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The All-American Girl

January 5, 2014

 

Julie Blue

(Model: Julie Miller-Clauson  Photographer: Sheri Frazier)

(This is an excerpt from my book THE EDUCATION OF A WHITE BOY)

The All-American girl!

Everything thing we do, not just me, we do for HER!

And here we arrive at the heart of the argument, whether that argument be what this beautiful, blonde-haired, wholesome, god-fearing girl represents to the African-American male (read The Autobiography of Malcolm X and Native Son); or to the Jewish male (look up the word shiksa or read American Pastoral by Philip Roth); or the black man trying to be a card-carrying member of privileged white society and ending up ostracized from this same society for committing the ultimate sin of murdering the pinnacle of its Womanhood, the All-American girl (witness O.J. Simpson); or to any man wanting to clinch his alpha male status by marrying the All-American girl, who, even after five kids and thirty years of domesticity, will still maintain her sunny beauty and slim figure (see Mitt Romney and his wife, Ann); or to any under-achieving oddball guy who sees in the All-American girl a way of cheating the American Dream by gaining the end-result without having to, first, endure the soulless reprogramming necessary to become an Organization Man (see the author of this book). The All-American girl represents the highest form of White Girl, the Queen of the dominant race. She is the crowning jewel to the big house on the hill.

The All-American girl would be mythical if she was not so often seen in the flesh as the most popular girl in high school, or the girlfriend of the college quarterback, or the bride at an overwrought wedding reception at a prestigious country club in Ohio, or the gorgeous (always smiling) mom standing on the sidelines at her star kids’ sporting events coached by her police officer husband. In the exurbs and other such “nice” communities, I have witnessed this woman – call her Val, or Gail, or Julie – always surrounded by a creeping host of male admirers. Many of these sycophants are married men whose wives have shoulders and thighs with the accumulated girth of a linebacker on a poor diet. These women, unlike the shimmering All-American girl, have paid the realistic anatomical penalty of age and childbirth. The husbands to these women look with an aching heart and a tragic longing at the All-American girl, now the ideal mom still blessed with a twenty-inch waist and a sunny disposition, though these men will refer to her as a “friend,” no really, and they may very well believe this lie if only to keep their sanity. Meanwhile, their fleshy wives cannot bring themselves to hate Val, or Gail, or Julie, because she really is so damn nice, always so approachable, always ready to bless them with her radiant smile – and, yes, since high school never does end, these ladies have never stopped aspiring, sometimes against their own will, to be the best friend of Val, or Gail, or Julie, regardless of how their husbands continue to avoid their conjugal duties because they would rather hide in the bathroom and  fantasize their “friend” Val, or Gail or Julie.

The All-American girl is above all the ultimate conformist. She not only symbolizes the apotheosis of the American Dream; she also believes and practices the rules of Babbitt America from the rule that she dye her blonde if it is actually red or brown, to never uttering a phrase that has not already been hammered into a burnished cliché. Only the pressures of unattractiveness force people toward eccentric thought and action, whereas our girl has never had reason to venture “outside the box,” and thus she becomes more and more entrenched inside the smiling box painted by Norman Rockwell. This means that she also follows protocol in the choice of mate: he is always, tall, handsome and successful, or a cop, a guy whose job it is to give tickets to people for not following the rules. He is the Man, the alpha white man, which explains the black man, in the movie, Undercover Brother, calling her, in this case the lovely Denise Richards, Black Man’s Kryptonite. That leaves the rest of us, the young Malcom X, the young Philip Roth, all the oddball men, to say nothing of the millions of men who adhere to the rules of the American Dream but who are not quite good enough at the game, or who, let’s face it, have been the unlucky victim of bad genes that have left them with less than movie star good looks – yes, that leaves the rest of us guys to pine away when seeing the All-American girl on the arm of the Mitt Romneys of the world – i.e., The Man. At the same time, we cannot hate her for rejecting us because, again, she really is nice and will in fact give us the time of day if we make the effort to approach her in a public place. She will smile her generic smile and repeat a few feel-good clichés – “good for you” is one of her favorites — which, to our eternal stupidity, we will misinterpret as a sign, however slim, that we still have a chance.

Yet there really is something mythical about the All-American girl. That is because only a few of us will ever mate, and share a life, with her, while the rest of us are forced to use our imagination, which is the first step toward the idealization of the All-American girl and thence to bowing to what we have convinced ourselves is a Goddess. Not only that, but there is a mirage-like quality to this lady, as her eternal sunniness blurs her image, and her forever fit body defies the Laws of Thermodynamics, and her personality is the cliché-for-cliché product of a template drawn up in the Heartland, as evidenced by how the numbers of real Julies increase the closer you get to Kansas, the very epicenter of disembodied blandness. Vanna White is the most visible All-American girl, though she is from South Carolina, which may as well be Kansas with trees.

Yes, everything we men do we do for HER, the All-American girl. Malcolm X went to jail for HER, O.J. Simpson killed for HER while killing the actual HER, Mitt Romney ran for President for HER, and I may have written this book for HER. Black men have been whipped and hung for HER. Less than handsome and talented men have been relegated to court courtiers along the Little League sidelines for HER. Young men have gone off to war to impress HER, have killed Vietnamese, Iraqis and Afghans for HER. And before Val, or Gail, or Julie, the All-American girl was Helen of Troy, the face that launched a thousand ships; and when she is a contemporary non-American, she is Lara in Dr. Zhivago, the Blonde Myth/Goddess at the heart of the bloody Russian Revolution. Everything we do we do for HER.

To this day, my heart and mind will still become unhinged when I see HER at my gym, or on the streets, or at the supermarket pushing a cart full of healthy food. This, of course, makes no sense in that she represents everything I am not: cliché, conformity, unearned condescension. Yet there she is, nearing or past menopause, still sunny, beautiful, lithe and athletic – and, yes, still mythic — and I fall in love with her all over again.

(Check out my writer’s website: http://www.authorjamesfjohnson.com)

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