Betty Duffy

Friday, January 21, 2011

The Last Shall be First

It’s been a long and tiring week.

Yesterday, I turned on the TV to check the weather reports and had a hard time turning it off again, so by 9 am, I had watched “The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills,” apparently munched through an entire box of Golden Grahams, and was well into the second pot of coffee. The only thing that could make the day more junky is blogging about it all—so here I am.

I’ve never watched The Real Housewives before, and it’s just weird. Very weird. I take it we’re supposed to laugh, and laugh we do, when women with faces obliterated by plastic surgery try to express distress at their troubled marriages, or a self-congratulating happiness at their daughter’s graduation—when they go to buy presents for someone else, and end up purchasing diamonds for themselves.

There’s loads of hypocrisy, insincerity, and drama--haystack hair, placid foreheads, overly alert eyes, and plasticine lips. It got me thinking about looks, about women who won’t surrender to age, about how our culture grasps at absurd concepts of physical beauty, and neglects the really gorgeous things in the world. These are not original thoughts, I know, especially from someone who was absolutely bewitched by the spectacle of rich, skinny women going shopping (again).

Anyway, last year I went on a very restrictive diet and lost a bunch of weight. For a minute, I was skinny and I felt this enticing urge to put myself on display. The nagging thought in the back of my mind was that it wouldn’t last—I couldn’t eat so little forever; I wouldn’t be young forever; in fact this might be the last time I looked this good. I was aching for mass appreciation of what I had accomplished. Because it WAS an accomplishment. It took loads of self-discipline and narrow focus to reach my target weight—though I had no idea why or for whom I was targeting that particular number.

It was a dangerous time to have a blog. I’m already sort of a vain person, and having body confidence didn’t do much to help me grow in virtue. It took every ounce of restraint I had not to post a sun-glazed picture of myself as I looked feelingly into the distance. But it also helped that at my own arm’s length, my camera didn’t do much for my complexion.

The scary thing about the whole episode, now that some of the weight has crept back on and I’ve crawled back into my mole-hole, is how worthy I felt to be a minor celebrity based solely on my weight and a few steely-eyed glances at myself in the mirror. Also, how easy it would have been to take the self-promoting steps towards public appreciation. I’m not saying my looks were good enough to razzle dazzle anyone who saw me—just that, with few exceptions, I could have presented myself however and wherever I wanted.

Yesterday, when the threat of a snow-storm became apparent, I went to Wal-mart along with everyone else in my town to buy some milk and cereal. The check-out lines were long, so I had to abdicate a position in the check-out line of my favorite cashier. There’s no delicate way to describe the appearance of my favorite cashier: she’s morbidly obese and a substantial amount of her pink scalp peeks through her tightly greased-back pony-tail. But she smiles, very sincerely, with her eyes. She’s also clever and chatty.

For a minute I imagined the pilot episode of a “Real Check-out Girls of Walmart, Po-dunk, Indiana.” I’m sure there would be plenty of drama, back-stabbing and hypocrisy. If you visit the grocery store as often as I do, you see some of it yourself. One cashier mumbles about so and so who is still on break. One tells you too much about her own family tree when she notices all your children. You’re pretty sure the stock boy is doing drugs in the break room and then walking around the toilet paper aisle in a state of chemical hypnosis.

There would be no breast implants, no evening gowns, no meticulously colored hair (actually, the stock boy has done a decent job on his). There would be one or two cheerful people who you can’t help feeling sorry for because they’re in such poor health, and glued to that check-out stool with a lifetime supply of inertia.

The show would not go on. Not only because the viewers might not be there—but there’s also some quality about my check-out girl that I believe would prevent her from holding the camera at arm’s length to snap a gajillion pictures of herself for public consumption. Of course I could be dead wrong about that.

I can’t watch The Real Housewives without thinking either, (a) “Thank God I am not like them,” or (b) “The horror! I am too much like them.” I don’t want to be a real housewife of Beverly Hills; I don’t wish to be a checkout girl at Wal-mart either—but at least no one is suggesting the wish on TV.

The vain and grasping people of the world command more of our cultural consciousness—but rarely do they command our admiration or affection—possibly because they’re stingy about bestowing admiration, affection, or even a smile on others.

‘Tis better to be fat and happy, right? Or if not fat, at least humble. Lord help me.


JMB said...

The Jersey ones live in the town I went to HS in!

Enbrethiliel said...


When one of my cousins was about thirteen and eating everything in sight, he promised his disgusted older sister: "If I can't get rich, I'll get fat!"

Well, he's in his twenties now and is pretty skinny. I guess he'll be a millionaire or something.

Catherine said...

I'm not allowed to watch "Real Housewives" anymore. For some reason, it makes me feel really bad about my life and all the 'stuff' I don't have.
I know the people on those shows are horrible people, and I don't want to be like them but it gives me a glimpse of just how EASY some people have it.
It's the opposite of watching a program about the third world. Instead of saying "wow I'm so lucky, I have so much more than 90% of the world" I'm saying to myself "My life is such a ripoff! Why do I have to work so hard for so little, and they get everything handed to them?"
I swear I'm normally not such a shallow, worldly person, there's just something about those shows!

melanie said...

You know, I watched it very early on before they all turned mean and nasty. Real housewives of orange county. And it was kind of a fun diverting pastime. Until it just became sad pathetic, and I just could not help realizing how totally unhappy these people are. Then, frankly, I just became really grateful for my life. Many of those women have divorced since the show aired. I was into real housewives of New York too, again, until it turned into glorified Jerry Springer, because it was kind of fun watching New York socialite women and they didn't look quite as fake as the O.C. version. But that whole franchise got ruined when people just started watching because they were mean to each other. Anyway, honest to God I would rather live my life in my mole hole any day,....except I would trade places with one of those realtors on "selling New York"...imagine making an 800,000 commission on one sale. Anyhow, obviously I watch too much tv...hee hee.

Katie said...

They are so unhappy. That's the saddest thing--that people still want to be like them, even though they're all so unhappy.

Jazzie Casas said...

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Living for the Lord in 2011 said...

I hear you my dear... Last year I did a fitness boot camp and ran a 1/2 Marathon...and basked in the glow of "omg you look so awesome after 6 children!"... And it fed my bottomless ego...

I am training for another 1/2 now but am focusing on being healthy and strong enough to take fabulous care of my husband and children and be ready for whatever challenge the Lord will throw at me this year!

BettyDuffy said...

I really think that someone is fabricating the drama on the Real Housewives. It may be unscripted--but these people cannot be doing what they do of their own volition. I guess I would doubt their sanity either way. I'm not sure it's any better to act like an idiot because someone told you to, or to do it because that's just who you are.

TracyC. said...

(a) “Thank God I am not like them,” or (b) “The horror! I am too much like them.”

Lord, that is so honest. I can speak up here and say me too sister.

TracyC. said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Misha Leigh. said...

Once again your writing blows me away. How is it you talk about The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills and I end up saying thank you for what you expose in me?

BettyDuffy said...

Misha Leigh, My guess is because The Real Housewives exposed something in me.:)

Anonymous said...

Elizabeth!!! Your writing is so good. You are so talented! You are so much a writer that I cannot believe you don't have a book published! You are hilarious,sincere and on the money with all your daily and spiritual observations. I haven't read your blog in a while and will make sure I do keep up. Winter sucks, SAD sucks, and you have a ray of sunshine that hits the soul. Thanks, and it is FREE :)

TS said...

The irony is that pounds and all, I'm sure you damn good.