You guys are having such a good time in the comments I’m thinking I should just turn the wheel over to you. Surely you have more to say than I do. I just wrote eight paragraphs of an obituary of Edward Kennedy, then thought Jeez, let the man die first. Then I went back to bed for an hour. I need a very long bike ride and I plan to take it, but before I do so, let me fish this comment by mild-mannered Jeff out of the comments previous and hold it up to the light:
OK, i finally got around to reading the second page of the “purity ball” story and looking at the slide show. For the record, “ewwwww.”
Having typed that, i gotta type this — have y’all been to any Midwestern ceremonial of any of the following: Job’s Daughters, Rainbow Girls, DeMolay, Key Club, Eastern Star, Knights of Pythias, Civil Air Patrol (yes, especially their youth dept.), Grange youth auxiliary, or DAR? I’ve ended up sitting through all these and more doing the opening prayer or singing a solo at the request of the new officer installation or something. They’re all off-kilter rehearsals for weddings and even, in a dim sort of way, funerals, and they share elements of the kitschy and creepy all wound up in Enlightenment symbolism and patriotic fervor and a vague kind of practical mysticism that may use the name “Jesus” with some emphasis but isn’t worried about being Christian at all.
What i find most fascinating (as opposed to appalling) about this is how it’s another expression of the “Bowling Alone” phenomenon in American society — these are events that replace what used to be spread through a whole nine-month, Sept./May programmatic year of youth organizations that you joined and worked through the offices for . . . 12 officers for a group that had maybe 20 members at most meetings.
Those ongoing organizations are fading fast, and “events” are getting cobbled together to replace them, like . . . the Purity Ball. Concentrated kitsch and intense focus on a relationship that needs to play out over time, not find an artificial focus on one evening.
I still laugh at the horror-stricken look on my wife’s face when i pointed out to her, decades after, the Freudian aspect of the major service clubs in her high school for boys and girls — I kid you not, Key Club and Lockets. No points for guessing which was which!
I used to date a boy who was in DeMolay, if an eighth-grader carrying on a long-distance correspondence with a gawky geek in southern Ohio can be called “dating.” I met him when I was in Ironton visiting a friend, and he came to Columbus for a DeMolay convention. I kept saying, “DeMo-wha-?” and I’m still not sure what, exactly, it is, although it has something to do with the Masons. Fortunately, they have a website, which explains:
DeMolay is an organization dedicated to preparing young men to lead successful, happy, and productive lives. Basing its approach on timeless principles and practical, hands-on experience, DeMolay opens doors for young men aged 12 to 21 by developing the civic awareness, personal responsibility and leadership skills so vitally needed in society today. DeMolay combines this serious mission with a fun approach that builds important bonds of friendship among members in more than 1,000 chapters worldwide.
Jeff’s right. One thousand chapters or not, these outfits are dying dying dying. They don’t fit with modern life. Those ladies’ clubs where dowagers gathered in flowered hats to discuss gardening and good works? Going and gone. When I was a columnist, every so often I’d accept a speaking invitation from the Rotary or Lions or (my favorite) the Optimists, and it was like One Hour in Middle-Management Hell. I was frequently struck by the rituals — the group singing, the pledge of allegiance, the pledge of brotherhood, repeated loudly. (Roar lions, roar lions! Bite ’em bite ’em bite ’em!)
It didn’t work out with Mr. DeMolay. I hope he found a nice Rainbow Girl and settled into a nice southern Ohio life. I will always remember him fondly, though, because he took me to see “A Clockwork Orange.”
Since we’re letting others carry my load today, let’s toss it to Michael Musto:
There seem to be more publicists working the Sex and the City movie than hairdressers gathered around Burt Reynolds’ noggin trying to make his shit look real.
Man, I’ll say. Is there a photograph of the Fightin’ Four walking toward the camera in color-coordinated outfits that hasn’t been published yet? It’s like a downmarket version of “The Wire” blitz last winter. And the movie doesn’t open for another week! I may have to go on entertainment-section hiatus to get through it.
Bossy has fallen in love with Rachel Maddow. I haven’t, although I like her fine. She’s strangely compelling to watch, mainly because of the disconnect between her confidence in her ideas and expression, and her plain discomfort in her TV makeup and pearl-gray jacket. She looks like a man who wandered, jacketless, into a restaurant with a dress code, and has to wear one out of the lost-and-found box. I know she probably doesn’t normally spend a lot of time thinking about the semiotics of the smoky eye, and neither do I, so I’ll leave that to her makeup artist. But she was on “On the Media” talking about those jackets, and she said MSNBC finds them for her. MSNBC doesn’t need my financial support, so I won’t take up a collection, but I’d like to suggest they buy her another two or three of them, preferably in deeper colors that will flatter her fine skin. If I were dressing her I’d also put in a word for a necklace or two, maybe some very very subtle silver earrings, but that would probably burn her flesh the way the smoky eye seems to. Bossy has unearthed a picture of her in Buddy Holly frames, and she looks perfectly natural. That’s what she should wear on the air.
(When I was on TV, people were always giving me advice about my turnout. I said to myself, “Boy, I hope I never waste time picking apart TV-news outfits.” Shows what I knew.)
A few of you reader folks have been saying, in comments, that I’m a liberal/socialist for supporting Obama, and I’d like to correct that, although I wonder why I bother, because I suspect some of you would describe anyone to the left of Dick Cheney as such, but here goes: I’m not supporting the Democratic ticket, whatever it shapes up to be, for lots of specific policy reasons. I want us to start developing some sort of solution to the health-care mess, and to get out of Iraq, and to figure out what we’re going to do with the part of the country that has been cut out the American bargain in recent years. That’s a heavy load, and I don’t know if the Illinois senator can carry it all on those slender shoulders of his. But I do know this: No one running for president today can be worse at the job than the current occupant of the Oval Office. So all the talk about whether Obama’s ready or if he’s been tested or if he did something in Chicago that isn’t absolutely kosher good-government best-practices seems irrelevant at this point. All the candidates are imperfect, but for Republican in particular to say, “He’s not qualified,” after eight years of blood-drenched fiascos just seems, I dunno, galling. I’m not getting a tattoo. I’m not buying a T-shirt. But I’m pulling the lever with the sense that whoever wins will be an improvement, and some will represent more improvement than others.
That’s why John McCain is putting as much distance between himself and George W. Bush as is humanly possible, and that’s why, barring a disaster, Obama’s the favorite to win. Yes, it’s that bad. Get the hook.
Back tomorrow. More rested, I hope.