Speaking from the Short End of the Ugly Stick

“Assholes!  Don’t be assholes to each other, okay!?  It’s pretty simple!”

[Originally published on MySpace, March 8, 2010.  The organization of this blog is a tad awkward, but it’ll do.  Comments are reconstructed below.]

Being something of a social activist and just generally a friendly, curious person, I belong to a number of different organizations within my community.  Last night I attended a general meeting for one of them.  During this meeting, one of the organization’s leaders stood up in front of the entire group and declared that he couldn’t stand ugly women, i.e., a woman who had “caught on fire,” which fire (and of course the woman herself) was subsequently put out by being “beaten with an ugly stick.”

I am of course aware that this individual is talking about women like me.  Folks used to call me “bull dog” in high school.  Pretty neat, huh?  Suffice to say that this is a long standing cross I’ve been required to bear.

A cross, I say.  The saying comes from a story about a man who was required to carry the implement of his own destruction on his back to the place where his destruction was finally ritually enacted.  He didn’t become a hero in the eyes of anyone else until long after his grisly death, and even so, just about everything he purportedly stood for was subsequently twisted throughout ensuing history as justification for some of the most heinous enactments of cruelty and power-grabbing ever visited on humankind by humankind.  I don’t have any trouble imagining what he might say now, given the opportunity.

“Fuck no, that’s not what I wanted, never mind did I plan it that way!  The only reason I cooperated at all was because I couldn’t give up the hope that somehow, at the last minute, I would be rescued!  I was foully murdered on a cross because I was willing to carry that cross.  Had I refused, I’d have been foully murdered where I stood.  Death later is always preferable to death now, know what I’m saying?  Say what you like about the after-life; while you’re still here and alive, life is pretty damned precious, right down to the last second.  It’s up to all the rest of YOU to give my death meaning.  I can’t do it for you; I’m dead.  All my choices are made, and I’ve given you all the chances I can.  It is now only through your own choices that you can find new chances.  I can recommend that you try to learn from what happened to me.”

For example, having had this challenge to LEARN thrown like a gauntlet at my feet, I now ask the question, what the fuck are we all doing placing crosses on each other’s backs?!  Who the hell do we think we are, demanding that people carry our own fears and prejudices inside their souls?  For the sake of WHAT, I ask you?  I have the suspicion that the man carrying the cross might point out that it wasn’t his grisly death that mattered; what mattered was the circumstances which created its possibility, the concatenation of choices that led to the horrific conclusion it did.  His death wasn’t the point.  The point was that it is possible for a community, an entire nation, to be so wrong in its precepts, stereotypes, and norms, that ritualized murder is conceivable,  acceptable, and doable.  The man’s death was an illustration of just how bad things can get if you don’t pay attention to what you’re thinking; if you don’t accept responsibility for the consequences of the choices you make and the thoughts you think, not just for yourself, but for your entire community.

This death on a cross was one of humanity’s most shameful contributions to history, representing a complete failure on the part of all participants as individuals and as community members to act in accordance to God’s will, which will has more to do with, “Assholes!  Don’t be assholes to each other, okay!?  It’s pretty simple!” than it does with the more generally accepted “Okay, you killed my kid.  That’s alright, I forgive you.  Carry on.”

God does forgive, I’m sure.  But I think that’s in part because doing so doesn’t save us from suffering the consequences of the choices we make.  Instead, doing so helps us survive that suffering.  We still need to try not to make those mistakes as best we can.  The alternative, as graphically demonstrated by the death of one Man among many who’ve died in a myriad of ways for the same damned reasons, is pretty grim, folks.

So, what is it like, bearing an ugly cross on my back?  I spend a lot of my time struggling with a contradiction between how I feel and what I want, and whether, based on my happenstance physical appearance, I deserve to have those feelings and whether I have the right to pursue those wants.  Being ugly places me outside the borders of acceptable mainstream convention for a number of human activities that are otherwise indiscriminately bestowed upon us all, such that I must somehow become a thief and steal them, or a beggar to beseech them of the more kindly disposed, or a traitor to myself and my own kind when I “lower” my “standards” to allow other ugly people to be acceptable to me based on the idea that somehow ugly people can ignore this flaw if they stick to their own kind, despite the fact that the reason they’re sticking to each other is ‘cause they’re ugly, or I can become a clown and let it all hang out, becoming a laughing stock.  Or, I can opt out of the whole mess and live in sterile isolation from those same human activities.

Do you see any wins in there anywhere?  Because I don’t.

Shame.  On all of us.

What is the nature of physical attraction and attractiveness?  Is it written in stone?  Anyone who comes up to me and starts talking about evolution and mating practices had better be prepared to explain how having long hairless skinny bodies with perfect skin and symmetrical features contributes substantively to the survival of the human species, and then they need to explain the existence, both past and present, of a much larger number of individuals who do NOT fit the criteria just mentioned above.  In the meantime, I will consider such an argument—that a narrowly defined esthetic regarding what constitutes an acceptable range of physical beauty is natural and necessary to our survival—to be a cop-out, an abdication of the responsibility to openly and honestly consider the whole diversity of humanity and its potential in all its manifestations, realms and endeavors.

IF there is any merit to the idea that physical attraction and attractiveness is hard-wired into our psyches, I would hazard a guess that it is on a very, very low level—one that does NOT obviate the validity of the existence of a wide ranging diversity of individual appearances.  We’re all inclined, for instance, at the onset of puberty, to have sex.  These days it’s called “the sex drive.”  Beyond that, I believe the rest is subject to social construction and interpretation, which is mutable.  That means we have a choice.

So now I ask you:  do you want to live in a society which defines a wide range of naturally occurring physical characteristics as flaws and which then burdens—oppresses—practically its entire population with an onus of responsibility for these same flaws, despite the fact that said population has absolutely no control over these characteristics?

Do you want to live in a society which oppresses its population at all?

By way of hope and comfort, here’s a quote from another leader of another organization I belong to regarding the same subject:  “…I can very honestly say that I am utterly aware yet detraction-oblivious to people’s physical appearance…I find a beauty in all who deign to expose it.”

Again, I ask, whose organization would you rather belong to?

Think responsibly.  Act accordingly.

11:48 AM 14 Comments 4 Kudos

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14 Responses to Speaking from the Short End of the Ugly Stick

  1. Thea says:

    ROBERTOelDRAGÓN&IDYs!:

    I STOPPED, @ THE TITLE! I WON;T HAVE THAT, FROM YOU, THEA!
    “THE DRAGON HAS NO, WAY, OTHER THAN INFORMING, ‘YOU ARE SUBLIME!’” TOMMY GEE (RtD) >=~:

    Posted by ROBERTOelDRAGÓN&IDYs! on March 8, 2010 – Monday – 10:41 AM

    • Thea says:

      ROBERTOelDRAGÓN&IDYs!:

      READ IT. THE “GOLDEN RULE” MUST BE SO SHINY, MOST CANNOT SEE IT? STILL, THE TITLE IS “ANTICIPATED SURRENDER” TO MAROONS, AND I WOULD ASK; YOU CHANGE IT?
      YOUR SUCH A BEAUTY, AND THOSE; BLIND TO THIS AND SO MUCH, MORE? LET THEM EAT SLAKE?

      Posted by ROBERTOelDRAGÓN&IDYs! on March 8, 2010 – Monday – 3:36 PM

    • Thea says:

      It’s the stick that’s ugly, Tommy, not me (bless your heated dragon heart!). The Ugly Stick is a metaphor for a particular set of social conventions currently prevalent in our culture. My point is that despite the fact that I am not required to be defined as ugly by any natural law, I often find myself on the short end of this stick, and am thus rendered ugly not by fact but by implication which people tend to acritically accept as if it was fact, and who then act accordingly in fact, creating DISCERNIBLE and TANGIBLE harm–which is the point of this blog. Folks need to quit waving their damn sticks at each other because it creates real hurt that has no redeeming point.

      I have no intention of surrender. THAT is the point of writing this blog.

      Posted by Thea on March 8, 2010 – Monday – 5:04 PM

      • Thea says:

        ROBERTOelDRAGÓN&IDYs!:

        YOU’RE GORGEOUS! OK. BUT, I NEVER SAID THIS, TO ANYONE, b4! YOU NEED TO PLACE MORE OF YOUR REPLY, IN THE BLOG, OR, ONLY, VERY FEW AND (SORRY, bc I CANNOT SAY THIS wo A SEEMING “BRAG”!? AND, -THAT- IS; I KNOW YOU UNDERSTAND, -NOT- ME!) WILL BE ABLE TO “SEE” THE FOREST? IT, KINDA BOILS TO (IT BOILS TO A MILLION THINGS!): YOU HAVE WRITTEN THIS SO DAMN WELL; YOU HAVE WRITTEN THIS -TOO- DAMN WELL? YA GET ME, THEA? THOSE; YOU SEEK TO INSPIRE, IN MORE THAN ONE CASE, MAY -NOT- GET TO THAT REALIZATION? I AM THE LAST, TO GIVE THIS ADVICE, BUT WHEN DOES THAT STOP ME? HAAA “EPPY CALVIN LALOUCHE” IT! “ANNOUNCE YOUR PRESENCE w THE FASTBALL; RIGHT OFF!” THIS AIN’T THE “DURHAM BULLS”, I AIN’T “CRASH DAVIS”, BUT YOU ARE “EPPY”! AND, YOU ARE TAKING YOUR “STUFF”, TO “THE SHOW”! MAKE THEM RESPECT YOU, BEFORE THE “SLIDERS” START MAKIN THEM DANCE?
        DAMN! HOW, THEY WILL COME! YA. I MIXED BASEBALL MOVIES! HAAA BUT, THEY BOTH HAVE KEV COSTNER… NEVER MIND! HAAA
        YOU -ARE- GORGEOUS!

        Posted by ROBERTOelDRAGÓN&IDYs! on March 10, 2010 – Wednesday – 4:21 AM

        • Thea says:

          Oh, okay, NOW I see what you’re saying. And yeah, I’ve been tearing my hair about that problem for a while now; it’s kind of a “you can lead a horse to water” thing. You know what I noticed recently? On my last blog, “Ode to Writer’s Block,” I was getting a lot more “hits” than usual–especially considering it was a poem–and I couldn’t figure it out. Finally it dawned on me that I had a “Savage Chicken” cartoon inserted into the blog. Since the blog is public, it’s subject to search by anyone on the internet–folks were searching for the cartoon, and my blog kept popping up in their search results. THERE’S an idea, eh? And you’re very VERY right that hardly anyone reads through the comment replies to a blog without having a gun held to their head (except me, but then I’m a weirdo)–usually they just read (part of) the blog and then leave a comment or else just leave. I suppose I could cutnpaste this whole thing and repost it as a new blog, comments and all, but probably what I should do is simply (ya, right!) rewrite the whole thing, incorporating the comments discussion, possibly adding some graphics (I feel a Gary Larson search coming on!!) just to break it up and make points visually. It’s too bad, because I really like the discussion part–that’s part of what’s cool about blogging to start with: you get to read something and then interact with the author, instead of being required to remain passive, and the poor little author gets to learn something once in a while, too. I’ll think about it and see if I can come up with something…

          Thanks, Tommy! 🙂

          Posted by Thea on March 10, 2010 – Wednesday – 4:56 AM

  2. Thea says:

    Chelle Lee:

    Attraction is a PERSONAL thing. Both who is attracted to you and who you find attractive. People who do not understand that are not worth your time.

    Posted by Chelle Lee on March 8, 2010 – Monday – 12:04 PM

    • Thea says:

      Attraction, while indeed personal, nonetheless exists within a living social context which informs that personal attraction and in which personal attraction informs that social context. And it IS a demonstrable FACT that we are all under pressure to meet certain standards of physical aesthetics which have more to do with a culture of mass marketing than with a culture of diversity in human being and endeavor.

      Coming at it from a slightly different and oblique angle, dismissing other human beings as “not worth” anything is a dangerous and tricky business.

      Posted by Thea on March 8, 2010 – Monday – 5:23 PM

  3. Thea says:

    Jeffrey Onehorse:

    Hey, wait a second, YOU’RE not short! LMAO That’ll teach ya ta say things that people mistake for self deprecating HA!

    Now as for that guy with his ugly shtick, I think it looks quite fitting the way it moves up and down and back and forth as he shifts his gaze in different unseeing directions. Granted he wont be removing any motes from MY eyes if I can help it. Still, there but by the grace of I actually give a shit go I.

    Posted by Jeffrey Onehorse on March 8, 2010 – Monday – 5:24 PM

  4. Thea says:

    Ockham’s Razor:

    Took me a couple of reads to get this. Need to draw a sharper parallel between the historical cross event and the metaphorical cross representing social convention, particularly the “catch 22” situation people often find themselves in when dealing with how to respond to negative social pressure. But the idea that personal identity is both an individual AND a social ongoing endeavor is a good one, because if anyone gets it, it might just lead to less victimization. Not saying people need to go all PC, rather, we need to expand our ability to criticize exactly what our assumptions are, especially in terms of their affect on others and then make that ACTIONABLE by CHOOSING what we believe, instead of passively accepting social templates (aka conventions) as given.

    It’s not enough for one person to decide to see him or herself in a certain way. That helps, and can certainly serve as a starting point for social change. But in order for that social change to take place so that that person’s identity is vindicated, thus leading to empowerment and enfranchisement within society, other individuals in society need to make decisions, too. Has to be a cooperative effort, in other words.

    Also need to draw a closer parallel between the atrocity of the original cross event and the warning that such atrocities are seeded within a society that is not paying attention to itself and what its beliefs actually engender in terms of consequences for its individual members and the community as a whole.

    Posted by Ockham’s Razor on March 9, 2010 – Tuesday – 9:40 AM

  5. Thea says:

    ROBERTOelDRAGÓN&IDYs!:

    I AM ONE LUCKY PHUCK! Bc, I AM YOUR FRIEND, THEA! I WORKED, FOR A TIME, IN MY SHOTGUN-LIVING-APPROACH, YOUTH, w RACE HORSES. SUPPOSEDLY, THE MOST “SENSITIVE” (in)BREED? WHEN LED TO WATER, THEY, DRANK. THEY WERE THIRSTY. IF, SOME “BREEDS” OF SOME FOLKS, CHOSE TO GO THIRSTY, HERE? THEY’LL NEED TO BLAST THE “WATER”; OUT THEIR NOSTRILS, AS IT POURS, INTO THEIR MOUTHS! CAN IT BE DONE? CAN SOME PEOPLE BE AS STOOOOPID AS KID, FROM REVERE, MASS., w A HEAD CONCUSSION? HAAA BUT, MOST SEE, AND HELP, LAUGH, DO BOTH, OR, @ LEAST, KNOW; SOMETHING IS, VERY, ASKEW! SOMETIMES, NOT DOIN A DAMN THING IS DOIN THE MOST PRODUCTIVE; THAT CAN BE -DONE- ! IF, YA CAN’T BEAT; DON’T JOIN ‘EM?
    IN THAT, INFAMOUS, REVERE, THE SAYING WAS A BIT DIFF? FACE -WAS- ON FIRE. BUT, IT WAS EXTINGUISHED, w AN AX(E)! THIS INTROs A WHOLE AND, FOR ME, VERY TOUGH “?” ! THE “UNADORNED” HUMOR, IS SUPERB! HOW, DO I LAUGH; OUT LOUD (I NEVER FOUND WHAT “lol” -EXACTLY- MEANS! HAAA <- Bc I USE THAT! HAAA THINK; THAT IS IT, THO?), IF I AM ENCOURAGING OTHERS, TO THINK; I AM AGREEING w THE SHITTY REASON, FOR THE INVENTIVE HUMOR, WHEN, I -DO- LOL? MAYBE, YOU CAN TACKLE THAT, IN AN UPCOMING BLOG? I -DON'T- DARE! HAAA YOUR, PROUD AS A PEACOCK, FRIEND, TOMMY, WHO LOVES THE JOKE w THE PUNCHLINE, "MY FEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEET!" HAAA I'LL TELL IT TO YA, IN THAT BLOG, IF YOU ARE NOT FAMILIAR? YA. EVEN, THO, YOU -NOW- KNOW THE P-LINE! HAAA

    Posted by ROBERTOelDRAGÓN&IDYs! on March 11, 2010 – Thursday – 6:27 AM

  6. Thea says:

    jcmmanuel:

    I really have to dig your older blogs (don’t know how far back this goes). Of course I don’t really agree with paragraph 4 – but that’s not to say it doesn’t make sense.

    The statement about forgiveness is great: “God does forgive, I’m sure. But I think that’s in part because doing so doesn’t save us from suffering the consequences of the choices we make. Instead, doing so helps us survive that suffering.” So true. If it would save us from suffering altogether, where would our responsibility be.

    Attractiveness: what aspects of it? And which aspects attract the longest lasting fandom?

    Posted by jcmmanuel on July 10, 2010 – Saturday – 8:58 AM

    • Thea says:

      I’m not sure I myself entirely agree with paragraph 4, but on the other hand, who’s to say there isn’t more than one story to be got out of that particular story? We can talk about that more elsewhere.

      What aspects of attractiveness am I talking about? Hmm, not sure what you’re asking here, but in this particular blog, I’m referencing the superficial physical attributes that tend to be regarded as static fact, and self-evident independently of the rest of the individual in question, rather than as a realm of perception that is absolutely amenable to “love as the true engine of transformation” taken in context with the whole person. Bear in mind that this whole discussion is internal to a specific conventional mindset (i.e., your “standard American male,” granted this is a stereotype, although not without substance)–those with the arrogance to presume that beauty is to be presented to them on a platter as if it is theirs to begin with by right, rather than that they must participate in and exercise love with a will. Put another way, you’ve heard the expression “beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” What does this suggest about where our responsibility lies?

      As for which aspects attract the longest lasting fandom–as I suggested above, love in some respects is an act of will. You’re probably not going to last unless you develop an actual relationship with the “object” of your affections (which, just so you don’t miss the point, also means that the other person is going to need to make an effort, as well). Stopping at the skin level is not going to produce a sustainable attraction.

      Posted by Thea on July 10, 2010 – Saturday – 10:02 AM

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