Sunday, May 31, 2009

Reflections: More Ted and Red

With age, the pleasures of looking become more intense.
~ Theodore Roethke, Straw for the Fire

As did Theodore Roethke, I live and work on a college campus. Spring has sprung and the young women—those who in Roethke’s and in my day were known as “coeds”—are out and about in their warm weather threads. Many of them are more out than about. Décolleté, sunkist navels and well-tanned coin slots—once exhibited only by fat plumbers wearing tool belts—all bloomed with the forsythia, appearing now in contexts that might well have led to arrests back when I was an undergrad. First they were called “short-shorts”—Who wears short-shorts? Da-da-da-da, da-da-da-da—and then they were known as “hot pants.” I don’t know what they call them now, and I’m afraid to ask.

And there are many more strikingly beautiful young women now than there were in my day, too. Today’s girls have all had their bites corrected. They all have contact lenses. Their clothing is more flattering to the female form and their sense of style with regard to hair and make-up has evolved since the 1960s to breath-taking effect. Girls today run; they work-out; they play sports—their limbs are trim and shapely and fit to be exposed in their full length to the appreciative eye.

But, zut alors!, these paragons of female beauty—this parading gender-bait—these nonchalantly sexual bambini—are my daughters' peers. Had I started my family at a younger age, they’d be the peers of my frigging grand-daughters. My temples are white, my eyes are red; my drooling heart trembles with that of Han Shan, as translated with commentary by Red Pine:

65. A group of girls play in fading light
wind fills the road with perfume
their skirts are embroidered with butterflies of gold
their hair is adorned with ducks of jade
their maids are dressed in red chiffon
their eunuchs in purple brocade
watching is someone who has lost his way
white temples and a trembling heart

65. At the sight of the emperor’s harem my heart would tremble too. The use of red and purple was reserved for the imperial household, as was the use of castrated male servants in the women’s quarters.