The Ugly Truth

I'll Take Janet Reno Over John McCain Any Day.

By Tom Danehy

I'M UGLY; ALWAYS have been. I'm neither proud nor ashamed of that fact, simply aware. I mean, I'm not Elephant Man ugly, but at the same time, I've never been walking through the mall only to have somebody say, "Mel? Mel Gibson? Is that you?"

In my entire life, not one person has ever referred to me as handsome, good-looking, or even average. It's always been that way for me, and seeing as how I'm way on the dark side of 40, it's probably safe to assume I'm not going to get better looking any time soon.

Danehy I've heard all the words, caught all the slurs. But I got over it real early on. First of all, I was a guy, so it didn't really matter all that much. That's not particularly fair, but life sucks sometimes. Plus, I was blessed with a sharp tongue, so I pretty much always gave better than I got.

Mostly however, I thank my saintly Italian mother for putting things in perspective. She told me early and often that looks were no big deal. I was especially impressed by her tender words of advice: "If you want girls to like you, you either have to be good-looking or have a nice personality. So you'd better get to work on that personality."

Gee thanks, Mom.

I was at Disneyland a few weeks ago. Sitting on a bench on Main Street, watching people go by, I learned three things:

1. The vast majority of people fall into the range of moderately to extremely unattractive.

2. Not all ugly people know that they're ugly, but the people standing next to them do.

3. Japanese tourists will sit right down next to you even if it involves their sitting on the big book you left on the bench to discourage that very thing from happening.

Watching all those people go by--stuffed into too-small clothing, wearing too much makeup, hair miscombed every whichaway--I realized that ugly people basically only have three choices. They can embrace their ugliness, a rather creepy tack which generally manifests itself in the riding of skateboards as a teenager and then in the wearing of black socks and Hawaiian shirts as an adult.

They can try to hide, fight or disguise it, or they can just shrug and accept it. There's no real right or wrong answer, here. It's just a matter of different strokes.

I rarely, if ever, think about these things. But lately, I've been getting seriously bugged about a growing social phenomenon. I'm getting tired of media people and "entertainers" attempting to be humorous by ridiculing other people's appearance. It's ridiculous and petty and completely uncalled-for. Not to mention being a pot-and-kettle thing.

When did we cross that line as a society that allows us to make a living by ridiculing other people about things over which they have little or no control? Is it part of the general slide into Dumb-Down Land, or is it just a temporary detour into bad taste? I hope it's the latter, but either way, we should be ashamed. What's next, wheelchair humor? Hey, did you hear the one about the guy who had multiple sclerosis? It's just not right.

I'm walking a tightrope here, because I've made thousands of fat, ugly and/or gross jokes in my life. But I've only done it with (and at) my friends. You know how that it is: What are friends for if you can't use and degrade them? Whatever you called it when you were growing up--the dozens, chopping, ragging--I was real good at it. But I can swear I've never said a cruel word about appearance to or about someone I didn't know, or to someone for whom those words would be hurtful.

I'll even admit that I chuckled at the title of Al Franken's book, Rush Limbaugh Is A Big Fat Idiot. But I was glad that Franken used the book to attack Limbaugh's pomposity, arrogance and unwillingness to admit his mistakes, rather than focusing on his appearance the way Limbaugh does to other people.

Lately I've been feeling bad for U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno. This is perhaps the most successful female lawyer of all time, and yet all we ever hear about is that she's too tall, too gawky, and just plain unattractive. What does that have to do with anything?

Is it her choice to go through life unattractive and unattached? I don't think so. I saw her interviewed once and she poignantly said that she really felt bad about never having had the opportunity to get married and have children, or for that matter, to even date all that much. Is that funny to anybody? Maybe to those dyed-blonde, face-lifted Tammy Faye Bakker-looking scuzzes who sit at Republican fundraisers and laugh at stupid stuff like that. But it shouldn't be funny to anybody who has a heart instead of just a wallet.

Even worse is the use of Chelsea Clinton's appearance to get a cheap laugh. I've never been in a fight in my entire life (amazing considering all the yang I talk), but I don't care if I were the President. Somebody calls my 13-year-old daughter a dog, I'm kickin' the shit out of him.

A few weeks ago, Arizona Senator John McCain took a poke at Janet Reno and Chelsea Clinton in one "joke." It was tasteless and unfunny, not to mention that that dude would even be behind me in line of people ranked by looks. He got caught and offered a weak apology. A couple weeks later, he's being hailed as a hero and a statesman because he was one of the few guys in the Senate who had the testicular capacity to do what every human being knows is right by standing up to the Tobacco Lobby. For that he's a hero?

That joke certainly wasn't very Senatorial.

Maybe McCain made a mistake with that joke. Maybe he's really sorry. I hope so. I also hope those jokes stop.

You want to attack Janet Reno's politics or job performance, go ahead. But stay off her looks. Ugly people should realize they live in a big-ass glass house. And handsome people should be grateful for what they've got and rise above all that. And John McCain should shut-up and spend some time Windexing the vitreous walls of his humble abode. TW

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