How to Get Beautiful in the Anticosm: Four Steps to Decay (life)Style!

By Louise Bak

1) Stand singing to a mirror, a co-oblivious song to a fat reflection. Before long, you can’t tell whose voice is whose. The world is pouring fat from one hand to another. You look down, it has spilt over your arms. The motion of your voice carves grooves to guide runoff fat all over your thighs. Your glycerin butt eschewing with possible destinies with the ones you think you want. You clone yourself repeatedly with hand gestures in searchlights from every fridge. You understand this now as your beautified audition. Within a minute, the principal has stick-insect detectors installed at the entrances of the school, while you redouble your chin, and stride right through, sharing your happily-found fat deposits, while filling in all the dates on your calendar.

2) Turn on the faucet, pull two paper towels from the dispenser and wipe your hands. Shoot a glance at the shower curtain. Inside, is a space too cramped to allow more than one person to wash at a crouch. You enter slowly. The washcloth drops in front of you. You butt the door open with your shoulder, finding no one in the room. You stumble back to the soap, while someone stays your spine. Pour water over your head. Your back looms wrinkled, where it touches the tile wall. Your buttocks twist like two cauterized scars. Keep washing. Your hands turn a pressurized purple. Shine the hot water nozzle with the washcloth, to examine how you have scrunged up your lips like the end of a sausage casing. Your cheeks film over with liver spots, and your arms dance like wizened franks. You will want to stay in this baptism of bathing, until you become unsurprised by the aesthetic crone/hag/dirty ol’ bastard you’ve channeled, to deal with another day of being irritatingly young.

3) Open your eyes to find the room aglow. The television is on. Your infomercial double is hard at work, liking herself in the before, more than the after shots, where everyone tries to convince her that her skin looks soooooo good, she can actually be publicly seen again. You watch their movements come off, with maximum efficiency, the Accutane bottle, mechanically calibrated to look dainty in the medicine cabinet. Your hand scratches the bumps emerging on your neck, volcani-form bumps smolder over your chest and back. Your face comes to match the scooped-out face of a cliff. Even your toes will assume an inimitable expression of fretless monstrosity, as nodules plump them out like trompe l’oeil doodles. As you begin to be lulled asleep again, you smile to the pimply pluck of the tv people, as if they are prophetic and pale seaflowers, slammed by whitecaps.

4) After working out, weave your way through the maze of intersecting aisles of a mall. You have no sense of direction, and you keep getting lost until you reach a sinking counter. The Styrofoam club in your hand seems perfectly weighted for breaking the glass, which has an odd springiness, holding up a bottle for you like a waiter with a drinks tray. It will be unlabelled, with no conceivable opening. Dropping it into your pocket, there are no longer any clots of jostling shoppers -just the showcase with an impressive lineup of spilt crystal bottles. Cheap cymbals of mechanical toy monkeys, round off the breasts of a mannequin, which looks like exhaustion on two legs. Your tights ladder up your torso, to meet your sagging chest. You find yourself trying to square your shoulders, to putty-lobe effect. Underarms close in on your toes, though you have your arms folded. Your nasal intonation shifts with your massive jowls and wattles, where one contact lens lies over the other, containing many reflections, all surfaces polished to a bright self-reflection.

It is useless to obsess on the ingeniousness of our design, or the perfectibility of our chemistry. Our beauty list is a greenhouse for whatever body or mind you already have, constantly adjusting the aperture.

You have to leave yourself room to smile, putting an extra slap into your whip-hand, when the whip lands on the mirror you just unbought.

Louis Bak is a Toronto poet. Her latest work is Tulpa, published by Coach House Books.


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