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Plumage

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Plumage

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Eight-year-old Jeffrey pointed out that in the animal kingdom, the males always have the showy looks. I knew that, of course, but hearing it again from such an innocent and unclouded set of eyes made me see it again. "People have it turned around," he teased. "Girls have to have make-up and all that hair and all those clothes." He said it in that taunting way of eight-year-old boys, half-charm, half-churlish. Together we watched the peacocks and the lions and the springbuck in the zoo. We talked about how even fish and insects seem to carry the pattern: males glossy and glittery; females dusky and dull. And I wondered about the long history of women altering their very bodies to become beautiful-going back to when gold rings stretched out necks, lip-plates pouched our mouths, our feet were bound, our waists corseted. Today we color our hair, inject our lips with collagen, scrub our skin raw with peels and micro-dermabrasion. This while most guys are happy to shower, zip and go.



Then I thought about FLDS women, who seem to go out of their way to be plain, plain, plain. Long white undergarments, long dresses, hair twisted into plain buns and disfiguring lumps; no jewelry and no make-up allowed. Eyebrows remain untweezed even if mono-brow threatens. These women seem to say: Pay No Attention. Yet the FLDS men wear their hair short and fashionable, their shirts charmingly western or simply business-like, nice suits, good-looking cowboy boots, Levis, and an occasional bolero tie with a nice piece of turquoise. Why do the FLDS men get the plumage while the women keep themselves plain?

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