I recently spent an evening at the Eagle's Club in a small town in a midwestern state. I won't name the town in order to protect the identities of the Ugly, but I suspect that all Eagle's Clubs everywhere would have a similar ambience and clientele anyway.
We went to celebrate a friend's birthday as we all have a rather alternative idea of what constitutes fun, at least in comparison to most people of our age and placement on the social-o-meter or whatever the hell the PC term is these days for class structure. Although I can't be used in the curve because of my rather odd background and circumstances, the others in the group would appear to be pretty standard upper middle-class yuppie material if you just went by outward appearances. But that would be deceiving because they really are weird. So- instead of going to a posh restaurant or some nice fake English pub to get trashed and embarrass my friend with a slurred rendition of Happy Birthday, five of us packed into the Jeep and drove 2 hours to stay overnight in a cheap motel and party it up with the Eagles.
We met the Folks (the parents of one couple who I will from here on refer to as Barnaby and Felicia, although their real names are Mark and Julie) at the Clubhouse for an early dinner- and you tell me where else in this day and age you can get a steak dinner, complete with a trip to the salad bar, for $8.50 (and the salad bar had pudding)- before settling down to get really wasted on $1.50 drinks. Our waitress looked exactly like you would expect a waitress in the Eagle's Club to look, just the other side (the rough side) of middle age, wearing tight pants and a tank top that you wouldn't let your mother out the door in even if she looked like Anne Bancroft. She was only missing the beehive hair, instead going in for a short platinum do which sort of spoiled the effect if you ask me. I think she should have just gone for broke and added a hairpiece. But she was pleasant and efficient and got all the plates in front of the right people and we shoveled in the grub, then turned to the booze and eagerly awaited the arrival of the band. As we got a couple of drinks in we started looking around, staring back at all the locals who had been staring at us, and you could see it hit all of us almost at once. There were some of the ugliest people on the planet in this room.
Now, I am certainly not one to throw stones when it comes to looks, and I find society's obsession with physical beauty very aggravating and quite often disturbing, but I'm not talking about people who don't look like perfume models, or people with deformities of some kind. I am talking about plain old self inflicted butt-ugliness. The kind of people who may not be that intrinsically bad looking, but for some reason evidently choose to look hideous through appallingly bad grooming.
We were having such a good time once the band started up, a county western band who I think may have been playing together for the first time that night they were so out of sync, dancing like eejits and flinging ourselves around the floor, that nobody said anything for a good while. Then during a momentary lull I leaner over and observed to the birthday girl (who I will from here on refer to as Winifred, although her name is really Laura)- "There are some really scary women here, aren't there?" She agreed, and observed that some of the men were a bit startling themselves. We whispered quietly to each other about this phenomenon, not wanting to offend the Folks, who after all lived in this town with the unattractive group, until Felicia broke the ice by announcing in a rather carrying voice- "Boy if they held an ugly contest in here they'd be hard pressed to find a winner wouldn't they?" Winifred and I, relieved that someone else had spoken the words out loud, launched into a tirade about make-up and hair care products. Barnaby and Winifred's husband (who I will now refer to as Llywellyn, although his name is really Mike) made a few pointed and insightful comments about paper bags and their various uses. You could almost feel the bad karma floating above the table, but you know- the truth is just the truth.
I have friends who don't wear make up, and I have friends who wear their hair in short low maintenance styles, but there is a difference between someone who is practical and busy and not interested in looking like a fashion plate, and someone who is just back-of-a-bus ugly. Hair does need to be washed on occasion, a little touch of lipstick never killed anyone (outside of a James Bond movie) and I just don't think that a Scooby Doo sweatshirt is appropriate attire for a Saturday night out dancing. And these people were staring at US with our freshly washed heads, mascara and blusher and lipstick (those last bits not in the case of Barnaby and Llywellyn you understand, they're not that weird) like we were Miss America contestants who had made a wrong turn. So tell me- when did making an effort go out of style? God, it's happened- I'm channeling my mother.
In sharp contrast to the cast of extras from Deliverance was a sweet couple who had to be at least in their nineties. They toddled in the door, leaning on each other for support, dressed to kill. He was in a light colored suit that was beautifully pressed with a sharp crease in the legs and a tie that had to be from the forties because you could have worn it as a shawl it was so wide. She was in a dress and nylons, her hair obviously recently curled and sprayed with so much Aqua Net that she could have fallen off a building onto her head and probably survived with only a slight dizzy feeling. She even had some brightly colored lipstick on her wrinkled lips. He went up the bar and came back with some interesting concoctions in plastic glasses, and they plonked themselves down at a table to stare disapprovingly at the Ugly People until the band played a slow song. Then they struggled to their feet, grasped each other tightly and began to slowly plod around the dance floor to the beat (which by the way the drummer couldn't have found if you drew him a map), looking not much like they were enjoying themselves but very determined to go through the motions. As I watched them I wondered how many years they had been together and how many Saturdays they had gamely put on the tie and the nylons and driven the gigantic Oldsmobile (and you have to know it's a gigantic something) to wherever they could have a drink and dance and show themselves off. Because I knew that it had to have taken them most of the day to get themselves spruced up like this, and you would think by that age it would be tempting to just throw on a sweatsuit or give it up entirely and watch Touched by an Angel on the TV in a nice comfortable chair. We were all- myself, Barnaby and Felicia, Winifred and Llywellyn, very struck by this ancient couple and their determination to Make An Effort, as normally cynical and irreverent as we are about these things, and as we took one last look at the Ugly People as we were leaving for the night, we all decided than we wanted to be these old people when we grew up. Although with less nostril hair.
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