But beyond gender solutions, appearance also reveals to us many personality and perspective shaping traits, like age, build, ethnicity and coloring. And tell me you don't know certain things about people with particular distinguishing characteristics, like -- to name a few -- tattoos, piercings, acne scars, melanomas, boils, carbuncles, pustules, open sores, CATS makeup, a toupee, hair plugs, male pattern baldness, female haphazard hairiness, muscle tics, a bulbous, veiny nose (or noses), withered limbs, missing limbs, vacationing limbs, a unibrow, cyclopedness, an odd little "V" between nose and upper lip like Tom Brokaw has, those little globs of white whatsit that just appear for some reason in the corners of some mouths and/or a parrot on the shoulder. Of course you do; we all do.
Most of us, too, depend on appearances to make associations, to identify with people. For instance, looking at George W. Bush one might think, "Though you haven't yet been a lousy president, I perceive in you a previously lousy president." Or, upon seeing an unfortunate person with thick Coke bottle-like eyeglasses, one might muse in self-reflection, "I'd like a Coke."
And depending on our propensity for deductive reasoning, we can even make specific connections and assumptions based on a combination of physical elements. ("That man with the large grotesque head, the western wear and the cigarette dangling from his mouth must be the Elephant Marlboro Man," might be one such conclusion.)
So what's my point, you ask? Just this: There are dozens of cogent reasons for my boss, the editor of the paper you're reading, to run my photograph along with this column.
Yet he adamantly refuses to do so. Refuses to take my suggestion and grant you, my readers, the opportunity to pay full attention to the man behind the curtain, if you will. Because, according to him, columnist photos are completely superfluous, "as needless as serving decent food at an old folks home," he says.
He continues. "I already provide you with the space to spill your verbal jism every week. Expounding on your life. Your opinions. The hairs up your ass. And goddammit, Bub -- it is 'Bub,' right? -- for my money, 750 words a week -- 400 if you don't count the words, 'I,' 'me,' 'my,' 'mine' and 'moi' -- plus a byline, fulfill my obligation to Señor Windbag's -- it is 'Windbag,' right? -- Temple of Narcissism."
(In my own defense, the boss gets testy like this only when we talk about "the photograph." Normally, he's very complimentary about my work, lauding it as "submitted on deadline" and "highly space-filling.")
Anyway, in the face of staunch resistance and in the spirit of compromise, I've unilaterally decided to take matters into my own hands and draw for you, loyal readers, a word picture. A top-to-bottom, concise-but-detailed, totally objective description of myself. Warts and all. (And, yes, venereal warts count.) Not out of self-interest, mind you, but strictly as a reader's aid.
My hair, which is the color and consistency of fine copper wire but drier and with less body, I wear long and straight, though for years it was short and gay. It seems to get thinner as I get older, but then my eyes are also getting worse so it's possible I'm just not seeing all that's there. Often now I wear a hat, not so much for warmth as to make a statement. On days when I wear my backwards baseball cap, I'm telling the world, "I'm urban, don't mess with me;" my wide-brimmed straw hat says, "I'm rural, take advantage of me;" and my Burger King crown announces, "I'm a grown man in a fast food cardboard hat. What's wrong with me?"
Your gaze falls to my eyes and you delight in their distinctive blue, a blue that immediately puts you in mind of the azure drip 2.37 inches from the left and 6.41 inches from the bottom of Jackson Pollack's No. 13A, 1948: Arabesque. It's so uncanny it's unsettling. Your own eyes are jealous and ...
Damn. Not enough space to finish. OK. Turn here next week for the conclusion to the description of my face, from nose to the chin. Then, over the next, oh, let's say, eight weeks, join me for the colorful, spellbinding journey from my prosthetic neck to the muscular soles of my massive (and need I add, indicatory) feet. But for now, that's it from moi. ©