April 26, 2006
There are various degrees of ugly.
People can be ugly but attractive-looking. "Yes, she's good looking, but she's an ugly person," someone might say.
"That was ugly," someone might say, for example, when a baseball player makes an error on a routine flyball.
As I write this today all of the many contexts you can use the word in come into play, because I had the displeasure yesterday of running into a truly ugly person in every sense of the word.
She was a woman, and we were in an upscale East Hampton market (you know the one). This was a powerful kind of ugliness, the all-pervasive kind, the kind that actually hurts other people.
Yes, this was an ugly woman, as in unattractive, which is an understatement. This is the kind of person who, as a child, may have earned nicknames like "Pussy" or "Psoriasis." But it was not just her skin, which festered with mayonnaise-filled pimples, that was ugly. Her body, a huge conglomeration of hair and fat, was repulsive not only to look at but even to be near, as a foul odor emanated from it much like the town landfill after several rainless weeks during a summer heat wave.
Her features were ugly, especially the nose. Some people have big noses, some have small noses, some hook down, others curve up gently, like a ski jump ramp. This massive thing just sat there, like a giant infected boil, just below the gray eyes and a squinty forehead, her thick soiled hair having intruded upon the forehead and claimed an inordinate amount for itself so she looked like Eddie on "The Addams Family."
She was also ugly as in "Ugly Person." She was rude to the help, mostly the young, sweet Latino women whom everyone else finds charming. She had a massive amount of groceries, probably $400 worth or more. (Anyone who does a major shop at one of these places has too much money on their hands.)
Her pudgy fingers were adorned with fat diamond rings, so tight they were squeezing the blood from her fingertips. Her wrists, the size of Sammy Sosa's, had huge bracelets of gold bangles as far up the hairy arm as could be seen.
Her mouth was full and open, a professional eating machine constantly being recharged with protein, as if she intended to eat her way through the store before arriving at checkout. As she walked through the aisles, oblivious to the other customers, she'd touch, grab, and squeeze items of produce. Several times she brought a fine piece of fruit to the infected schnozzola and literally touched the fruit to the diseased organ before returning it to the case, where a normal person like you or I might innocently choose it without ever knowing the rot it had been soiled with.
On more than one occasion she bashed her basket into unsuspecting shoppers, only to glare at them as if it were their fault.
There are degrees of ugliness. There is the kind of ugly person who makes the rest of us feel better, because when we see them we look up and say, "Thank You God, for not making me that ugly."
Then there are people like this woman, people so ugly it makes the rest of us feel ugly, because we deduce the whole human species is horrid and wretched, like aliens, only our breath is worse.
The crescendo occurred at checkout. As the checkout girl scanned each item, the woman would erupt into mock rage. "Nine dollars! That's ridiculous!" she'd shout, though the price was printed on the label.
"I don't want this crap! Who put that in my basket?" she shrieked, looking angrily at those of us on line behind her. The funny thing was we all looked away, appearing to be guilty as charged, when in reality we had to avert our eyes instantly to avoid the radioactive wave of ugly heading in our direction.
Make no mistake about it, this is the kind of ugly that can leap off one person onto another. There is plenty of ugly to go around when you possess this much sheer quantity of it. Hell, everyone in the store was getting uglier by the minute.
The checkout girl tried meekly to assuage her, even glancing in her direction at one point, giving herself full frontal exposure to the ugly.
The woman was so angry she was making facial contortions to express her rage. This is when I realized I had reached a milestone in my life. I had seen ugliness, but like hearing Pavarotti or Eric Clapton, I witnessed this seminal example of true ugliness, this epitome of ugliness, this embodiment of all things ugly, taken to the next level.
She waddled out the door pushing her cart, filled with assorted lards and animal parts. She walked to a brand new Range Rover that was parked in the handicapped spot right outside. She threw the bags in the back, grunting and chewing the whole time. Breathing heavily, she pulled herself up into the driver's seat with great effort. Before she drove off, she turned and looked at me, a repugnant look that said "you little piece of nothingness, you exist to serve bloated boars like myself."
Then she flashed a look of disgust so profound I realized at that very moment I was witnessing The Perfect Ugly.
With great fanfare I bowed deeply, acknowledging her place in the hierarchy like a peasant before an aristocrat.
She smirked knowingly and drove away.