Whither Hotness?A bittersweet incantation by Simon
So, my birthday's coming up and I'll be 43 years old. And I co-write a blog called Very Hot Jews and lately we haven't talked very much about hotness, though we have talked about stuff like interest-free loans and TV writing and repairing sewage pumps.
I've started to feel a little guilty (I know, try to stifle your disbelief) that our little Jewblog wasn't really living up to its name. After all, do people really come to this site to read about our petty foibles? Do we have regular readers (or at least momentary visitors) in Iran and Saudi Arabia and China and Norway and Tuscaloosa because we write so tellingly about the myriad headaches and meager rewards of modern existence? No, I say! Folks from all over the world click over our way because they long for tall tales of Semitic hotness.
And yet. And yet.
Well, here's the thing. As the hooded specter of advancing age swings its razory scythe over my form, graying my hair (fuck me, even the chest hair), inscribing ever-deeper crevices into my once-pillowy flesh, I feel my cherished sexual vanity dissolving like a bar of Irish Spring in a volcano.
I know! Unbelievable, right? But it's a thing with guys. Bear with me.
Look, I'm an educated man. Probably too educated. I recognize that most of the capering image-circus known as pop culture is, for reals, a vast truckload of perfumed pigshit. Do I understand that the seamy fakeworld of advertising cultivates our insecurities the way ants corral aphids? I write ad copy for a living, fucker! Do I realize that all publicity photos are airbrushed, that perfection is a matter of lighting and camera angles, that the glistening fleshpots in all torrid love scenes are daubed with Vaseline by pot-bellied union guys? I do!
I want to feel hot like the hot people on the hot shows! I want to be a sparkling object of desire! I want my wobbling midsection to be taut as a snare drum — not as a result of agonizing daily crunches but simply because I'm young and supple, though I consume multiple cheeseburgers at a sitting! I want that terrifying avatar of a double chin to revert permanently to singlehood!
Most of all, I want the look from babes in the street. I want that hungry slide of female eyes over my chest. I want to be openly fantasized about on girlblogs. I want to be surreptitiously phone-surveilled and texted about by desiring co-eds. Is that so terribly much to ask?
Cut to shot of once-chunky Irish Spring bar, now a pale-green sliver.
I am at some upscale shopping mall in a commercial neighborhood that bears a striking resemblance to Pasadena. At every turn there are fair-haired hotties who sport the all-knowing mien of the sophomore. Their skirts are microscopic. Double entendres stretch enticingly across their T-shirts. Their satiny feet are shod in flip-flops made of solid gold. They smell like gardenias and vanilla.
And I look down and realize that — for reasons having to do with my having been too preoccupied to do laundry of late — I am wearing shorts with black socks.
This is, to employ the technical term, the attire of the gross old guy. And if these terrestrial angels notice me at all, it is to mark my shorts and black socks with a snort of derision.
Not, as they say, too hot.
Here's the question caroming around the spongy interior of my brain like a queasy drunk: Have I passed the point of no return? Am I consigned to either invisibility or gross-old-guyhood from here on out?
And the answer should itself be a question — something like, Why, silly man, do you give one solitary shit whether or not you're appealing to a bunch of nattering girls at the mall? And yet.
I see all the forty-plus guys on TV who still look great, like David Duchovny, who's in a new show all about being a writer of a certain age swimming in pussy, and the little caged monster of diminishing self-regard shrieks Why not me? When the answer should be: That is a TV show, a fiction to stoke the dreams of premium-cable subscribers.
This is the madness that causes men, silly, vain men of a certain age who used to be objects of lust, who were once a coveted demo but now see the gilded surface of their erotic confidence flaking away and revealing a dull, lead-colored redundancy, to plunge headlong into midlife crisis. You know the story: One day, receding hairline or limp dick or, heaven forfend, black socks with shorts. Next day, ill-advised cherry-red convertible in which to troll for pneumatic girlfriend.
I have stared into this abyss, people, and been rescued. Hallelujah.
How? By love, of course. Because I share my life with someone who celebrates my birthday all month long, who sees me stumble into the muddy pool of my own wounded ego and pulls me out.
She looks at me and, apropos of nothing, says: "You're hotter now than you've ever been."
And you know what? Fuck it. She's right. Happy Birthday to me.