacked off my hair to a more stylish length, and my movements are powered by muscles that have been regularly exercised. Was I having a better reunion than normal?
Well, I always have a good time at my reunion. That’s no measure.
None of my former crushes swept me into manly embraces and confessed a lifelong yen for me that caused them to turn away from their fathers’ highly profitable tradition of stock brokerage and instead subsumed their life essence into an artistic career involving chain saws and large statues of bears. So I’m not sure how to score that.
I suppose the answer is – I felt more confident. And so I had an even more enjoyable time.
And I’m expecting a love letter from Phil Clark any day now.
See? Andrew Jackson, although a horrible bigot and a bloodthirsty bastard, had very nice hair.