Monday, March 31, 2008

Aging Barbies Take On Capitalism

Beauty is to certain women what money is to certain men. One can never have enough. You know who you are. If you’ve spent more on cosmetic surgeries and Botox injections over the last five years than you did for your college education, I’m talking about you.

I have a problem with the fact that not one single woman I know is really secure that she looks all right. And I plan to make the case that it’s because of gluttonously rich men, and the culture created by their wild, unchecked, gluttonous greed and their need to objectify women and turn them into commodities, that keeps my friends, and women everywhere, insecure in their very skins--not good enough on a cellular level. I think it’s time for us to make those really big bucks, capitalizing on the potbellies, saggy man-boobs, lap flaps, wattles and jowls, baldness, crotch rot, stinky feet, pee stains, flaky, dry, itching skin, actinic keratosis, weak chins, beady eyes, bad teeth, bad breath, terrible wardrobe and all the other plagues of carbuncles and adult on-set acne that men are prone to after a certain age, after the testosterone levels start to drop off, and the prostate starts to swell and those pesky seminal vesicles start plugging up. After they’ve reached that famous sexual peak--right around twenty or so, when mommy stops buying their clothes, they should be just the right age to start to capitalize on their most secret fears and insecurities. I’m sure we can come up with a few they haven’t even imagined yet.

I’ve spent my entire working life, some forty years, in the fashion/beauty/entertainment industry. In the late-sixties I suffered a brief crisis of conscience and got a job in an inner-city community center as an organizer of programs for disadvantaged (a euphemism for minority) girls and women. Before I organized any programs, I thought I ought to get to know the women who used the center, and find out what programs they wanted organized. After a month of meetings and polling, the vote was in. They wanted beauty pageants and fashion shows. They wanted modeling classes and lessons on how to apply cosmetics. They wanted classes and seminars on how to make the most of the way they looked. Their whole lives were focused on how they looked. It was what I was running from, and all they wanted. It woke me up to the real power of advertising. I had to think long and hard about that one. And even I had to admit, that for most of them, the only way they were going to escape the poverty that surrounded and invaded their lives, was to look acceptable, or better yet, good, to (mostly male) white folks who shared the white, male values and appalling lack of taste of the predominant culture that did the hiring. It meant the difference between getting out and up or getting left behind.

I’ve heard the most beautiful women agonize about some imagined imperfection in their appearance that will make them forever second rate, a virtual failure, not good enough. I can feel you assuming that I’m talking about some air-head bimbette. But, I assure you, that I am not. In my group of fashion-model friends who, for the most part, represent the advertised ideal; there are, out of eight women, two Ph.Ds., one MBA, one Masters in Social Work, a successful advertising executive, and the other three are all college graduates successfully working in creative fields. We appeared in the very ads that made the rest of you realize you were too fat, and you had no taste. Despite the fact that we had been given enormous power because we were perceived as beautiful, we didn't really believe we were. And beauty is a double edged sword, much like great wealth. You never know whether someone who professes to adore you, can see past your obvious assets.

Beauty is like money, and then again it isn’t. It can come and it can go. But you can’t horde it like Midas. There is not enough collagen or Botox in the world to hold back the social and professional black hole that reaching the age of fifty, for a woman, sends you to forever. Who knows how much you’ll need as you get older, and what happens to the Botox when it’s been injected between your eyebrows every six months for twenty years? Apparently for certain men, say, someone like The Donald, there isn’t enough money. For Ivana and Marla I’d bet the money is only a means to an end. Enough trips to their favorite Paris couturiers and cosmetic surgeons to keep them desirable long enough to marry the next tub-of-lard in a bad toupee with more money than The Donald. I long for the day when Ivana and Marla don’t give a rat’s ass how they look, and are famous and recognized for their brilliant and visionary investing strategy in new male potency products. I want to hear that they have endowed a new department of research at Johns Hopkins devoted to elongating the bones of men who have been born with the unfortunate affliction of diminished height, or DH.

I know far too many professionally successful women who fall in love with seemingly appropriate men, and within the space of a year they are still working a full time job, still juggling a shared custody arrangement with their ex-husbands, still keeping their own homes livable and attractive, while also playing pretend corporate wife to the new boyfriend. Pretty soon he starts complaining because she forgot to pick-up his cleaning on her way from day-care to work. Nine out of ten of these women require antidepressants, psycho-therapy and/or other medication.

Viagra, and it’s many siblings, gives me hope that equality of capitalist opportunity is about to arrive. We have located the very mother lode, the throbbing, needy heart of male insecurities, and it is just the beginning. Any new product, drug, or procedure that will give a man a bigger, harder dick will sell at any price. Start investing, girlfriends. The future’s looking bright.