Rendered Fat Content


Ben Shahn: Sideshows at the Ashville,
July 4th celebration, Ashville, Ohio

" … providing the forehead The Muse uses to bounce her hair-brained ideas off of …"

The Muse's campaign to become elected Port Commissioner has already turned her into a local Celebrity. She's forever running into somebody she knows. It seems wherever she goes now, her reputation preceded her arrival. She's also taken to dropping names, not to show off, but to ascribe stories. Most of the names I do not recognize, but I understand that they mainly belong to those who already joined the ranks of the locally famous: leaders of various colors, executive directors, movers, as well as shakers. She was apparently inducted into that company, if only due to her audacity. She lost whatever anonymity she ever possessed when she started making a name for herself. Whether she was born a leader doesn't much matter. She now has many followers.

I have taken to introducing myself as The Muse's Arm Candy.
I do not mention that for me, she's my Muse, for musing's supposed to be private business. Nobody in history ever walked around wearing a sandwich board advertising their profession as "Muse." It would not do to so overtly practice the art. I doubt the influence would even work properly if very widely advertised. So, she has a secret life beneath her newly-emerging Celebrity. This fact makes her notoriety just that much more believable because everyone knows that every famous anybody must have a semi-secret backstory. There really should be a few outstanding questions about how she gained notoriety. A hint of scandal or mystery seems essential for even a small city celebrity. I stand on the sideline handing out lapel stickers.

In The Muse's adolescent angst between beauty and smarts, she never felt herself very beautiful. Truth told, she never seriously entertained the notion that she might be either intelligent or beautiful until later when her fellow students in college protested that she was purposefully busting the curve by routinely acing difficult exams she felt were too easy. Remnants remain of the effects of the original, unexceptional brutality by which cheerleaders get chosen. She learned that she was a mutt in that assessment, as she explains it now, and never suspected that she might somehow be judged as socially acceptable. Her candidacy forced her out into public to engage as if she might be attractive, however unlikely that might have seemed to her. Yesterday, I handed two old women, who were giggling like witches on a porch, some of The Muse's campaign literature. "Oh, she's a cutie," one of them exclaimed. The Muse admits that perhaps she's not the mutt she'd earlier classified herself as.

Celebrity, they say, takes a toll on everybody. If there's no free lunch, there's also no free celebratory dinner. The accolades come with expectations, and that appreciative audience might instantly turn on her. A single unintended offensive aside, an unpopular position on a seemingly trivial issue might cause a stampede toward the exit. When planning for this campaign, we fully expected some disparaging disclosures to suddenly start appearing in letters to the editor, asking double-binding questions best left unanswered to impugn our otherwise spotless candidate. We decided when planning that we would exert no effort even attempting to counter those offensives but work instead to build a rock-solid reputation before the inevitable attacks come to thereby co-opt the attackers' credibility. She's no angel but far from qualifying as any kind of devil, either.

Celebrity brings greater responsibility, primarily the sacred obligation to be late for supper six nights out of seven. Her chosen road is not necessarily lined with sweetly-scented roses, and she must always maintain exacting situational awareness. Her loose lips could sink more than ships. Her opinions suddenly matter and remain just as open for misinterpretation as anyone's, probably even more so. Some oppose her success, maybe even a few who are jealous of the apparent ease with which she was elevated. The Arm Candy knows plenty he ain't spillin'. He's been providing the forehead The Muse uses to bounce her hair-brained ideas off of until they make sense. I told her early in her campaign that I would probably vote for her, depending upon how much politics she bounced off my forehead. Too much, and I might just vote for the unthinkable.

©2023 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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