I think it’s fair to say that many of us have some aspect of our physical appearance that we wish was different in some way. I’m not even talking about extreme cases we may have read about involving plastic surgery addicts, but I’d theorize that even among most emotionally, mentally and physically healthy individuals, the percentage of people who believe they are 100% physically perfect is probably slim-to-none. People may consider themselves to be reasonably attractive, but with the qualifier that there are one or two (or three) little things they wish they could change. For me, and as a somewhat insecure adolescent, that thing was my nose.
Mine is a big, honking, convex thing. I suppose this was my destiny, when I envision my father’s stout, west African schnozz and my mother’s long, Teutonic beak, but my observation has been that it isn’t usually until our teenage years that our faces start to show what we’re really going to look like in adulthood. Up until maybe around the fifth grade, my nose was a much smaller, button-like thing on my little round face. By the time I hit middle school, I feel like my nose had overtaken my (very prominent) front teeth as perhaps my most noticeable facial feature.
Perhaps this is why I could never completely warm to the newly-resized and reclassified personal luxury 1969 Pontiac Grand Prix. People have waxed poetic about the brawny length of its hood, luxurious proportions, and taut, muscular styling. For me, when I had first taken notice of this generation of GP, I just couldn’t get past that beak on its face. Did the front clip of the 1969 and ’70 Grand Prix hit too close to home? Was my self-esteem as a kid really that poor and/or tied to my unfavorable self-assessment of one aspect of my appearance that I subconsciously couldn’t allow myself to appreciate the stylistic genius of a year, make and model of car that seems to be nearly universally loved?
Lest anyone have any concerns about the state of my own mind and any perceived body dysmorphia, in young adulthood I came to absolutely love my nose. Okay, too far… I more than made peace with it. I like my nose. Do you know why? Because it’s part of what gives me true visual identity. My light brown skin tone and other facial features are ethnically ambiguous enough, especially given my cleanly shaven scalp and absence of hair; It’s my nose’s size and shape that provide some clearer clues as to what my background(s) may be.
It’s the same thing with this GP. By looking at it, could this machine be anything other than a Pontiac? I’m guessing that even some Millennials who aren’t necessary car fanatics could easily and readily identify this beautiful, blue coupe as a Pontiac by the protrusion up front and its split grille – familial themes that would continue, unbroken, until the demise of the marque in the mid-Aughts.
I have also seen some pretty grotesque examples of unnecessary plastic surgery gone wrong, and have felt true compassion for such self-victims who chose to (unsuccessfully) alter some aspect(s) of their appearance instead of making peace with it / them. Like recording artist Ray Stevens sings in his Billboard Hot 100 Number One hit from 1970, everything is beautiful in its own way. Though he may be viewed as more of a novelty act, I absolutely believe he means what he says when I hear him sing these lyrics.
The bottom line is also that it’s what’s inside that really matters. Some of the people I’ve encountered, both men and women, who I have considered paragons of physical perfection have turned out to be not so beautiful on the inside as evidenced by their words and actions. Likewise, many of us are familiar with some experience, whether first- or secondhand, with some beautifully-styled car that had ended up being the source of significant unpleasantness.
Many vehicles are purchased by consumers who want to identify with a certain perceived look, lifestyle, or social standing. I mean, who wouldn’t want to think of themselves as a “human Corvette”, Mustang or Cadillac? The reality is that if we individuals were translated into cars and trucks on the “highway” of everyday life, many of our characteristics would place us in more down-to-earth territory in a group as diverse as the conveyances in the slowly creeping rush hour traffic on Chicago’s Dan Ryan Expressway. I may or may not be as outwardly cool as a 1970 Pontiac Grand Prix, but as it proudly wears its prominent nose, so have I learned to do the same.
Edgewater, Chicago, Illinois.
Wednesday, April 13, 2011.