Posted by: Peadar Ban | December 15, 2008

Merry? Christmas? Part Two

I’m at Mass the other day thinking about this thing, and that thing, and this is some of what I thought.  What the culture praises as beauty (beautiful) and good (worthwhile) is, essentially, useless, valueless.  All of this indicates that we are very stupid, taken as a whole.  The huge Mall that used to be a meadow down near the south of town, the one where JCP is, is full of stores like Crabtree and Evelyn where one can get a thousand different kinds of what is, essentially, soap.  One of these soap stores is as big as a super market.  It is filled with soap, in a thousand different forms and scents, and things with which to apply soap to your bits and pieces; cloths and brushes and sponges, real and phony, and things to splash or smear on which one does after one has used a dozen or two things to remove the soap. What are we trying to get rid of?  What are we trying to become?

At those places you can get stuff that can make you smell like a lemon, or a piece of wood, or a flower.  There is nothing for sale in any of those places that will make you smell like a fresh caught trout, which is a smell I happen to like.  Even if they did have something like that, I would not buy it.  I think trout smell is fine on trout, and wood smell on wood and lemon smell on lemons.  People should smell like people.  Of course too much of a good thing, like three day old fish is, err, too much of a good thing.  But not in any of these places which push lemon, wood and flower smells in any number of containers and means of application.

Mainly women go into these places.  Sometimes you see a man there, too.  Most of the men you see there are following a woman, and trying not to let other men know they are there.  Or, they are in there to find something to give to a woman that will make her smell like a piece of wood, or a fruit, or a flower.  These fellows will stand out.  You can notice them and tell who they are by the way they pick things up and hold them, turning them over and looking at them as if they were bits of things that fell out of space from another planet.  They ask strange questions.  “Does this stuff work?”  Sometimes the men who are in the soap stores are there for themselves.  Enough about that.

The prices people pay to smell like things they are not has become a leading indicator of how stupid we are.  A lot of good money is flushed away that way, money that might be spent on planting flowers to smell, real ones, and real trees to make shade.  Oh, well..  But, this is only done so that someone can say someone else smells beautiful when they smell like wood, lemons or flowers…or all three together.  And that is thought to be worthwhile (good) because smelling like flowers, fruit and wood…or all three together…is taken to be a way to feel good about oneself, and be attractive to others, no matter how you may really be.  It is very important to most of us to be attractive.  This may be among the most stupid things we think about ourselves and others.

There is a Frederick’s of Hollywood…and a Victoria’s Secret…store at this mall.  They are among the largest in the place.  Their sole purpose is to sell pajamas and underwear, at massively blown up prices.  But, as the saying goes, these are not your mother’s underwear and pajamas.  Years ago Frederick’s of Hollywood was really in Hollywood, and you could never find anything they made in any store where little children might see it.  This isn’t so any more.  I have seen little children in the Frederick’s store looking at little pieces of cloth that are called anywhere else little pieces of cloth but have very fancy names, here.  Some of are named after dead movie actresses.  Most of them do not cover anything and would not protect anyone from anything, even a bad thought.  Come to think of it, not protecting anyone from bad thoughts is exactly the purpose of Frederick’s of Hollywood.

I do not know why Victoria’s Secret is called that.  The things that are sold at Victoria’s Secret destroy the very notion of anything secret. I see a lot of women walking around the Mall carrying bags with the Victoria’s Secret label on them.  I know, simply by looking at what they are carrying, that they don’t want to have any secrets.  They would be very angry if I called that fact to their attention.  They would say that the fact that they don’t want to have any secrets is a very private matter.  I wonder, sometimes, if they ever think about how confusing this all is.  Men sometimes carry the Victoria’s Secret bags, too, and I wonder what they really think of the people they will give the contents of the bags to.  There seems to me to be a lot of not telling the truth going on among these folks.

The funny thing is that these things that don’t keep secrets, and don’t offer any protection from bad thoughts also cost an awful lot of money.  It is stupid, I think, to have to pay for our bad thoughts.  The underwear and pajamas sold in both of these stores is thought to be able to make the people who buy them, ans the people who wear them, and the people who look at the people wearing them feel beautiful and worthwhile.  Nothing, I think, is further from the truth.

There is a Brookstone’s Store in the mall, too.  It has nothing useful to sell, but does an amazing job at doing it; again at inflated prices.  In the Brookstone’s store there are at least a dozen different digital electric clocks, little gadgets with lighted dials and clever looking cases.  There are dozens of electric fans, big ones costing hundreds of dollars, and little ones costing mere tens of dollars, and tiny ones you can hang around your neck..costing tens of dollars.  There are pillows and games and massagers, and chairs that massage, and locks and little hand held battery powered balls that massage.  Massaging is a very important thing among the folks who stop in at Brookstone’s.  Lot’s of men are in this store.  Lots of shiny metal is in or on the stuff they sell.  Lots of the stuff feels or looks heavy.

The games are electric of course, so you don’t need anyone to play with but yourself.

The pillows are electrically heated, of course, so you’ll never get cold in bed, even if there’s no one to sleep next to.

The massagers are electrically powered or battery operated, so you’ll never need anyone but yourself to relieve you with a relaxing back or shoulder rub.

All of these things are exciting to look at, to pick up and hold, to operate.  This is why Brookstone’s is busy, and makes a lot of money.  Men like these things.  Men are stupid, too.  Nothing that any of these things does cannot be done as well with one’s own hands or much simpler,and cheaper, machines.  But I guess, we no longer think they look, sound or feel as nice.  Once more we have been deceived by the useless and chosen it over the merely good, but, unhappily, not too good looking.  Can anyone tell me that an LED electronic clock which will simultaneously give you the time, date and weather in several different configurations is not more beautiful in its light gray and plexiglass incarnation than the old Little Ben wind up your father had?  Is it not better to have than the annoying little clock radio that’s been around for years on your nightstand; which was, of course, already better than Little Ben…or sunlight and bird’s song?  As a matter of fact, you can buy an alarm clock which will put you to sleep and wake you up to the sounds of birds, or waves, or falling water.  It will let you know, too, just what time it is in Shanghai.  If you have the money for it.

How silly we are.  How patient God is.


  1. It was God who made women with their noses and their taste for things that smell good.

    The male attitude is that of Dr. Johnson. Riding in a carriage, a woman said to him “Sir, you smell”. To which, he “No. madam. You smell; I stink”.

  2. Why doesyour comment, Gabe, make me think of a ride downtown in midsummer on the IRT Seventh Avenue line? Why am I reminded of the peculiar chemistry of garlic and the human digestive system, how it can ooze from every pore?

    God saved Dr. Johnson from that, and I wonder what the man would have made of it had he not.


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