Tuesday, August 11, 2009

On Vanity (Part One)

At least a million times, you’ve seen the article in Poets and Writers: the steps on getting your first poem published. In a kind, steady voice, a well-published author provides good tips.

That same well-published author will never raise the following questions:

What happens after you’ve succeeded, and then against all odds got that first book published? What do you do with the next manuscript you may have produced in the meantime?

Is it moral to put anything other than that first book out in the world?

How much, if at all, does the world need to see of you?

Is it pure vanity to expect the world to read more of your words?


At a restaurant, I was making fun of myself. As I always do. My friend said, "I could stay here for hours. You're funny."

For some reason, as time went on, I sensed that she started to feel bad for me. My self-deprecation was too intense.

Nothing makes me more upset than feeling like an object of pity. So I confessed a truth: yeah, I do a lot of dumb things, don’t think before I talk (does anyone really do that?), but I know I’m special, not because of talent, or intelligence, nothing like that, but because quite simply I am. If someone doesn’t like me, I said, I know something is wrong with them; unspecial people are the only ones who don’t like me.

Her face changed, she looked truly unsettled, and she quickly left.


Vanity can be a good thing.

I hate beautiful gay men who act modest about their looks. It makes them less attractive.

Or at least I wish it did.

I believe one should always flaunt what physical strengths they possess.

If you’re beautiful, then you do have a responsibility to put at least a dozen pictures of yourself on Facebook.

If you’re not beautiful , no more than five.

If every couple of days, you change your picture, fine, but you better be hot.

If you are beautiful (or even if you simply think you are beautiful), then you have a responsibility to sleep with as many lesser attractive people as possible.

You need to share your beauty. If you don’t you’re committing an immoral act.

Sharing your beauty with only one other person is selfish and damaging to the world.


I don’t know if the same thing goes with words.

You can always find something new in a beautiful body. But honestly, doesn't someone's words become old if you stare at them too much?


In the last couple years, one of my favorite books has been Richard Siken’s Crush. I love the sight of it in my bookshelf even when I have no intention to reread it. Like a good friend, it’s nice to know that it’s in the world.

More than once I’ve heard another poet say, “I wonder if his second book is going to be as good as his first book. How can he top himself?”

Why does he need to do such a thing? Why would anyone expect him to create anything more beautiful? Isn’t one near perfect verbal object enough?

Siken doesn’t seem to want to give us more and more books. Which in a way makes what words he has given us more beautiful. And if this doesn’t make his words more beautiful, it makes him kinder. We don’t waste a lot of time looking for his beautiful words. We know exactly where and what we should be looking at.


  1. This is a very thought provoking post. I would personally reverse your stance. I think the more exposure you have to "The Beautiful" the more you see the little flaws. Beauty is best viewed fleetingly and from a great distance so as not to ruin the illusion. Words... They only seem to become more beautiful the closer you look, don't they? I know I eagerly await each of your posts here... more! more!

  2. Who gets to pick what's beautiful and what's not?

  3. Hi Charles--

    In all seriousness, I'm a foolish person. I oscillate as I do about a lot of subjects. So here are my extremes: what I think is beautiful (I do consider myself to be the Everyman). And then this possible fact:


    I can't let myself believe the latter or else I find myself in some bad places that I've gone to in the past literally and psychically. That's one of the reasons I wrote this blog: to stabilize myself through strangers' and friends' comments.

    I need to realize ever day that there's something legitimate called Kindness in which everyone/everything can be valued.

    Some people think that I think so highly of myself. I wish I did. Trust me: I'm the hardest on myself. In many different ways.

  4. Enjoyed your post. I had to smile at the Facebook comment-- "If you’re not beautiful , no more than five." That should be in the guidelines. ;-)

    * * *
    Other thoughts--

    In my mind, Charlie falls under the category of "beautiful people" in many ways...

    But he's right, we each choose our own beauty in life. My beautiful people may not be yours and yes, many times Kindness is what creates beauty in someone. The most physically attractive people may not be seen as beautiful because of who they are inside.

    Thanks for your thoughts on this. And I need to check out Siken's book, I haven't read it.