Wednesday, September 15, 2004

What if I lost

it? My looks.

Isadora Alman once offered to introduce me to a friend of hers who had been a model for Tom of Finland. She cautioned me that he had, in recent years, finally lost his looks. My first reaction was to protest that I would be the judge of that. Afterall, when a man starts out at such a high plateau, even a drastic fall should still land him among the lesser gods (think the aged Don Ameche in Cocoon. Still eminently doable). My second reaction was to wonder if someone would someday say that about me. Some young research assistant or art student:

"I'm going uptown to West 68th on the Park to visit somebody I met a few months ago."
"Oh? Some hot guy?"
"No. Not really. But they say he used to be hot. He used to rule at El Mirage and The House of Regrets. Maybe you'd recognize him."
"Sorry. I don't do Old".
"Not true. I've seen you in more than one back room after your fifth cosmo. On your knees, clawing your way through their aluminum walkers, trying to get at their pleated twills."

When the young man arrives, will I answer the door in a kaftan? Or jeans, cut for a season on the verge of ressurection as retro? Will I eye him with the sleazy hunger of Maurice Chevalier, humming "Thank heaven for little girls" in straw hat and cane?

A few years ago, a frustrated Deanna Durbin released a recent photo of herself to confound the widespread rumor that she was a recluse in the south of France, having become a grotesque, weighing over 400 pounds. The part about France was true, but in the photo she was only rather plump and still pretty enough to advertize something (like Coronet toilet tissue?).

To pass through a crowd undesired by strangers. To sway in a packed subway without anyone tracing the sinews of your arm holding the bar near their face. To step among the machinery at the gym without being the fantasy of at least a few of the married men and women who mentally undress you as you pass by their treadmill. To go out some night and to come home scoreless and relegated and marked-down. What would that be like?

Many years ago, on Valentine's Day at Blue's in Charlotte Amalie on St. Thomas, C and I won "Cute Couple". There was another couple in the room. Rumor was that they had been together for thirty years. Their comportment was impeccable. Their clothing classic and effortless. They left at a reasonable hour. Everyone wanted a chance to speak with them. I dissected the elements of their features, trying to imagine what they had looked like before they were old. This was foolish on my part. Their current composites were highly attractive. They were still hot. I wondered then if we would ever get there.

We seem to be correctly en route, and far away from that dreaded moment. But when it comes, will I know it? Will friends gently tell me so? Or, will I simply become invisible in public, unseen by strangers who will invest their desire elsewhere? That's finally how you realize you've lost it, right?


Anonymous said...

You will know when you become obsessed with wearing seersucker suits with oddly colored bow ties. Friends will use words like "dapper" and "don't we look nice today!". Of course, you could still be eminently doable, just use the handicap stalls in the home.

Fret not, if you have it today, you'll have it then...

looking_down said...

Take pity on those of us who never had it.

The Milkman said...

Funny, I've always wondered what it would be like to be noticed in just the same way you describe... in the gym, on the subway, at a bar.

While my charms are certainly sufficient to facilitate a reasonable success rate among the men I fancy, my awareness of the noticing of others is woefully deficient. It's amazing I ever found a partner when I only notice being cruised once out of every hundred times.

Perhaps this is why, after so many years of being an opera singer (with all the pasta that that implies), that I've begun working out for the first time. I find the resulting modicum of attention just a little jarring, and am glad that this new version of me is arriving in a rather incremental fashion.