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Jewish World Review July 6, 1999/ 22 Tamuz 5759

Marianne M. Jennings

Marianne M. Jennings
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An Amish woman in a Victoria's Secret store -- I AM THE ONLY MOTHER at my 4-year-old son's t-ball games who does not have a tattoo. The twenty somethings, with everything from roses to barb wire on their skin, make me, in my plain skin, barring a few developing melanomas, feel like an Amish woman in a Victoria's Secret store.

I am tempted to inform my young colleagues that if they could wait just a few years they will be able to use a blue fine tip Sharpie pen and connect the varicose veins on their legs for some sort of pattern that would say "hip" without the resulting cost of laser removal they will surely desire when mighty youth sheds its muscle tone. All too soon, my young t-ball friends will understand that twin cobras tattooed on well-turned ankles violate the tenets of natural law. A blue scorpion on one's neck is not nearly as cool at age 35 as it was at age 18, if for no other reason than the neck is no longer rotating without the shoulders. Some day, these, the temporarily infallible, will understand that tattoos belong on sailors who drink Jack Daniels from Costco-size bottles and not on mothers who bring Capri Sun juice boxes to t-ball games.

Someone is no longer passing along the idea that folly does come galloping back. Youth's indiscretions haunt relentlessly. Watch Bob Dylan try and sing and therein is a living testament to youthful indiscretion writ large, or at least writ all over his face.

Axioms on appearance are not being passed along. Like my grandmother, I subscribe to the theory that one should judge a book by its cover. My grandmother had a highly refined and scientifically proven appearance code that revealed everything about a person, from character to attitude. For example, my grandmother taught that girls with pierced ears were pursued mightily because pierced ears meant loose morals. How can this rule be applied today when young men also have pierced ears, young women pierce the same ear seven times and they both have pierced eyebrows, noses and other areas not suitable for mention in a family hour column? What good is my grandmother's syllogism on morality and ear piercing when the young man at the video store has a silver stud between his lips and chin?

This general decline in appearance is wreaking havoc on judgmentalism. With the popularity of the slacker look, it has become increasingly difficult to spot a slob. To my grandmother, baggy clothes meant yard work or pregnancy. Today's men's suits have a baggy look that says "I borrowed Herman Munster's jacket" to me.

Appropriate attire for all events is simply "No shirt, no shoes, no service." At May graduation in 105-degree Phoenix, I wear a t-shirt with my skirt and pumps under my full-length black robe of academic pretense in order to cut back on sweat. When the dean questioned my discretion in such casualness, I pointed to the graduates' families in the audience where he noted that even without my robe, I was still better dressed than they.

Employers have even joined the decline of civilization through office casual day which began as khakis and golf shirts and now looks like Woodstock Fridays. My grandmother never went to church without her best suit, a hat and gloves. Today, church goers wear Capri slacks and flaps and Martha Stewart wore the same to a State Dinner last week. Martha, who could make a ball gown from aluminum foil and broccoli, should know better.

My grandmother's judgment rules are foiled further because of the problem of so much artificial appearance i.e., chests spun from whole cloth, or, as they case may be, silicone. I noticed in the Victoria's Secret store that the models gracing the posters have odd chests. Can we not see the difference between natural chests and those the shape of shredded wheat?

And speaking of the art of injection, many women now have lips that look like the red wax ones we bought with our Bazooka bubble gum and put on to look like Brenda Starr, reporter. Of course, the larger lips do cover the folly of dental bleaching which has left many people looking as if they have Chiclets for teeth.

My grandmother's philosophy will once again reign supreme. For these follies of youth and the unnatural will take their toll on the partakers.

The breast implant cases have already extracted the pound or so of flesh from the participants, sentencing them to hanging around with class action lawyers. The whitening toothpaste litigation began this month. Twenty years from now, appearance will be very telling. Those who supplemented nature to distraction will be easy to spot with straggly bits of very white enamel hanging in between deflated lips as they struggle with arthritic hands to insert numerous earrings in odd places. On their legs will be spider web tattoos now complemented by spider veins. Vanity, vanity, all is vanity.

We will glance at these pitiful souls and spout the obvious axiom, "You were shallow, weren't you?" But those Amish will look terrific.

JWR contributor Marianne M. Jennings is a professor of legal and ethical studies at Arizona State University. Send your comments to her by clicking here.


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06/24/99: Patricia Ireland eat your heart out --- but check out the recipe in 'women's mags' first
06/22/99: Dems and the Creator coup
06/17/99: True courage is more than just admitting troubles

©1999, Marianne M. Jennings