Jowita Bydlowska

Beauty, I’m Your Dog

George Greville, Adam Joseph, “I Wanna Be Your Dog” (2007)

The subject of human beauty is tricky. My own standards of beauty run close to the ones in the “Now I Wanna Be Your Dog” video; most of the time I make no effort to challenge these standards. But I know I’m not the only one. You’re lazy too – you like the girls in the video. I do – we all do – take the easy route when it comes to beauty. I rely on fashion magazines, videos like this one, wacky shows like “The America’s Next Top Model” to confirm that youthful, slim, big-eyed model types are what goes.

Girls are so pretty. Frankly, I don’t know how people can stand it with all these girls around. Sometimes walking around in my (soon-to-be-lame) hip neighbourhood I’m mentally floored by how pretty they are. It’s how I feel when watching this video. I look and look and I don’t know where or how to look any more. I’m downloading with my eyes, want my looking to figure out for me who the prettiest is – it’s too much all at once – but I keep getting “Download Error” message. They’re all fucking gorgeous.

In elementary school I had a classmate whom we called “Piggy” because of her weight, large cheeks and general unattractiveness. Piggy had the most beautiful eyes, unusually shaped, with a curtain of dark lashes and of the most intense green shade. I was fascinated by this hidden (behind the cliché coke-bottom glasses) feature. I remarked on it to other girls who insisted Piggy was a mess.

I’m embarrassed to admit that at the time I felt strangely generous telling other classmates that Piggy’s eyes were beautiful. Unlike Piggy I wasn’t called a name for my looks (okay, my large nose was a subject of a few heated insult exchanges). I think I was a total jerk by feeling generous and Piggy probably thought I was full of shit too. By the way, her real name was Agnes. She was tough; insisted she liked her nickname. She was smart and funny. She once said that she was the new incarnation of Marilyn Monroe, punished for her sins with ugliness. I laughed but felt defeated hearing this.

To detox from all that beauty, here’s the original “I Wanna Be Your Dog” song.

Iggy Pop, “I Wanna Be Your Dog” (1979)

- Jowita Bydlowska

  • Ianna

    Beauty is so overrated and has low esteem. The world is imploding.

    • Laura

      I agree with Ianna on this. Beauty is more than skin deep. and extends beyond the pathetic 0-1 dress size restrictions. Women come in all sizes and shapes and are all beautiful in their own unique ways.

  • Mary Gaitskill

    As an admirer of beauty I don’t think this video (the top one) shows beauty to much advantage. The girls would be more compelling if they were cat-walking, throwing bored glances over their shoulders; here they’re trying to do something more, something powerful, but it just comes off like they don’t know what they’re talking about, saying words somebody gave them. The guy watching them, I think his half-interested demeanor is meant to be perverse, but it seems the appropriate response–the girls are only half-interesting, and nothing to require de-toxing from. They’re just pretty.

    • Jowita Bydlowska

      Mary Gaitskill: Exactly. They’re just pretty. (I also think that this is an example of where people are trying to make something profound but aren’t sure what exactly. Either way, I’m just interested in the surfaces.)

      Laura: And, yes,I’m just lazy by sticking to these non-unique standards. (You sound like my sister… Are you her?)

      Ianna: The world is definitely imploding.

  • Mary Gaitskill

    But you present this particular surface beauty as powerful, so when the viewer clicks on the video, she’s expecting something powerful–intstead all the power is in the dated Iggy video and he’s not even pretty!

    This may actually be a gender/age thing. I am a middle-aged woman and to me the women in “Perverts Are Mainstream” are much more fascinating than the girls in “Dog,” although techincally, the Perverts women are less pretty. Not sure why this is, maybe its the tension between will and compliance in Perverts compared to the bland compliance of the other one. But if I were a middle-aged man, my response might be more purely biological; I might think the girls in Dog were fresh and super-hot in their insouciant compliance–I might also think the women in Perverts were overly arty, even slightly skanky. Its possible.

    That’s why people say beauty is subjective.

  • Sean Dixon

    I wouldn’t say it’s presenting any kind of portrait of beauty. It’s rather a multiple portrait of the audition for the beautiful. And I wouldn’t say the guy who’s watching them is meant to be perverse. He’s as bored by the standard as the group is desirous to rebel against it. The essay seems to identify first with his position and then with theirs. And it closes with Piggy because of the essayist’s admiration for her: Piggy succeeded in her rebellion and rejection where the author and this group had failed. That’s the way I see it. The girls in the vid are kicking against the pricks. Piggy slipped out of the harness and walked away.

  • Sheila Heti

    The lust I feel in the presence of this kind of beauty (the sort in the first video) is the lust to be the kind of (asshole) man who would take advantage of these women in the most imperious ways possible.

    • Sheila Heti

      I should not that the man doing the casting does not qualify as the kind of man I’m talking about. He is simply doing a casting call. I’m talking about being a book editor or something.

  • Sheila Heti

    (that’s “note” not “not” in the comment above)

    • Jowita Bydlowska

      I find the man in the video really insignificant. In fact, I have a hard time lasting till his “part” in it. I just like the girls and the tapping and the song and how pretty it all is. Not political at all (for me — I was too drunk in uni to pay attention at that time).

  • Sheila Heti

    I find it strange how none of them have rhythm; strange and sort of telling — telling of the lack of talent, or something. Beauty without talent sort of reveals beauty as utterly not a talent, but beauty with talent makes beauty seems like it is a talent and something a person can take credit for. Without talent, it’s like you threw something on them and it stuck.

  • Lynette

    All I get is superficial and empty, not pretty. Not in the slightest. Just navel gazing nothing more. I pity the fool who thinks beauty is only skin deep.

  • Jowita Bydlowska

    All I get is clichés: “superficial and empty,” “navel gazing,” “pity the fool,” “beauty is only skin deep”.

    • Lynette

      That’s because you are a total cliche. OH I’m SO PRETTY. Are you sure about that?

  • Jowita Bydlowska

    Oh stop it. I’m sorry if this offends you and I apologize for my earlier comment about clichés. Thank you for your input — it is appreciated.

  • Mary Gaitskill

    This is supposedly a superficial topic–beauty, and by defintion, if you are talking about physical beauty, it is literally superficial–but it obviously cuts deep, has been the most commented on thing here.

    • Amy Bebeme

      There’s the beauty we try to own and control, as women perhaps to possess it ourselves, or to possess another who has it or determine – in obsessive definition, whether another has it. There’s pain and anguish in it. It doesn’t nourish – it’s like cutting the moon out of the night with a razor and it bleeds warm and red, and then maybe if we find this beauty we’re trying to define we can put the moon back again. This beauty can be part of a social hypnosis or not. It’s a moving target but to me it’s not alive.

      Then there’s beauty that’s more about the life force – or that is kindled through love or through some kind of endurance and survival. This beauty moves around too, like the river from the Chinese proverb that’s never the same. Sometimes we feel it within us and we can will it to our surface and give it to people – but when we do this we don’t own it. I think part of the reason young people seem so beautiful to those who are older is that there’s something heartbreaking about the vulnerability of someone young – you want to protect them somehow, from fate and cruelty and share in the collective triumph of them actually MAKING IT through.

      Just like when you love someone your eye keeps finding their beauty continually – you can taste it in the air like meringue.

      When life has completely emptied you for whatever horrible reason, what fills you back up is often so exquisitely sweet tender and beautiful. After a forest fire the new growth is so amazing. It’s an intense state of being, but the way you experience this new beauty is stamped to you, and you take it with you through the rest of your life. Pasternak called it the poet’s last year, and a ‘strange inhuman youth.’

      Thank you all for getting me to think about this. I wish you every beauty. May you feel it against your eyes and hands

      • Alexandra De Vos

        a very thoughtful comment.

  • Amy Bebeme

    William Burroughs once wrote “no one owns life, but anyone who picks up a frying pan owns death.” Somehow this sentence illuminates what I’m trying to say above – but only tangentially.

  • Amy Bebeme

    Now this discussion has got me feel/hearing Wallace Stevens, especially pertaining to the idea of alive (v. lifeless) beauty)

    ‘Clothe me entire in the final filament
    So that I tremble with such love so known
    And myself am precious for your perfecting’

    From Notes to a Supreme Fiction

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Jowita Bydlowska was born in Warsaw, as in Poland. She moved to Canada as a teenager. That hurt. She got over it eventually and now she likes it in Canada. She's the author of "Drunk Mom," a memoir, and "Guy," a novel. For fun she takes weird pictures, usually of herself, because she and herself are on the same page most of the time so it's just easier that way. More from Jowita Bydlowska here.