The Unbearable Burden of Beauty

 The late Reeva Steenkamp Credit:

The late Reeva Steenkamp

“Why is it that men destroy the very object of their desire?” Precilla is still hugely upset about the recent events. “It’s as if beauty drives them to destruction.”

“Oh, come on!” Vetfaan sits back and eyes her critically. “Women are just as bad. Remember Daisy de Melker? She took out two husbands and her son.  And Nannie Doss killed eleven people, which included husbands, her mother, a nephew , children and a grandchild.”

“Those were serial killers, Vetfaan. I’m talking about apparently normal men – if there are any of them.  Your usual John Doe, the happy teller in the bank.  The guy driving the removal van. Even the CEO of an international company.  Guys who earned the respect of society but then goes and steals the petty cash in the safe, or shoplifts an apple in Woolworths?  If you have what you want in life, why do a Clinton with the intern? Or why build a Nkandla with corruption money when you life is filled with luxury already?”

“You need to define beauty first. Are we talking about perfect circumstances, or physical bodies and faces? Personally, I’ve never figured out why certain dimensions and proportions should be labelled as ‘beauty’. The eyes must be so. The nose just there. Lips a certain way… It doesn’t make sense.” Gertruida stares at the mirror behind the bottles. “Look: Precilla has the same number of ears and eyes  as I have, yet you’ll all agree she’s much more beautiful.”

Her remark triggers a series of coughs and mutters. The men can’t agree or differ without offending one of the two women.

Vetfaan – who arguably has the least to lose, breaks the impasse. “I think men were created as sexual beings. Our job is to do our bit to ensure the survival of mankind. So, ever since the beginning of time, men are instinctively drawn to a certain type of woman. She has to exhibit certain characteristics. Men think boobs are sexy – and maybe they are – but in essence the better-proportioned lady will more likely supply sufficient nourishment for the baby. When men stare at voluptuous hips, they never think about the birthing process that requires certain dimensions to ensure a living mother and baby afterwards.” He quickly scans the group in Boggel’s Place to make sure he’s not offending anybody. “So men were wired to think certain attributes are sexy, and that’s why the old caveman dragged the woman back to his cave. He thought she’s a beauty, but in essense he instinctively chose the best genetic material to procreate.”

“So you’re saying that attractive women instinctively cause men to want to have sex?” A small spark of danger flashes in Precilla’s eyes.

“Think about it. There are two strong life forces, and they both have to do with survival. The one is the will to live – the mortally wounded soldier, trying to crawl back to safety. The other is, quite frankly, sex; the need to produce the next generation. So we are brought up to associate sex and success.  Cars are advertised with a busty blonde draped over the bonnet. Sandy-rumped beach bunnies  convince you to buy fruity drinks. Magazines with scantily-clad models on the cover, sell better than those featuring a rusty mine shaft. Society is at fault here: we’ve allowed the very intimate act of sex to become a social commodity. We use the female body to remind real men what real success is. Only, we don’t define real success as it should be: in the old days it was the assurance there’ll be a next generation. Nowadays, success is the curvy girl who tells you she’ll love you forever if you are man enough to buy the Porsche.” Vetfaan wipes a bead of sweat from his forehead – that was close! Precilla can be a bit of a prude when it comes to discussing sex in public.

“But that still doesn’t answer my question. Why destroy beauty? If a girl has all the right proportions – as you so succinctly put it –  should a man not cherish her? Should he not protect her as the mother of the future? Why kill something so precious?”

“The same reason why men rape a girl to death in Bredasdorp or Delhi. Why a woman gets raped every four minutes in this country. Or why our President has so many wives.” Vetfaan is even more worried now – this is uncharted territory in Boggel’s Place. “It’s called inadequacy.  Men are hunters. They’ll stalk an antelope, and the hunt ends in killing the object of their quest. They want to prove themselves as superior. As much as women bear the hidden promise of survival, men are burdened with the quest to conquer. Self-assured men do not need to boost their egos by proving their sexuality – they’ll be clever enough to fall in love with the biggest sexual organ a woman possesses: the mind.  And then it doesn’t matter if that brain floats around behind a nice-looking face – or a hairless head with squinty eyes. But the chap who need to project success to the community, will carefully select a model, a celebrity, or a beauty queen. He wants to show the world the success of his hunt. She becomes an object – a medal to wear – to make him look good.”

Gertruida pats him on the shoulder. “Well done, Vetfaan, you got out of that one nicely. And I agree with you. These men – the inadequate ones – can only believe in themselves by surrounding them with the thing they lack most: beauty. And then, one day, they realise something terrible: the image and reality aren’t the same. They got what they wanted: the adoration and jealousy of their peers – but deep inside they know: they can’t bluff themselves any more. The paparazzi aren’t following them around because he’s such a great guy – they want the candid shot of a heated argument. And then the poor inadequate man starts doubting even more – can he hold on to this beauty? Won’t she see through him to discover his weaknesses?

“That’s when the arguments start. He gets jealous. He wants to possess her. And that sometimes means he has to kill her to achieve that.”

“You may be right, Gertruida.” Precilla nods quietly. “But what about rape?”

“Take one of these inadequate men –  or a group of them. They simply know they’re not good enough to woo a girl with respect. And remember, in South Africa they hand out condoms in schools – the government is actually encouraging kids to experiment. They’re not trying to take a moral stand, they’re simply trying to cut down on the expense of treating AIDS. The President struts around, bragging with a harem and maybe 40 children. He’s the leader of the country and his message is: Look at me. I’m so successful. I have many wives. I produce numerous offspring.  So, with that example and the encouragement to have sex, the youths of today want to prove their adequacy by having sex, even if they have to force it.”

“And so they destroy beauty?” Boggel’s concern is written all over his face.

“Yes. Whether you shoot somebody through a bathroom door, or rape a girl to death, the inadequate man will rather destroy beauty than admit he doesn’t have the guts to face himself. He’s prepared to throw away his future because he can’t live with the present reality.”

“So the value-system is all skewed? We’ve mixed sex and success and survival – the things people want most – into a recipe to destroy beauty?”

“Sadly, yes.” Gertruida shrugs and spreads her arms wide. “Look at government. Look at advertisements. Look at the heroes we’ve created for ourselves.  Look at society and the signals of success it demands.

“And, while all men aren’t insecure; those that are, get driven to acts that are as violent as they are unacceptable. It may be something that occurs as a spur-of-the-moment madness, or be a permanent  insanity. But, in the few men who succumb to these urges, the result is tragedy. One woman told me: I heard the car door slam, and immediately looked at the clock. I knew then…it was too late..’

“We’re not all like that, Gertruida.” Vetfaan gets up to go. The discussion has really clouded his day. “The majority of men are  good, strong individuals who are completely comfortable with themselves.”

“Then, Vetfaan, it is time for them to get out of their comfort zones and  change the rules. They have to make themselves heard. If they don’t change anything, everything will remain the same.”


22 thoughts on “The Unbearable Burden of Beauty

  1. thehappyhugger

    You touched on points here which are so pertinent. I have written and cried a similar post, it is just waiting for me to press publish, but I am in two minds about actually publishing…

      1. thehappyhugger

        Writing it took so much out of me, perhaps I should edit it a little and then publish. I am grateful that you are posting about these tragedies, because it’s as you said, it has to be talked about, discussed.

  2. cocoaupnorth

    I can’t help but cry for my beloved country. I’m so burying my head on the sand and not wanting to believe this. When I saw it on the local news channel here, I thought why would someone who had it all go to such great lengths?
    Thank you for this post, I would imagine it was not an easy write and it takes courage to talk about this issues.
    Take care.

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