09 February, 2011

Dan-Me-Downs, Compliments, And Outing Beauty

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those only of the author and may only coincidentally reflect those of Mystic Metals, its employees, or associates. All responses should be posted as comments here, or mailed directly to the author, A. Robert Basile, at ihatebasile@gmail.com. Mail sent directly to Mystic Metals will not be read.

Dan-Me-Downs, Compliments, And Outing Beauty


So, I’m trying now. I’m trying because I really like this girl. Weird how that happens. Weird how someone can motivate you to do things that aren’t so much out of character, but have been maybe dormant. It’s not that I haven’t wanted to look nice when leaving the house, but with the idea of trying, the idea that I want to create a standard by which to live in order to somehow feel contented and positive in making someone else feel contented and happy there is a certain effort spent happily. A senselessly flowery way to describe new glasses and shirts, I suppose. Also, that’s not to say I didn’t try with other dames, but there’s a point that you think, “Hey, this is good for me.” It’s good for her too; I’m an awesome boyfriend.

Right now, I’m wearing a black vest, a stripped shirt from Express (thanks to Dan; it’s a Dan-me-down, as he put it), a white tie, and slacks. I’m going to a gallery opening for good friend and photographer J. Isobel De Lisle (www.jisobeldelisle.com), and I wanted to look nice. (That’s two consecutive weeks I mentioned you, Isz.) Ironically, I’m wearing the same thing I wore to Dan’s Mad Men themed party last night. I’ve never seen Mad Men. But I’m at the bookstore right now, and it’s mobbed. I stalked a table near an outlet, and as I watched an older woman pack her shit up, I walked over, asked her if I could lay claim to the land, and politely waited for her to finish collecting her things. In the awkward forced social interaction, she said to me, “Aren’t you dressed nice.” I was terribly refreshed by her willingness to share her opinion about my regalia. And even though ‘regalia’ is overstated there, I think it sounds nice. Call it poetic license. I thanked her for the compliment, and she said next, “You must be a musician.” “How did you know that?” I asked. “Musicians are always dressed nice. The rest of us wear sweat pants.” I laughed and told her that sweat pants have their place too. This is the point to which I am going to write today, but as an asterisk, she continued by saying, “You’re probably not a drummer; you have a brain,” which I thought was awesome.

I don’t know what seventh sight this old woman had in knowing that I am a musician. Maybe I have the look. I guess musicians all wear vests and ties? I listen to SLAYER so I missed that uniform memo. But the point is less that she knew that I am a musician, even though that’s kind of weird. The point is that she unabashedly and willingly offered her positive opinion and approval of my garb. She chose to not ask about my cane or my stretched lobes. Rather, she chose to draw attention to a positivity. “Aren’t you dressed nice.”

I could look on this and say, OK, she looked at my rough visage and modified madness and was pleasantly surprised by the choice of clothing because these clothes are atypical of an individual with my features. But I didn’t read it that way, and that is in part what is so odd about this interaction. Strange how an outlook can affect your interactions and behaviors. I suppose that is a dumb thing to say, but in a different mind, how does one react to things? How does one see things that are meant one way but read as another?

What am I saying, exactly. My brain is in a good place right now, which is odd and new. I am not the guy who wakes up as the sun rises, arms outstretched and standing naked before floor to ceiling windows yawning a majestic “Hello world!” As a matter of fact, I think those people are more fuct up than I am. Seriously, you guys need to relax. I am the guy who wakes up, disheveled and entangled in blankets, sweating and aching, yawning a, “Goddamnit, I need to make changes.” But not this morning. Not last morning. And probably not tomorrow morning. Why? That’s for me to know, but the change in outlook makes readily available a different set of responses and reactions to pedestrian interactions. This woman in the bookstore said something to me, and because of where my mind is, I smiled and enjoyed her polite attention. Last month, my knee would be jerking to find her subversive sarcasm, that I oughtn’t look nice because of my mods or my handicap. But that’s not how I read it at all, and I blame it on my brain.

Several weeks ago, I wrote about looking on strangers. Looking at their beauty. Looking at their value. Saying to a stranger, with no strings nor footnotes, “Hey, you’re beautiful.” I still believe that we all ought to be doing that. I still believe that we all ought to have the freedom of outing people’s beauty as if they were McCarthy era communists. What is surprising to me is when I am on the receiving end of that outing. How strange it is, and experiencing that strange affirms to me why we don’t do it more often.

An odd paradox, I suppose. I have quite a few rules that apply to others but not myself. It seems as if recognition of beauty is one of those rules. And yes, I suppose that makes me a hypocrite. And no, that doesn’t bother me at all. But I know that each of everyone who is in this bookstore, and each of everyone who is reading this diarrhea I’m writing is beautiful, and my first words to each of you when we meet will be, “You are beautiful.” This probably won’t be odd to you if you’ve been reading my blog, lo, these three years. You know my thesis. You know my line, you know my stances. When I see you and I tell you that you are beautiful, you will not be arrested by it because you know how I think. But a stranger. A someone whose opinions you have no way of knowing, whose points of view you have no way of sharing, whose face and voice and smile and eyes are all brand new things to you. When that person says the same thing, is it odd? Are you arrested then? And why should you be?

So I’m a hypocrite, I suppose. I hear the old woman’s words and think of their oddness, their strange, yet I tell you cats and kittens every week to do the exact same thing. Queer how that words, isn’t it? Maybe she’s a blog reader, but somehow, I doubt that. I hope, though, that people like this old woman (and like you cats and kittens) continue to expose the beauty of strangers. Go out a stranger’s beauty. Go tell someone that he is striking, or beautiful, or remarkable, or any adjective of your choice. See where his brain is. If it is in a good place, he will smile, thank you, and probably reciprocate. If not, be prepared for an awkward conversation. But that is a game of chance that is worth playing, isn’t it. Maybe it is because I live in Jerz, but it seems as if wrath and the explication of discontent is our only renewable resource. I have an itchy middle finger, and man, my middle finger is pretty triumphant. My smile and compliment ought to be as itchy, don’t you think? Stay beautiful, kids.

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  1. My brain and drumsticks would like to have a few words with that old lady...

  2. It's nice to read something from you with a positive sway to it. Maybe more swing than sway. The brain that houses me currently hates it, but maybe it's time I do better. It's a flicker of light in the smothering, cloudy greys.