On fantasies & happiness
It’s kind of like Christmas, but with less Jesus & more sexy. This is how June describes the day some gossip magazine names the sexiest man alive. This is the news replacing religion, like the man said – the most adored man changes every year. Her mother & she are both votaries, as are many millions. June each year tries on the man’s name, as if she were married. But she includes the Christian name as well, not just the family name – adoration is about wholeness, being one.
James is humiliated by the fact that he is never considered for the position. June explains, he is Dawson – cute is the word to describe him, or nice, if you prefer. June concedes that he is built like a man, or at least a lover. But whole is other than the parts. This doesn’t teach her that her problem is with opinions not images, nor what is wrong with the opinion.
Chloe, ever ready to educate the benighted Americans, states the obvious: Whoever shows up on the cover is thought to be sexy. Magazines are the answer to the question: Who are you going to believe, me or your own eyes? Chloe knows enough about sex to know James is sexy. June is practically a virgin, but she holds faith with the magazine. Promises were made…
Chloe then decides to prove a point by using her considerable powers. By sheer intimidation, she takes over the magazine writers, who obey out of habit. It emerges that opinion makers are even worse slaves to opinion than their audience. Maybe laws save mankind from fashion. Chloe arranges for James to be the new sexy. Proof proved.
June does not even begin to understand what Chloe is doing. This time she learns nothing. This is done solely for our education. June is glad to be a sheep, she says, & is proud of her shepherds. This is her theoretical insight: Beauty & newness are worthwhile, whatever the deceptions. It would make poets of all kinds proud, or at least less fearful. Chloe forces June to face her fantasy, a man who is both intolerably attractive, being confident in his beauty, & a trustworthy friend. Eventually, June must admit she is wrong. Her opinion is disproved by a kiss.
Chloe is uncharacteristically kind – at least she is not destructive & bent on humiliation. She withdraws behind her work, lets it do her work for her. She does some justice: James does deserve, whatever June thinks, to be considered sexy. But she also proves how slavish people can be without harming anyone in any serious or permanent or irreversible way. She suggests, beauty itself is our way of thinking.