Saints And Barfers

The ideal medieval saint was not only holy, but also nobly-born and physically attractive; and the two last were considered to be the same thing anyway. Ugliness was for peasants. I am given to understand that Saint Bernardino called ugly women “the vomit of the earth”.

Things have not greatly improved since then. Political correctness has taught us euphemisms for almost every misfortune of body and mind. One discrimination, however, endures: there is no such PC euphemism as “charismatically challenged” or “otherwise sexy”. The unattractive person (apart from obese women, who are protected) is now the repository of the contempt for “cripples” and “deviants” that people are no longer permitted to express.

If ugly, awkward, sexually unsuccessful people did not exist, they would have to be invented, in order that the others could have someone against whom to measure their good fortune. If we ever meet sexually reproducing aliens, we will in all probability find that they, too, mock their unsuccessful reproducers, their uglies.

Even so, one wonders if any culture and language before the American has so rubbed our noses in this, and so ruthlessly deprived the less successful of any human dignity. Most of us win sometimes and lose sometimes, but American has turned the verb into a noun, the process into a metaphysical state. As Sartre used to tell us, every “is” may turn into an “is nothing but”. In consequence, not only the romantically-frustrated but the happily-single person is now designated a “dateless loser”. And “loser” is only the head of a whole procession of new, contemptuous terms for the sexually unattractive male: nerd, dork, geek, and above all dweeb. It might, perhaps be said that this is a redressing of an imbalance, in that the world used to be full of wallflowers, plain Janes, sensible-shoes and frumps; the dismissive vocabulary has now been extended from unattractive intellectual women to unattractive intellectual men. Whether such equality equals true progress is another matter.

The Americans may also be defended on the grounds that, by so emphasising the animal kingdom’s “bottom line” of reproductive success, they have at last brought our language into conformity with biological reality – always assuming that we have no ambitions to rise any higher. Once the scales have fallen from our eyes, and we have admitted to ourselves that what we used to call “inner” or “personal” qualities play a smaller role in human affairs than we used to pretend, and practically none at all in sexual choice, only then can we begin to discuss whether we should with open eyes conform to our biological nature or with open eyes endeavour to transcend it.

Posted on June 3, 2010 at 11:18 by Hugo Grinebiter · Permalink
In: BEAUTY AND THE BEAST, The Life Unbeautiful

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