People, for the most part, have stopped reacting in horror to the fact that once in a while I will post a short piece about women's shoes, or some other topic deemed inappropriate, or at least implausible, for a person of my particular demographic, which, if you're just joining us, is male, 55-64, generally regarded as Caucasian without regard to actual ancestry. (For those who care: my father was descended from the Scots/Irish types who wound up in the Georgia woods, perhaps a result of their ancestors' penury; my mother was the child of a Syrian/Lebanese man and a Mexican woman.) It was occasionally assumed that there was some prurient interest involved, usually accompanied, not always out loud, by "What other explanation could there be?" I have generally trotted out something flippant as a response, such as this statement included in the site's Occasionally Asked Questions file:

Think of it as a broadening of scope. I grew up surrounded by lots of gorgeous legs, by dint of having attended a Catholic high school during a period when skirt lengths were becoming, um, less conservative, and shoes are a logical extension of that interest. (So are underpants, I suppose, but those aren't on display. Usually.) Besides, they always invite comment, even if it's only "Yech, I wouldn't wear that."

This is, I swear, the truth and nothing but the truth. But is it the whole truth? Perhaps not.

It was never intended that I should become a fashionista of any sort. In fact, it was generally assumed, given my penchant for experimentation and my alleged mathematical skills, that eventually I would take my place among the scientists. My departure from The Plan, such as it was, was a reaction to the fact that I had not yet satisfactorily answered the question that is usually posed to pre-kindergarten kids: "What do you want to be when you grow up?" The answers they expect are vocational in nature. The answers they got from me, however, were purely theoretical: I wanted some definition of myself that wasn't dependent on who was signing the checks, and I wanted some assurance that I could provide for myself, because I expected I would be going it alone the rest of my life. This was not the sort of response that one could easily plug into the Occupational Outlook Handbook, and it was assumed that I had conjured up this mishmash to conceal a fundamental indolence.

Which is one reason, apart from a low (#25) draft number, that I wound up in the Army when I did: the truly lazy man does not enlist under the banner of his country, especially if there's a war going on. My purely clerical skills — I'd gotten my first typewriter at thirteen — outpaced my fighting skills, although I did manage to qualify with both rifle and grenade. (In fact, I'd qualified at Expert level — barely — with the grenade, which surprised some individuals who would swear on any convenient field manual that I threw like a girl.) I still thought of myself as undisciplined, however, despite my clean service record, and after discharge I discovered that those thoughts were correct.

Shortly thereafter, the biological imperative kicked in — and then kicked back out again, once the genes were passed on to progeny. It had become distressingly apparent that I was never going to match up with anyone's Ideal Guy template, and while there's always a bit of adjustment area around the edges, the core, a shallow frozen lake surrounded by the very darkness of space, would forever be my undoing. Even the best brain, and I suspected I might have a reasonably good one despite, or perhaps because of, extreme sickness in the early 1960s — one does not reach 105 degrees of body temperature without some consequences — is no match for, um, shall we say, organs with less discipline.

In this context, becoming a fashionista made perfect sense: I could deal with the trappings of femininity on a purely academic basis, and focusing on the purely superficial made it slightly easier to overlook the important stuff. But God, as Spider Robinson once noted, is an iron, and the fact that I could converse with real-life females on topics deemed "girly" tended to inflate my perceived desirability, though not enough to the point where I might actually be desired.

Which may explain how I came to be writing things like this:

The likelihood that little Twist had spent four whole decades pining for him, he had long ago concluded, was pretty close to nil; even if she hadn't been conventionally pretty back then, she might have blossomed into a real beauty, and even if she hadn't, surely somepony would have noticed her by now. Even a surly, disagreeable, slovenly mare occasionally found a mate; in his twenties, he had met several, and he was grateful for whatever brand of magic it was that caused them to be scooped up by somepony else. Then again, he'd known several stallions who had little or nothing to recommend them, and even they had found love, or at least somepony to help them kill the time.

And besides, the goal here wasn't to sweep Twist off her hooves, although he certainly wouldn't complain if he managed to pull that off; even if she rejected him outright, at least he might be able to put down that torch he'd been carrying since he was eleven years old. Maybe.

No matter how it sounds, this is not particularly autobiographical; but the sentiment at its center — that it's possible to subsist for long periods of time without the least bit of encouragement — is one I'd taken to heart many years ago.

Of course, if you'd looked at my final SAT scores, the math 90 points higher than the verbal, you'd be forgiven for not thinking "Some day, you're going to write romance stories." It's really, however, no weirder than reviewing shoes.

The Vent

  8 July 2013

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