I was on the front porch this week when you drove by and I waved, thinking life is short, so let’s cut to the chase: A person can now make it in this world without using the algebra they crammed into us during high school.
It’s looks and picture-perfect smiles that now propels you forward to success in this world, and I, who grew up with Old Testament Baptists on tobacco farms, know this for a fact. I was blessed with gloominess and flaming acne, which saved me from fame and fortune and thus ruin.
However, other people have tons of charm and smiles, like people that cook in church kitchens, hospital nurses, Australians and my urologist. But stoics like myself have all the charm of a Soviet tractor. People tend to orbit away from us, it’s lonely, and probably what drove me to writing and Diazepam.
Smiles and timing open doors these days. If Donald Trump or Barack Obama had grown up fundamentalists in my neighborhood, they never would have been a big noise in politics. Instead, they would have worked at a bait shop or sold used trucks.
Photogenic smiles with media coverage now make careers. Think Kardashians. Paris Hilton.
I was brought up believing that cream rises to the top, merit ultimately wins, and the race is to the swift, but that ain’t necessarily so, Joe. The swift usually reach the finish line first if they are camera beautiful.
Some people way up North once emailed wanting to consider me for an award for a story I wrote about farming and menopause. I drafted an email saying what a surprise this was and that I was so undeserving, which, as you know, is the gospel truth. Awards should go to people who suffer for their art, not a guy who writes stories while munching pork rinds.
Then I thought, “What if they agree?” And write back saying, ‘Oops, our bad. Sorry.’” I may never be offered another award ever again.
So, I deleted the draft email and replied with the subject line “Thank you!!!”
But awards can be notoriously unfair. I recently saw a child fail to get an award due to parental politics. I was incensed.
Some of the most deserving people go unnoticed while the dopiest politically connected collect one plastic trophy after another.
In literature, if you win a Nobel Prize it’s like winning the Heisman Trophy, Olympic gold medal and the Magic Globe all rolled in to one. The award gives you “wowza” power. You could be a jerk, but walk into a room and people are awed. Babies go quiet. Editors kneel. Maidens in white togas slip you their phone number.
But that’s the world we live in.
Meanwhile, the lonely soul with a pronounced overbite and oily hair who is scratching out his thoughts in the Boise Public Library is facing a wall of cold concrete a mile high, and fortunately he doesn’t know it now, but one day he will, and my heart bleeds for him. Those people up North should write him, not me.
But awards aren’t everything. Your children should be taught to do good without expecting recognition. Be kind. Open doors for people.
You’re not media material? No problemo. You can be useful, which is better for the world than being photogenic with Hollywood-size depression. Are you taking notes?
Oh, and another thing: It wouldn’t hurt you to smile more — really — you look better that way. It’s so cute. Honest. Your mother agrees with me. Smile. Do it. Now.
Aw, just look at you!