1950’s Art

If I someday find out my birth father was born in 1894 I should have known by now. I really should have… Of course, if I someday find out that he wasn’t then ha! I was right to be curious but skeptical. Still…

For whatever reason it was, very old men always thought I had a gorgeous face and would stop me to tell me in my late teens to twenties. One time in particular in college stands out. I was maybe 21 or 22 and an important artist in his 80’s who’s heyday was in 1950’s New York City visited our college. Getting him to lecture us was a huge coup for our art department. Anyway, I decided to go to the lecture and tried to look nice for it with the secret hope of meeting some guy my age there. I recall looking in the mirror before I left and thinking, “I really do look near my best tonight!” Or the best I could make myself look. I hoped… But, of course, no such luck. Instead the artist made eyes at me during his lecture and also ogled me. He even grinned a lascivious grin. …I was slightly overwhelmed by the attention and suspected based on his suggestions to “come greet him” afterwards as he looked into my eyes that should I want to I could get a lot more attention. I didn’t. Instead, I left in shock and, of course, alone.

It did seem odd to me though… Very odd.

Why…why…why was he the male who’s gaze I had following me around? I felt almost invisible to other much younger men. Heartbreakingly so. Maddeningly so. To a confounding degree…

“You’re a classic beauty!” I heard often. And I was. But…what’s a classic beauty?! *laugh*

I always assumed everyone else was experiencing the same thing. But…nowadays I doubt that more and more. I mean sure, the artist did seem especially focused on me. Yet…*shrug* I was always taught to be grateful for being “somewhat pretty.” But if I had shared that experience with my parents my dad would have dramatically downplayed it as nothing and my mother would have decided it was “demonic” but also acted as though it was “nothing.” And I trusted them. I thought they cared more about me as a daughter than whatever motivated them to lie. Because I’ve seen photos of myself since then and recall what I looked like and good grief… People are cruel, self-aggrandizing, disingenuous, self-absorbed, and utterly disgusting when it comes to women and their beauty. It’s obviously not just my experience to feel so alienated as a woman in that regard, although my particular type of experience may be more unusual… They weren’t openly bullying me like my peers did until they figured out how smart I was in adolescence.

…It’s not that I would have wanted more attention that night from that artist. It’s just…it would have been nice to have known what was going on. That night and in other situations as well.

Good God.