It won’t be much by way of confession if I say I have a weakness for old-fashioned—dare I say archaic—words and phrases. Language seems to have lost all elegance over the past century or so. So most people don’t use the phrase “beyond the pale,” let alone know what it originally meant. The Pale: a boundary, specifically used in history for the line demarcating the part of Ireland that was controlled by England and the part that most definitely was not. To be “beyond the pale” was to pass the point of civilization. Mind you, that’s the perspective from one side of the boundary, not the other. Being part Irish myself, I have my own streak of contrariness. What is civilized to me doesn’t always correspond to that which others consider civilized. Toy dogs, for one thing. Brazilian waxes, for another. The color pink, as a third. If that’s what qualifies as civilized, then consider me well beyond the pale.
This post is dedicated to all those whom the world might consider on the wrong side of civilization’s fence. Let’s be friends. The human race has too great a penchant for over-refining itself according to the most ridiculous standards. It needs the corrective presence of those who have too much good sense to get dragged along in that breakneck race to reach a state of pure senselessness.
Think about it: we’ve attempted to strain out every possible vestige of animal nature in our pets in order to make them fit for household use, until relationally-challenged owners can let a lapdog lick them right on the mouth without a qualm. Never mind that the dog just licked its own rear just a moment before—we’ve done studies, you know, that say a dog’s mouth is much, much cleaner than a human’s. “Dogs are people too,” you know. Better, in fact, since they demand nothing more than we are willing to give and never question us. Never mind that they grow neurotic because we teach them through everyday practice that they’re practically our equals, but we refuse to let them mark territory in the house. We give them one idea of their place in the pack’s hierarchy, and then we bring home infants who ought to be lower in the hierarchy (in the logic of dogs) and give them dominion over their elders—our poor, demented, over-bred purse pets.
Think about this, too: we’ve “refined” human appearance to the point where the hairless of both sexes have become the ideal. Honest, can you think of the last time you saw a male celebrity voluntarily sporting a beard? (I won’t ask if you’ve seen a female celebrity in the same state…) Ever since the early twentieth century, the idealized female body has more resembled an adolescent male’s than an adult woman’s. I have met women who literally would rather be found deceased in a public restroom than be seen in public without their cosmetic camouflage. And men haven’t escaped their own form of this “refinement” process. There’s one approved silhouette for men, and another for women. Woe to you if you fail to match your approved shape, be it tall and muscular or sleek and slender.
And I haven’t even asked you to think about the color pink yet. I have never been a fan of the color, and what I have seen in my adult years has pushed me beyond apathy to antipathy. Pink is no longer just a color; it’s a culture. It represents womanhood refined straight beyond the reach of intellect. It stands for the type of clothing that appliques a word straight across the buttock region of a pair of pants, for the sole purpose of drawing attention to the shape of your backside. It stands for the high school girl who stuffs her brains in the farthest back corner of her closet because she thinks it’s more advantageous to be “hot” than smart. I’m not even a feminist, and it still bugs me. Pink has come to represent anemic femininity and effeminate masculinity.
So here’s to those “beyond the pale,” as it were. Here’s to those who wear what they like, whether it shows up in a magazine or not. Here’s to those who read random books off the library shelf, bypassing the waiting-list shelf. Here’s to those who build snug doghouses and leave their pets outdoors in nature, where they are best fitted to live. Here’s to those who shave only when they feel like it. Here’s to the wearers of sensible shoes, the savages who venture forth without makeup, who care more about the condition of their bodies than the public reception thereof. Here’s to those who refuse to get a prestigious college degree just because it’s what’s expected, those who pursue instead their life’s calling in obscurity if need be. Here’s to the little guys who by force of their integrity make others look up to them regardless of their vertical challenges, and to the big guys who stretch out their arms like guardian teddy bears for kids of all ages. Here’s to the women who aren’t afraid to keep woman’s shape, flabby triceps and uneven breasts and all. Here’s to those who let their true gifts shine, no matter whether those gifts are “sexy” or not.
To those beyond the pale, I salute you!
Been reading Mere Christianity lately?
Actually, no. It has been years. I did soak in a lot of Lewis at a young age, though, and doubtless it left some lingering effects.
Great post. Glad to know there are others like us out there. Always encouraging!