Thursday, October 13, 2011

Taking a Compliment

Part of life is discovering things about yourself. Indeed, that is practically the definition of growing up; you find out what genetic hand you were dealt and what you like and dislike. But even well into middle age, it’s still possible to have something pop up and challenge your self-image.

What brought this to mind? Recently I have been informed that -at least to some women -I am considered good-looking. Not swoon-inducing, mind you; I haven’t been asked to sign undergarments for women who couldn’t believe their luck at meeting Brad Pitt in South Dakota, nor have I been getting hit on at stop lights as used to happen to a buddy in college. But reliable sources have told me that I am reasonably attractive to certain members of the opposite sex.

I know, Boo Hoo, what a traumatic revelation, have I sought help in dealing with it? More to the point, why is this notion such a surprise? After all, three women chose to marry me, and no indications were ever given that it was despite my looks (it certainly wasn’t for money), nor was unattractiveness ever mentioned during the bad times leading to two divorces. At no time in my life have I ever had reason to think that my physical appearance was a major factor in my life.

Perhaps that last sentence explains it. I have never given much thought to my looks, and when I have considered it, I’ve been ambivalent. I was the skinny nerd of my class growing up, with the stereotypical shyness, clumsiness and fashion sense. I never thought that I was going to attract girls physically, so I didn’t put any effort into it, which made it self-fulfilling. Eventually I learned to use humor and intellect, to which I’ve always given credit for my small romantic successes. I gradually improved my style somewhat and overcame the shyness, but I never gave my natural physical attributes real consideration. When my wife told me that her daughter said I look “a little nerdy”, that was right in my comfort zone. Conversely, when I’ve gotten compliments about my appearance I’ve usually shrugged them off.

Thirty-plus years later, I still think of myself as that bony kid. I guess it’s time to consider the possibility that I’ve aged well and learn to enjoy a pleasant surprise when I get one. Oh, and to keep a marker handy in case I have to autograph a bra.

Without Charlie

I guess my personal verdict is in on the new Two and a Half Men: I didn’t feel like watching it last Monday.

I had decided to try approaching the show like a spin-off, since I thought eliminating Charlie Sheen was going to require too much plot demolition to retain continuity as it existed. I felt this could be a chance to retool a show that had begun to get tired and weird. I also realized it would be a long shot. I’m not sure what the producers and writers were thinking. I get the impression so far that they aren’t sure either.

To their credit, they handled the awkward part – getting rid of Sheen – fairly well. The funeral had a mix of comedy and sadness and an overall feel consistent with the series. Ashton Kutcher’s introduction also had a jarring suddenness that fit in with this show’s lack of subtlety. But since then, the show seems to reflect a conflict between the desire of the producers to prove it could continue as it was without Sheen and the writers’ inability to let him go.

They dropped Kutcher into a plot contrived to try to keep the remaining characters more or less as they were despite the radical change. Sheen’s old girlfriends are turning up to hit on Kutcher and Judy Greer - who once played Myra, Judith’s new sister-in-law and one of Sheen’s more entertaining flings – is now cast as Kutcher’s estranged wife. (I must say that this is also consistent with the show’s past. Jennifer Taylor, who played Chelsea, Sheen’s last big love interest, had appeared on the show three times before as different characters, and April Bowlby had been on as someone else before she played Kandi.) The result feels like they’re trying to go back and forth between two shows with the same actors.

Kutcher’s performance suggests he realizes that he was hired strictly as a gimmick to keep the show going. Hopefully the creative team will put more enthusiasm into his character, which might give this a chance to succeed, although the ratings trend isn’t encouraging. I’ll probably tune in again to see how they’re doing. But they have to finish mourning Sheen and move on.