*The Beauty and the Geek

For a few years now, I have been spending a lot of time thinking how great it must be to be so good looking that you don’t need to have a personality. Naturally, this idea had occurred to me before, but it was a real-life encounter with a genuine beauty that unequivocally brought the truth of it home to me.

Back in 2002, when I was working at a publishing company, I went to the launch of a book written by the proprietors of a modelling agency. Now, when it comes to the women they represented, I’m not talking top-shelf models; I’m not talking anyone you would have heard of. But, even so, which could not be less typical of a book launch, the guests were a dazzling array of individuals. At one stage, a photographer wanted to take a picture of one of the models, and we from the publishing company who happened to be in her ambit were ordered out of the way. It was clear from the photographer’s manner that this was less because he wanted a picture of the model by herself than because we were just too hideous for him to engage with.

There’s one guest in particular I remember, though: a model whom I shall call ‘B’, largely because I don’t actually remember her name. I haven’t forgotten it because I wasn’t interested enough to remember it; I just never listen when people are introduced to me, because all I’m thinking about is the impression I am making on them. Anyway, I noticed B early on, because she had arrived at the frivolities right on the dot of the appointed time, and so was initially stuck standing around by herself, awkwardly clutching a handbag. Now, the thing about B was that she was the most gorgeous creature I have ever seen in the flesh. My humble words will fail to describe her adequately, so I won’t even try, but suffice to say that it appeared that various of the earth’s most attractive races had combined to create a perfect specimen of humanity.

B and I ended up spending hours and hours together at the launch; the only possible reason for this was that, despite the fact she’d apparently been invited, she didn’t know anyone there. Whatever the reason, though, talking to her was nothing less than an education. Much of her conversation consisted of tales of her, most unpleasant, history with men. The most notable of these concerned her having had as a boyfriend an Australian comedian with so many horrid projects to his name that if I told you to whom I’m referring, you would weep with embarrassment for B at the fact that she had ever publicly stepped out with him, let alone discussed with random strangers having done so. What was most awful to hear was that this man, despite his physical unattractiveness and microscopic talent, treated her very badly, having seen fit constantly to criticise her intelligence and abilities. And, what’s worse, this fellow wasn’t even the first such unattractive man who’d got a bang out of behaving in such a manner.

Too, what struck me when talking to B was not merely the content of her talk but the way in which she conducted a conversation. We spoke of nothing but her (not that I minded, as her life was about a million times as interesting as mine was) and she didn’t seem to understand the notion of participating in a dialogue. B had no problem telling me about anything, from her, alleged, bisexuality to the fact she had, she claimed, had ribs removed to improve her silhouette; fine with me, but she just threw out each subject, with no preamble and with no connection between them, and without waiting for any response. Actually, I had to admire the fact that she didn’t simulate listening to me while sitting there thinking about herself, the way I would have. Instead, she didn’t even pretend our talk was a two-way street.

B was clearly someone who had never had to learn the rules of social intercourse, because she was so lovely to look at that her physical presence was all that she needed to supply. Can you imagine how sweet life would be if you never had to worry about holding up your end of a discussion? I would feel a lot better about the prospect of parties if I knew I wouldn’t spend them suffering the torment of, first, having to find someone to talk to and, second, wondering throughout the conversation whether they were only talking to me out of kindness and should I therefore excuse myself, as an act of kindness on my part, or would I be hurting their feelings by doing so, which would be especially unfortunate if the day came that I had to beg some kind of favour from them. If I looked like B, on the other hand, I could be confident that the other person would merely be grateful that I was having anything whatsoever to do with them.

All right now, you may think that the story I am telling you about B and her ill-treatment at the hands of repulsive male entertainers contradicts my views on how desirable it would be to be so good looking that you don’t need any other attributes. But, on the other hand, it’s only because B was so beautiful that I still recall so vividly so much of what she said to me. You can’t tell me that she recalls in the same detail what I said to her, or even that she remembers me at all. While, for me, spending an evening talking to her was as exotic and exciting as if I’d spent it dodging the clones in Richard T Heffron’s Futureworld.

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