Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Where do babies come from? Your Levi's

"Practise your beauty, blue girls, before it fail;
And I will cry with my loud lips and publish
Beauty which all our powers shall never establish,
It is so frail." -- John Crowe Ransom, "Blue Girls"
Hold that thought.

On the television, they have medicines more various than any Wild West show tent. At the break of the 20th century, men adventurous and adventitious went about with products to cure each malady, even the ones that people hadn't any idea they suffered from. (Be aware, O ye historically naive, that the wild west in 1825 was Alabama, that it did not go to Texas, Arizona and the like until the 1840's, and the people who showed up fully grown malcontents were already twisted criminals back home in Georgia, Florida, Mississippi.)

The television makes money for people today as surely as the newspapers did then. Why, now you can not only cure your iron-poor blood, but you can make your eye lashes grow! The huckster's old claim that "it" will restore youth has turned into "Regeneris" face cream to putty-in wrinkles or Botox to freeze them, and his pitch that "it" will grow hair on a bald man is, at long, long last, a dream come true. O brave new world that has such creams and potions in it! In fact, the same pill can relieve the blues or relieve your pain, and this is revolutionary, because, in the past, we were only worried about nasty, evil people who, when sad, would go buy illegal drugs that would make them happy and relieve their pain.

Well, among the illnesses we have discovered once we found their cures on the television was "man-o-pause" or, for those wanting language that sounds less like a joke, "andropause." ("Andros" is the Greek word for male, but that "pause" is a problem.) Here is a typical discussion, guys. It will help you with "that little problem."

Now, me? I entered into the shadow of death long ago, and time's umbra covered me in its numbing wing. Like the noble mosquito, "it doesn't hurt when it begins," but, of course, it does not merely begin. I was never particularly over dosing on martial prowess, or any other sort, but a few blood tests showed the infamous "low T." I thus found a ready supplier of injectables and began a few months of imitating Barry Bonds and other heroes of the game.

My motivation on the surface was to rectify biochemical abnormalities and to achieve triglyceride reduction. My ulterior motivation was the relief of fatigue. Really, it was. Ok, and some awakening of desire, but not in any way the other. That, alas, has not been a concern.

You don't care about why, though. You want to know what happened. Well, after a full summer of shooting the dope every two weeks, I have decided to return to my old self. The effect of exogenous testosterone was....

Do you know where babies come from? They come from lawn mowers. Now, I have never seen a lawn mower directly involved in the insemination or ovulation or carrying of a fetal human, but I have noticed an overwhelming correlation between young couples purchasing a lawn mower and producing a baby. Newly weds beware the John Deere salesman! Unless the purchase is of an ATV -- which is a well known contraceptive and cause of sterility -- any purchase of a lawnmower is likely to cause conception.

Not many people are aware of this correlative relationship, but I figured it out about the time my friends Bill and Donna bought a lawn and then a lawn mower. I had no proof of causality, no isolation of the agent, but I knew the phenomenon. I could not isolate the cause... until now! You see, taking testosterone made me want to mow the lawn.

I'm serious. All summer, I watched the grass grow, hoping for it to recover from its last scalping so that I could go inflict more savagery upon it. I loved the soaking with sweat, the smushing of dog poo, the face slap of tree branches, the stings of the ants. I stomped and chopped and was smelly, wet, and manly.

I was not, however, more lusty. Not in one way or the other. Nor did I grow large. Not in one way or the other.

So, do I quit shooting it because autumn will be coming in two or three months? No.

Remember that quote from John Crowe Ransom? Well, compare it to something I wrote recently: "The youth of beauty, and the beauty of youth, demand those who lost years to watch and demand them to seek out the joy of their own vital pulse, the concerns of the overhang and undertow that remove their exceptions, and who can blame either party? The one who missed and misses longed and longs and surfaces briefly in the filling of senses, and the one in potential is compelled and curtailed, devoted and dovetailed by and in time. Nature could allow no exception, and will complies." Pretty whiny, isn't it?

What both of them are talking about is that men and women who grow older as they stand before college audiences notice, more and more keenly, the beauty of young members of the opposite sex. The desire increases as the distance from the competition for them does. Now, there certainly are creeps. Make no mistake: some people are creeps and maladaptive fools. However, every one I have known has been content to sit in the stands and watch the game, has loved walking through the gallery and looking at the paintings. None of them has grown confused and tried to grab the merchandise, run onto the field, or believed that he or she was in the game.

Actually, I take that back. Very recently, I knew of a teacher who was by no means on the field nor artist. However, every female student reported that she was creeped out by the way he looked at her. They were not able to articulate precisely what it was, but they knew what they experienced, understood what was conveyed. The pornographic gaze wishes to take. It wishes to strip, to dissect, to grab, and to own. The other one... the aged eye, I suppose, wishes to linger and to revel and is shy; it wants the original to remain. (It can be as guilty of objectifying as anything -- is guilty -- but not guilty of malice.)

John Crowe Ransom at Vanderbilt saw the pretty girls. This is no surprise. Robert Herrick saw them too. Whether a man has the years to justify it or not, the same feeling is the same: presence calls to loss, loss longs for surfeit. Surfeit never knows itself. These are truths abiding. However, the sweet melancholy plays an artistic tune in even the dullest woman or man.

At the same time, Levi's Jeans company is running commercials, has been running them, which purport to be American (TM). They have Frosty sounding recitations. "You (glug glug) are a god!/ The gods (glug) dance before you (glug)/ Hoping to catch your radiance (glug glug) on their tongues/ The dumb jerks," the poet says, and we see truly spectacular images of youth.

I'm amazed. The pictures are exactly like the poetry. Both are seductions. Read the Whitman, or the Ginsberg. These are poetic lines in praise of the young American, and of American youth, that is primarily flattering, not celebratory. Instead of taking a real quality and showing its beauty, it takes a quality and gives it hyperbolic, mythic, supernatural qualities. Instead of, "You weave through the air," it is "her skin is like nature dipp'd her hands in milk." Everyone knows that the lover gets the beloved by compliments.

The message from Levi's is not "go, do something," but "come here, you." The visuals celebrate the bodies of youth, youth stretching, contorting, sweating, and doing other physical functions that show the body's shapes and features alone, and they do so wonderfully but synecdotally. Each is a clipped fragment rather than a montage. The message is, "Your blue jeans want to have you," rather than "you want to have blue jeans."

Perhaps young buyers are flattered by the commercials, but it's more likely that men and women of my age are stricken by sympathy pains. We, like the commercial, long for what is lost, and we will buy some jeans. We will need some help, perhaps, need a supply, but we will avoid that longing and shovel dirt into the hole.

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