The girl who hands over my New York Times is always astounded at its heft. Even on Saturdays. I laugh at her lack of reference. Stacked against almost every other newspaper in America, yes, the Times is plump. But as subscribers of a certain age remember, today’s editions are miserly compared against the fat decks of a decade ago.

    Especially those Sunday sandbags.

    My newsgirl doesn’t read newspapers. At least not intentionally. She’s of that breezily-informed generation which receives its mostly unedited information through bits and bytes. It shows. Their general lack of awareness, the blithe knowledge deficiency, augurs ill for them.

    Fortunately, this group’s esteeming the ephemeral above all immunizes them against everyday worries as well as prospective maladies. Think of it as bliss without the Schedule 1 drugs.

    Even when my age group lived carefree someone older always cautioned “beware!” If recalled correctly, while we proclaimed disregarding those admonishments they nevertheless seeped in to steer us through responsible adulthood.

    My, how mentoring has changed. Etiquette, too.

    I’ve witnessed first hand how the art of being a lady has graduated into a discipline. More attitude and behavior than beguilement.

    These womanly skills are just the distaff version of male conduct. Set goals, foment a plan, execute. Except women can’t operate with man-like determination. We can’t tolerate it. Ill-fated women who’ve taken no-nonsense, no-prisoners approaches litter quotidian life.

    Don’t “tough” smart women frighten men and repulse their own sex? Our society eyes the Hillary Clintons and Elizabeth Warrens critically yet finds comfort in vapid celebutants pursuing outrageous made for unreality TV episodes.

    Fame and fortune in exchange for mortifying public humiliation? Disparaging Boomers as is exceptionally popular, selling one’s soul wholesale was something the overwhelming majority of our younger selves would’ve studiously avoided. I can only conceive of few from our 1946-1964 segment filming, then intentionally leaking a sex video in order to jump-start their brand, establish good notoriety, or jolt a Q rating.

        Abjectly craven as many 50 and 60 year olds are today, precious few of us back during hair and before blemished skin would’ve abased ourselves for celebrity. Unsavory celebrity at that.

    Those who represented our most outrageous figures still managed some jot of ability. Today’s spotlight sponges contentedly expose their emptiness and have, oh, tacky renown bestowed.

    Upgrades from the old carnival geeks, I suppose.

    Those sad wretches fascinated through their depravity, didn’t they? Nothing like D.T.’s and pint payments of Old Chainsaw to motivate dregs for the lowest common denomination’s entertainment. Who fails seeing what infotainment broadcasters transmit as the current equivalent?

    Despite professing standards higher than approving of rummies gnawing heads off chickens, bottom-feeding public thrall remains lucrative and constant. Proof? Any reality TV program. Today’s arcade sideshows tell every gawking man and woman, “Hey, I degrade myself enough that could be me!”

    Spoken aloud or thought of in attainable aspiration, not recoil.

    The last few weeks at my gym I’ve witnessed a strange exhibition of coquettishness. Claire and Nieves are a distinct couple. Both are body culture adherents. Who would be surprised if that wasn’t the glue sealing them?

    Maybe now in their mid to late 40s, both remain sculpted. They call to mind promotional campaigns directed at my age group swearing if the sucker, uh, customer, buys and imbibes the iguana oil or ingests the fortified mule extract pills, the pitch’s otherwise sedentary mark can also enjoy the advertised revitalizing and reinvigorating benefits. Except neither Claire nor Nieves offers the models’ toothy insincerity.

    They aren’t a grim couple. Just focused. Even when distracted.

    Claire won’t be mistaken for a beauty. Striking, certainly. Likely on the way to severe. Her eyes pierce. Her posture is unyieldingly straight. Claire reminds me of a patrician, one of the long-dead exalted ones, as if she’s about to scold a servant for some picayune infraction. Strangers not knowing her probably believe haughty is her default demeanor. Nothing could be farther from the truth.

    Same with Nieves. A mestizo, sharp facial angles lend him a handsome harshness. In some primitive Central American society his image would be the unblinking godhead dissuading scoffing interlopers from foolishly trespassing onto sacred ground.

    Paired, Claire and Nieves can soften Grant Wood’s “American Gothic” portrait. But when they laugh whatever trepidation precedes them dispels. Of the two she has the bigger laugh. The head reared back body-shaking kind.

    It’s a great question, wondering whether they’re aware of their projections. Do both cultivate the distance in order to better manipulate strangers?

    A few may read the above and reflect on Monte and Fili Vargas, featured characters in On Display, an episode within Reveries. That perhaps Claire and Nieves served as models.

    No. I doubt Claire’s and Nieves’ reserve contain anything near that story’s exhibitionism/voyeurism theme. Although in a properly perverse moment I can envision Nieves coolly eying similar scenes while Claire vigorously entwines among some lucky pickup’s urgent ministrations.

    Claire and Nieves have a teen-age daughter, Daria. In adolescence, during those occasions the girl’s parents couldn’t scare up care and brought her along to the gym, the parents were doubly tasked. On one hand, their workouts, which they complete with no-nonsense, no deviation devotion. On the other, occupying as well as safeguarding the tagalong.

    Lift less, stress more.

    Today, that girl is on the glide path into adulthood. She’s quite an exotic mixture. Daria is a lean blend of her parentage. One can distinguish Nieves’ contributions from Claire’s. Their daughter faces the world with her father’s high cheekbones and sees it through eyes her mother may consider reflections of her own.

    Tall and as bolt-upright as her parents, Daria shines with much of Nieves’ rich, brown complexion. Framing the girl’s head Claire’s auburn, though brushed by highlights.

    Should she want, the girl couldn’t escape her musculature. That’s Claire’s carriage off which breasts bud. That’s also a younger version of her mother’s firm rump churning when she walks.

    It might be easy to forecast Daria but her form is still growing into its function. Which is how we fitness buffs see her during this development. Claire seems to be putting Daria through the most public of awkward paces. I’ve yet to become a parent, though it seems to me these are the sort of procedures that would burden a young woman rather than educate her. Then again maybe the trust between them is so deep it sires unquestioning faith.

    A mother-daughter bind has scant resemblance to the counterpart of a father-son dynamic.

    It’s as if Claire showcases Daria. Something between parading her around and placing the girl in tableaux. Sometimes mother gives implicit instructions, hand gestures included. Other times Claire directs from afar. Unlike the previous insistences, these commands are vague.

    The scenes created sometimes breed unease. Claire will have Daria perform repetitions, or contort herself in provocative ways. Her immaturity should discount any arousal. Sharing Claire’s own preference for curve-clasping workout wear, only the barest opaque weaves stymies any transparency of their clingy clothing.

    Were Daria of age, one might speculate her gestures and costumes designed to further whet already hungry eyes.

    All of this occurs in our gym. Amid usually myopic exertion and clamor. Peripherally noted instead of keenly regarded. Those who’ve taken more than cursory interest have plenty of unfounded theories.

    Character building. A distinctly modern way of pushing the fledging to spread her wings. Some perverse exhibition of maternal power. A psych experiment aimed at us, an unknowing test group. What’s the purpose then? How we observe and respond to a stark mother guiding her daughter? Then who’s gauging us? What’s the reason behind these stimuli?

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