Thursday, March 15, 2007

Picture Perfect

Charmaine Frost headshot by Charmaine Frost

bird woman "Americana, circa 2001," the electronic plaque read. "Anorexically lean bodies, exuberant hair devoid of taboo gray, fleshy lips, long necks, gleaming teeth and apparent age between 20 and 25 were judged officially beautiful by the aesthetic elite of the era. Examplars of beauty, called 'models' and 'stars', were shown in popular magazines and on television - precursors to today's e-zines and digi-vision. Plastic surgery and cosmetic dentistry allowed wealthy Americans to look as young as their grandchildren and to flaunt bleached, equally sized teeth aligned in perfectly horizontal rows and without gaps between them".

Mandy squinted through the hermetically sealed Plexiglas case at the pictures imprinted on glossy flaps. The images pouted with lips as loose as whale blubber, or flashed rows of teeth as glaring as fluorescent lights; if some of those smiles got any wider, Mandy thought, the lips would extend beyond the sides of the face. Chins as sharp as arrowheads jutted above sinewy necks and bony, insolent shrugs; buffed sandstone cheeks protruded cliff-like beneath the eyes of a wary snake or waiting shark. Paper people with paper souls, unmoved by inner secrets to half smiles or winks, but well preserved for decades despite the fragility of pulp.

"Amazing how backward our great-grandparents were," Mandy commented, while combing her fingers through her fluorescent green hair until it stuck out from her scalp in a hundred spikes.

"Yeah, like over there." Amy giggled as she pointed to The Penis Cage. In those days, such a display would have been shut away as too pornographic for any eyes but the cops. Now, with every corner Doc offering hermaphroditic implants and wall-attached dildos an option on most architectural plans, visitors viewed the exhibit with mockery, anthropological curiosity or stoic indifference.

"Don't waste your money on penis enlarging exercises, hair implants, or imported tincture of tiger testicle. Order our He-Man penis pills, guaranteed to add 3-6 inches in length or your money back!" the ad screamed. Below, a "before" photo showed a shame-faced balding man with legs splayed to show a dangling nubbin; the "after" photo pictured a grinning, toupeed Mr. Atlas, hips thrust forward to flaunt a pink penis as thick as a baseball bat and almost as long. Beside this display stood a half-full jar of genuine Viagra pills, from the collection of a famous philanthropist, and a gortex penile prosthesis.

"And a few years later, Silicon Chic," Amy snickered and shook her head; her hair shot out in a wooly, glowing purple friz. "The software whizzes were getting rich, so the nerd look was in - hot, hip, totally cool dude, the look for anyone wanting to be a TV god. Don't waste your time with penis exercises and weight lifting; just wrap masking tape around the nosepiece of your glasses, fluff your hair out Einstein-style and, viola, instant Babe Magnet, cheap and intense Sex Appeal!"

"You've got the slang all mixed up," Mandy snorted. "Hip was decades before cool, and cool was out when the geeks conquered Hollywood. And Silicon Chic - the beachball breasts stuffed with plastic - was already out. Read some history." Reports of silicon's toxicity had scared women away from the breast implants which were outlawed in 2015, after scientists linked an epidemic of dementia to silicon sludge in the brain.

spotted woman

The two women ambled towards the museum exit, a vaulted oak portal in which an old-world artisan had carved intertwining vines and intricate angels of the old mythology; a visit to the latest anthropological exhibit often entertained them more than a digi-vision special. Since that era of impotence pills and hallowed gauntness, anthropologists had discovered so much about man's distant past, and an antediluvian golden age of wiser, stronger ancestors, recalled in the supernatural figures of ancient folklore; those lost tribes were the beautiful people.

"Some people are trying for the Titan look," Mandy sighed. "But it's still too painful, too risky. If they're going to be 10 feet tall, they need extra vertebrae inserted, leg bones and arm bones lengthened. My neighbor's been bedridden since the procedure and on a morphine drip. His doctor says "Wait, it takes time for things to knit together and heal'. But some of the New Titans can't keep their balance, walking in stilts with their heads so high up. And they all need canes. I think we've made a better choice."

Amy nodded and squinted up at the electronic billboard flashing news updates, beauty tips and ads above the buildings; even on cloudy days the sky glowed orange and lavender and fire yellow as a hundred billboards broadcasted from stations across the globe.

"Wild, wooly, hair in a spiking halo?," the blinking words on the nearest billboard announced. "A snub-nose, wrinkly puffed cheeks, round eyes wide with intelligent wonder? The flat gnarled feet and broad palms of those Nordic magicians, who could see the future and divine how to cook riverside weeds into longevity potions? See Dr. Magurty, board certified and officially recommended, for a full transformation. Installment payment accepted."

Amy rubbed her wide flaring nostrils under an upturned, wrinkled nose, still red from the recent surgery. "I'm getting the muscles around my eyes loosened next week," she said, "Then the eyelids lifted - for the round effect".

Mandy nodded, recalling her recent wait in the antiseptically chrome antechamber, before the anesthesia and the transformation of her chin from an unsightly lantern jaw to a fashionably receding, gentle bulge.

"When I was a kid," Mandy mused, " I rummaged through old trunks my parents had kept - their heritage in boxes. I came across one of my great-grandmother's diaries, from when she was 7 or 8. One part was all about trolls - back then, plastic dolls in lederhosen, with floppy feet; the kids would yank them up by their hair, which was just like ours." Mandy sighed. Great-grandma had written about sitting in the sandbox, listening to the rusty chains of swings creak, waiting for her puppy to lick her with a tongue as long as her face, and fantasizing how her collection of troll dolls escaped at night to gather under the rope bridge and conspire against the Evil Empire of torturer tots.

"That whole diary - it seemed so mysterious. Sandboxes, swings, so much that I'd never even seen."

"Except for trolls," Amy grinned.

"Except for trolls - nowadays," Mandy agreed. "Did you know, they considered trolls ugly back then?"

"They didn't know any better," Amy asserted. "Less advanced."

"Yeah." Mandy shrugged. "No sense of mankind's true history. I guess that explains their poor taste."

siamese balancers

No comments: