Friday, April 15, 2016
the pail woman
She stares out at me from under the pool bar with that maternal smile that masks the question in those eyes: "Which portion of western civilization do you intend to destroy today?"
Anyone who has looked at magazines from the 1950s knows that face from countless advertisements. It is the visage of Super Mom -- the woman who dresses in taffeta and pearls while keeping her home spotless for her family.
The type of woman who symbolizes the work world of Bernie Sanders and the perfect domestic lifestyle of Ted Cruz. For Hillary Clinton, she is most likely the face of voluntary servitude. And Donald Trump? He just wants her telephone number.
But her face is not in a 1953 copy of Collier's. It is on a yellow plastic bucket I purchased in Mexico. I checked to see if it was an import -- probably from China. But it was made in Mexico by a Mexican company.
So, what is that face doing on my Mexican pail? If she were alive, her name would probably be something like Inga Svenson.
Anyone who has watched Mexican television knows the cliché stereotype of beauty here. Blonde. Light-skinned. Drenched in Cartier and Chanel. My mother-in-a-bucket would fit right in with that crowd. Well, except for the Cartier and Chanel.
Of course, their beauty, as in all countries, is courtesy of repeated trips to the beauty salon and dermatologist -- for those necessary tone adjustments.
Maybe that beauty stereotype is wrong. After all, Salma Hayek and Sofia Vergara* have kept their dark tresses. Even though Salma's last name betrays the amount of European DNA that has been pumped into her infrastructure. Her skin tone probably owes far more to Bavaria than to being a daughter of Cuauhtémoc.
There is another theory of the face's provenance. And I suspect it is far more accurate. It is just another piece of iconography lifted from the pages of American culture.
Ice cream trucks, circuses, local stores -- are all festooned with copyrighted images. Disney is a favorite. There are more princesses and Mickey mouse images here than there are in Disneyland. All of them appropriated without the payment of royalties.
Last night a small entertainment troupe set up shop in the Barco's dog park. It is The Shrek Show. Complete with costumed characters from the eponymous movie. All royalty-free.
Mexicans are very practical that way. Why not incorporate a bit of goodwill into your business without the bother of cost?
And that is probably true of our 1950s Mom. She evinces everything a bucket salesman would like to capture.
And no American business would use the image in these hyper-sensitive times. I can just imagine the boycott that would be started by those who felt they were being subjected to an unsafe through through the image of a happy woman.
So, there she sits. Smiling. Chiding me in her subtle way to go out and do something constructive.
Will this do, Mom?
* -- Yes. I know. Colombian. Not Mexican. But she is Latina. A guy has to have his fantasies.