Monday, April 16, 2012

Today's Word: strabismic

As Marty Feldman knows, having strabismus can give you abysmal vision — but it won't necessarily make you lazy. In fact, he and his strabismic cohorts have worked their notable and noticeable disorder to their advantage in Hollywood. Sometimes, a strabismic character provides just the right mixture of visual humor and human shortcomings to make him memorable.

Marty Feldman
Marty Feldman (Image via
Strabismus is a vision disorder in which a person is incapable of focusing both eyes on the same point simultaneously because of an underdeveloped or otherwise FUBARed optical muscle. Your average strabismic fellow is more often referred to as having a lazy eye.

In Infinite Jest, Orin Incandenza's (Hal's older brother) tennis doubles partner has this particular problem, and it gives him a perspective that others don't have:
About all Orin's doubles partner — who as a strabismic was something of an expert on female unattainability — felt he could do was warn O. that this was the kind of hideously attractive girl you knew in advance did not associate with normal collegiate human males...
(This excerpt directly precedes the one quoted in James Harbeck's guest post about ascapartic.)

There's also something perfectly simple and lovely to the phrase "hideously attractive girl." Though the words are oxymoronic, it's still an easily understandable idea. I've known* plenty of girls and women like this, the kind whose beauty becomes a social barrier to any even slightly self-conscious boy. To make ourselves feel vindicated, we label them sourly when they pair up with a narcissistic douchebag who we know has nothing to offer anyone except six-pack abs and hair-styling tips.

It's our own fault, though — and by "we" I mean we masses of lonely men amd boys who personally live every day with the concept of "out of my league." Because of that often (but not always**) purely illusory social barrier put up by a girl being what David Foster Wallace also calls "fatally pulchritudinous," we never find the nerve to approach her. Only the most egotistical, unselfconscious, arrogant idiot would even think he has a chance with her.

And so that's the muscle-bound dolt she ends up with.

Ah, but I must apologize. I've strayed from my intended course, which was to talk about the word strabismic. It's like I was completely unable to focus on a single point in this post.

* Only from afar, of course.
** I, for one, was put in my place in the seventh grade by one Tiffany S., who so vehemently suppressed my pre-adolescent advances that she defined a whole class of unattainable women for years to come. I saw her again at Target nearly two decades later; she's still gorgeous, and I still didn't have the gumption to speak to her.
Enhanced by Zemanta