This small south Arkansas city was once one of the top oil producers in the nation.
Another year has passed in which People Magazine didn’t name me the Sexiest Man Alive.
They gave the title to a whippersnapper matinee idol again, one of those who, you can tell, had hell coaxing up that much stubble.
I’m not surprised anymore when they pass me over. Several years I thought there had simply been a mistake, maybe one of those chad errors, and it would surely be rectified the following year.
But the next year would come and go, and the next, and I began at last to smell a conspiracy.
Against me personally? Or was I just not their type? — who knew?
But that I was deserving and was getting screwed over, I never had the slightest doubt. My strongest suspicion was that it was a sympathy title that they always bestowed on one of these pretty boys who, whether gay or not, don’t want their fans to know or to believe all the rumors.
The Sexiest Man Alive award is supposedly an ironclad p.r. guarantee that the holder of it isn’t gay. I understand why a gay masquerader matinee idol would cherish the title, and I’ll concede that the sham is for a good cause, but it still means that the Real McCoy sexiest man alive — i.e., Ol’ Moi — is annually scandalously defrauded.
Or that was my thinking for a long time.
It’s only been recently, in the 21st century, that I began to wise up. I’ll tell you how it happened. A young woman in the office here asked me one day how much I weighed. She was doing a survey. She had one of those ideal-weight charts from the health professionals or the government or somebody, and when I told her my weight, shaving off a few pounds, yes, but only a few, she consulted the chart and said, “Congratulations, you’re now officially obese.”
It was a plexus blow. The language hates fat people. It calls them ugly names like corpulent and porcine. Obese is the ugliest of them. The big corpulent O, and then fat stupid geese, only with the B so it can be spat out with a pronunciational sneer.
Obviously, obviously, no jiggler was going to be named Sexiest Man Alive. Maybe so back when all the manly men looked like Grover Cleveland, but not in this steel-buns day and time.
You might not want scrawny now, or the stunted, tubercular look that the stud ducks used to get by chain-smoking cigarettes and slouching under lampposts, but flaccidity anywhere in the superstructure jellied the sexy into something ludicrous.
That’s when it donged on me, as a job applicant here once said. The obese needn’t apply for SMA. Nobody need apply whose friends guffawed at the name of the racehorse Beer Belly Bob, gesturing meantime at the Ol’ Moi abdominal overhang. Those “friends” can eat me, is all I have to say about that.
Bennie Jackson passes along a joke. Woman is giving her little boy a bath. He looks at the genitalia and says, “Momma, is that my brain?” and she says, “Not yet.”
Funny because true. The onset at 13 or 14, the brain soon so besotted with the testosterglop that it turns you into an idiot for 50 years and more. Sexy isn’t only your dearest, direst ambition; it’s all that matters finally. And it’s relentless. You get no breathers. The mad pursuit is worse on some than others. Clinton. JFK. What sport it had with them. Gives you insight into that island enchantress who could turn men into pigs. You don’t need to be an enchantress to accomplish that.
Back when it first got to be be-all and end-all, sexy meant no more and no less than having a car or regular access to one. I remember Pap asking why that meant so all-fired much to me, and I said, “I don’t know, Pap, it just does.” And he rejoindered that an automobile was for going somewhere and back, not for roaring around aimlessly, burning up gasoline for no reason except to take hard-earned money from a low-paid Arkansas sawmill worker to give to John D. Rockefeller’s boys to cram into their giant money sacks up in New York City, New York.
You just couldn’t reason with Pap.
I remember when the wildly popular cliche for sexy was to say that someone had “bedroom eyes.” Jeez, we are a nation of morons, are we not? Bedroom eyes! Somebody told me one time that I had root-cellar eyes, and I should have known then and there that I was permanently out of the running for Sexiest Man Alive.
These are digressions and I apologize for them. I was reflecting — drifting, as geezers do — thinking of that long span between the reveille and the droop when nobody said your credentials were time-limited, doomed to just peter out one day, and you wouldn’t have heard them if they had. Denial is a good place to watch the others fighting out the good fight to the bitter end — the award-winning pretties, the previous crop with the ruin gathering now in crow tracks and Grecian Formula runoff, and, at the end of the line, alack, the gullied codgers who don’t want you laughing at them or with them as they charade the old obligatory “If she dies, she dies.”
Bob Lancaster, one of the Arkansas Times longest and most valued contributors, retired from writing his column last week. We’ll miss his his contributions mightily. Look out, in the weeks to come, for a look back at some of his greatest hits. In the meantime, here's a good place to start.
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