As I may have mentioned here a time or two hundred, I’m a retired equestrienne. One of these days, when I get a working scanner again, I’ll put some pix up of me in my riding togs, jumping fences on my very expensive steed, who was only expensive to me; among people who ride, he was little better than a plug. I rode with 14-year-old girls whose doctor daddies thought nothing of dropping a mid-five-figure sum on a well-trained thoroughbred for their darling daughters, and even that was on the cheap end, even then. At the elite levels, a five-figure sum is the monthly bill.
But never mind that. I did my time in the saddle, and while I never had the build or the talent or the budget to be a contender, I didn’t totally disgrace myself, and I learned a lot along the way. One of the things I learned was how to fall off.
Falling from a horse, in our culture, is made out to be far scarier than it is. In a movie, if a pregnant woman gets on a horse, she will be suffering a miscarriage within minutes. Bonnie Blue Butler only had to put the fence rails up too high to meet her tragic fate. And while there are a number of horrible accidents in riding competitions every year, they are exceptional. People with fancy horses tend to work them in riding rings with deep, soft footing, and what’s good for Dobbin’s legs is also good for your sorry ass when you land in it. Not that it doesn’t hurt, but unless you come off head-first or somehow land on the jump or the rail, chances are you’ll be just fine. The classic riding injuries are not Christopher Reeve’s broken neck but the big three — broken wrist and/or collarbone (from putting your hands out as the ground comes up to meet you), and cracked ribs.
Which brings us to Madonna, who either needs to toughen up or stay out of the saddle. I’ve dismounted more horses the hard way than she’s dismounted boyfriends, and never once did I have to go to the hospital — on a backboard, no less — for what turned out to be bruises. I thought she was Miss Super Fitness. Just get up, dust off your ass, lead your mount back to the block, get back on and finish the class. That’s how the tough girls do it.
My trainer didn’t coddle people who fell. She wasn’t a tyrant about it; a kid who was honestly terrified by the experience wasn’t forced back into the saddle at gunpoint or anything. But she never made a big fuss one way or another. It was like oopsy-daisy, everything OK? Fine, up you go and pick up a posting trot. As all parents know, the bigger the fuss you make over any injury, the more the injured party is frightened. However, I get the feeling that making a fuss over Madonna is pretty much the point of her existence, so I’m not surprised she was content to stay immobile on the ground while worried faces and EMTs peered down at her.
BTW, I was dumped because of “paparazzi,” too. I could never afford a good, well-trained horse, so I rode a couple of young, spooky ones. A barking dog, a loud muffler, a sudden hand gesture or windy day could turn them into the sorts of animals who disappear from underneath you and simultaneously reappear 10 feet to the left. You felt like Wily Coyote, running off the cliff. As I picked myself out of the dirt, I’d tell my trainer, “(X) spooked him.” She’d say, “Learn to stay on your horse.”
In Madge’s defense, however, one of my favorite lines from Thomas McGuane, as a character is riding the spooks out of a young stud colt: “By your mid-thirties the ground has begun to grow hard. It grows harder and harder until the day it admits you.” True dat.
OK, some quick bloggage for, what else, a dreary Monday:
How fast food can kill you. It has nothing to do with cholesterol.
Dear Mr. President, this is how letters get to your desk.
It’s a good thing Berkeley has so many rich people. White roofs for all!
Why I keep fivethirtyeight.com bookmarked, even though the election’s over: For posts like this, about Minnesota’s Senate election.
Finally, since we seem to be heavy on the popculch today, to the next person who sends me the Susan Boyle video:
Stop it. I don’t care how much you were moved, wowed, whatevered. I don’t care. Don’t you realize how condescending this all is? Don’t you know how much you’re being played? Is there nothing Simon Cowell can’t make a buck from? You know why Susan Boyle is such a phenomenon? It’s not because she’s a great singer; how would anyone know? There are two recordings of her singing two songs extant in the world. No, Susan Boyle is a phenom because she’s ugly. Go ahead, say it: Ug-ly. Leave the nicer euphemisms — frumpy, dowdy — for the weak-willed. The bottom line is, when someone is ugly in our culture, we expect nothing good from them. The idea that a ugly woman could open her mouth and have something beautiful come out flummoxes us — how could she have been cultivating a love for music when she was neglecting her eyebrows and fitness routine so? Doesn’t she know our priorities? If a gorgeous woman had come out and given the exact same performance, you probably wouldn’t even know about it.
The next step, after celebrating Susan Boyle for being a fine singer, is a YouTube video of some street-looking black kid who steps to a microphone in a speech competition and delivers a perfect reading of a Shakespearean sonnet. Look, he’s so articulate! Just be aware.
Also, pleeze: Does anyone honestly believe the judges didn’t know what was coming? Do you think people make it onstage at shows like that without a single pre-performance screening? You think Simon didn’t know the camera was on him, red light lit, when he smiled? How dumb are we?
Pretty dumb, I’d say.