Estrangement in a Strange Land: Meta-Me

Symbolism and subtext in the physical construct of Bob Woodiwiss

Jul 25, 2007 at 2:06 pm

The abundant streaks of silver in my thinning earth-brown hair portend humanity's inexorable march to the grave as it exists alongside the near universal mortification of having to face a Walgreen's cashier to purchase a bottle of Just for Men. Moreover, the length and style of my coif adroitly alludes to society's profound failure to provide its members with a respectable $8 cut. The abundance of brightly glistening hair-borne gel implies sexual ambiguity, even as it holds.

The smoky-gray of my irises (achieved by hickory-smoking my contact lenses) calls to mind urban skies choked with industrial smog spewed from the chimneys of the industrial oligarchy. This theme is overscored/underscored by persistent blinking and a dogged unwillingness on my part to make eye contact, a lacerating indictment of the indisputable duplicity of the corporate polluters. My shaved eyebrows evoke the related and exacerbating environmental damage brought on by the wholesale clear-cutting of the Brazilian rain forest. The tears which so often course down my cheeks are there to exemplify the affiliated problem of topsoil erosion in those denuded areas as well as to bear testament to the plight of highly allergic men who live with women who own cats.

A lush, bristly soul patch beneath my lower lip rather blatantly invokes the moral dualism of man, the eternal struggle between good and evil for one's eternal soul (with or without patch). Note also the "negative space" — i.e., the whiskerly ambivalence created by my eschewing both the flowing white beard of Old Testament God as well as the impeccably trimmed goatee of The Devil.

My unadorned right nipple connotes solidarity with the women's movement and a proud passion for the La Leche League.

My pierced left nipple connotes solidarity with body piercing parlors that don't give a damn if you're sober or not and a proud passion for the Jose Cuervo brand. My third nipple is meaningless; ignore it.

A too-small leather belt straining mightily against a bloated midsection gives full expression to the escalating tension between want and surfeit in the world. Should I, my pear shape queries viewers, be condemned for consuming quantities of goods and services that could sustain entire villages in certain Third World countries or pitied for my humiliation by the merciless forces of capitalism, advertising and cultural hubris? Am I a perpetrator of deficiency or a victim of excess? Would two Ethiopians fit in my Dockers, or three? And whatever happened to Bob Geldof?

Ten fingers = Ten Commandants. Fingerprints = divine individuality. Nails bitten to the quick = a President who thinks God speaks through him. Scars on wrists = a Vice-President who thinks he is God.

Wide, white and sagging, my ass echoes the wide, white, sagging sails of harbor-bound clipper ships idled by steam-, coal- and oil-powered vessels, defeated and driven from the open seas by clatter and sputter, primal victims of the machine age. To behold the quiet stillness of my expansive ass is to reflect on humanity's fateful move from harnessing nature's power to conquering it. The consequences, some of my critics have noted, are certainly more disquieting and less pleasing today than even the sharpest-eyed sailor could possibly have foreseen.

My circumcised penis asks the world: What is pain? What is beauty? What were the Jews thinking when they came up with this?

Dense, curly black hair covers the pale, pasty skin of my leg from ankle to upper thigh. And while there are many days this hirsute blanket provides warmth and comfort, there are an equal number when it smothers and prickles. Shaving or waxing would, one suspects, solve nothing and would simply invert the paradox. Thus paralyzing thought precludes futile action. Are you reading this, Mother?

By allowing the nails of my great toes to become as yellow and audacious as Jake Gatsby's roadster, the unchecked brazenness of American foreign policy and the attempt through war to create a democratic "foothold" in the Middle East is made manifest. Not only are these "nails" ugly, pernicious and troubling — they are representative of a systemic disorder, a "fungus on the White House" as it were. But just as our leaders do not have the political will to right our nation's course of action, so do I not have the personal will to ask my doctor if Lamisil is right for me.

CONTACT BOB WOODIWISS: bwoodiwiss(at) His column appears here the last issue of each month. His book, Keys to Uncomfortable Living, a collection of humorous and satirical essays, is in bookstores now.