Nitpicking the Beauty Queens

Dearest Carla Fran,

I may have to switch careers. I think you hit the difference between Meg and Debra Messing’s hair squarely on the, er, head. Dyan Cannon I know from Ally McBeal, where she was marvelous, wattle and all. She pulls off a certain kind of old broad glam in a way that Meg can’t (partly because she’s still actually kind of young.) Dyan’s face doesn’t try to look younger; it looks sexual and sultry almost because of its lines and droops. And the hair is the feather boa to her sequined dress.

I was so touched by your description of our gawky companions at the shooting range. They were uncannily like us, as you say, and the offer of an upgrade was indeed polite–courtly, even. In hindsight I have a full-fledged crush on the blond British one with the brown shoes. These other ones were a different species altogether. They were the bullies in A Christmas Story, all grown up.

I’ve regressed a bit in the last day or so–the sudden contact with the outside world proved to be too much for me. The speeches! The Alaskan beauty queen with her glasses and impressive jawline, her self-command and humor and sarcastic spite. (Or “withering sarcasm,” as Christopher Beam calls her tactic against Obama.) She’s like Maurice from Northern Exposure–likeable in a way, admirable, even, and someone you might not even mind being in charge of your Cicely. But that’s because it’s Cicely–a place governed principally by interpersonal pressures and poetic spats and clashing versions of a particular kind of triumphant frontier philosophy. The nostalgia of that show is precisely that its world is so utterly dissimilar to the America we know.

It’s at times like these that I’m particularly grateful to Jon Stewart. The drama takes over and I get glassy-eyed, not from the political problems, but from the problems of celebrity. It’s an issue, for instance, that she went last (McCain doesn’t count, right? In fact, he’ll be slightly anticlimactic, right?). So. How much does chronology eclipse what came before? Can the Democratic convention get wiped out by an evening of one-liners? But in sail Jon and the TDS staff with their archives of footage documenting an entire tradition of self-serving sophistry, and they restore a smidge of accountability to what otherwise seems to be a competition for whatever can most fully occupy our minds at THIS PARTICULAR MOMENT RIGHT NOW, NEVER MIND WHAT CAME BEFORE LALALALA.

(Not that I think this is the exclusive province of the Republicans, but they’ve certainly been forced to do more of it under the current administration.)

It’s a coincidence that my final course is forcing me to deal with another irritating specimen of feminine beauty and (similarly problematic) talent. It’s being taught by a tall lissome spectacularly proportioned woman with red hair, fair skin, dimples and all that makes women of her caliber stop traffic and undergraduates in their tracks. I find her unbearable. It’s all I can do to keep from making faces at my colleagues. She is lazy. I find her incredibly hot and would probably be slightly in love with her if I felt she approached us with seriousness, rather than with an almost sickening friendliness and a slightly overdone need to be liked in that way.

It’s pure mischief that associates her with Palin in my mind, as they are in no way alike. It’s just dealing with two physically gorgeous women who have (and it is progress, in some weird way, that everyone is forced to regard one of them so minutely) other qualities too.

I hope you are well, and that the doldrums have abated. If not, I send you lollipop nickels for your Phantom Tollbooth. May you cross safely.




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