Well, I certainly got some reactions on that last one, some quite condemnatory. It makes me wonder — would these folks have reacted so vehemently if they had heard me share that cultural association with regard to Gov. Palin, face-to-face? Probably not. Even as she was speaking — I had flipped on the little TV outside my office to listen while going back and forth getting work done — I had given her a glance and shared that observation with Cindi. Cindi paused in what she was doing only long enough to glance at the tube, and correct my facts — I had described her hair as looking as though she had quickly pinned it up atop her head to get it out of her way while getting work done, and Cindi informed me that she had paid good money to get her hair done that way.
Which of course changes nothing. The point in the end is that Sarah Palin apparently puts her hair up in a way that looks pragmatic and businesslike to ME, and wears Serious Eyeglasses rather than contacts, as a deliberate statement meant to balance her beauty. It’s a way of being taken seriously. And for those of you so deeply offended on gender grounds, men do the same thing — they wear suits.
Would it make y’all feel better if I describe some of the other figures in terms of snap judgments based on their appearances? OK, I will. It won’t be quite the same, of course, because a beautiful woman evokes a response that’s unlike any you get with a man or a less-attractive woman — something that I believe Sarah Palin understands well enough to hide some of that light under a bushel. OK, here we go:
- Let’s start with Joe Biden. Joe’s a nice-looking guy, don’t you think? He’s got a smile that could
light up a stadium (what does he use on those teeth?). Joe sort of radiates "politician" — more specifically, Irish politician. Loads of Blarney, but I mean that in a good way — I enjoy hearing Joe talk, up to a point (the point is when — and I’ve had this happen a couple of times — I speak to him more than once in a week, and he starts telling me the same anecdote that he told me the other time). Beyond that, he projects something else that apparently is inconsistent with his working-class background: He looks Patrician. If he’s Irish, you think, he’s certainly not shanty Irish. Lace-curtain all the way. Shows how looks can deceive.
- John McCain looks like what he is — the aging fighter jock. He’s got the build, the bantam-rooster feistiness, however wracked by old wounds. He has a pretty bright grin
of his own, but it’s of a different quality from Biden’s. Biden’s grin is of the master salesman about to close a deal. McCain’s is about cockiness, the cockiness of the Naval Aviator. That cockiness seems to have gone into his pick of his Veep candidate. He’s saying, I don’t particularly need a vice president; I plan on sticking around, so experience and qualifications didn’t matter. Might as well pick somebody who pleases all those whiners in my base and maybe peels off some of the more emotional HIllary supporters, the ones for whom it was all about her being a woman. This is a quality that strikes his supporters as reassuring confidence, and his detractors as obnoxiousness.
- Barack Obama… well, my first reaction is that he does not fit a type at all. He’s unique. He, too, has a winning grin, but he doesn’t use it all that much; his stock persona is
deeply serious. But then I remember that there is ONE sort of character that he does sometimes remind me of, and it’s completely in tune with that seriousness. I mentioned it to my wife the other night: He looks like something out of the early 60s, particularly one of the young Best and Brightest of the Kennedy Administration. I had trouble saying WHY he looked that way — was it the cut of his suits? Were his ties that narrow? Was it the way he rolls up the sleeves of his white dress shirts? My wife said it was his thinness — people are bulkier than that these days. His thinness makes him look like he’s from another era. Maybe. Of course, if you wanted to play on the race thing, you could say he’s like Sidney Poitier (60s again) in either "To Sir With Love" or "In the Heat of the Night." The "black" guy who comes across as whiter, as more Establishment, more conservatively attired and carefully spoken, than any white guy you ever saw.
- If you want to go farther afield, you could say Hillary Clinton is the "Smartest Kid in the Class (Just Ask Her; She’ll Tell You)," the one who absolutely has to get the best grades — also the one who takes names of those who misbehave if the teacher leaves the room, and gives a full report when the teacher returns. BILL Clinton is the clever wastrel who is probably at the top of the list of defaulters she gives the teacher — the kid who’s just as smart, but wastes it on trying to be the class clown, or the most popular kid in the school. Funny thing about Bill — I had seen him around for years. I first saw him in person back in 1978, and he had this manner about him that caused me to read him all wrong. I would have pegged him as the child of privilege, the fair-haired one who could do no wrong and loved life because everything went his way. It really shocked me to learn that he didn’t come up that way, because he projects that kind of guy. That’s one thing he and Joe sort of have in common.
So there you go — shallow, quick-impression assessments of all the major characters. None of them are exactly sitcom characters, but I worked with what I had.