Once a potato thought it heard a voice. Not just any voice. The voice of a petulant child, to be more exact, arguing with itself over where on the potato to attach an outsized plastic ear. The pain already visited upon the potato by the sharp jab of one spike-tipped ear was bad enough, but when its tormentor must have decided a second ear was necessary and now tried one clumsy thrust after another to secure it in some wished-for relationship of exact balance with the first, the pain was multiplied many times over. After which came a nose planted between the two ears, then one eye and nearby another. Where each new feature ended up suggested a master plan not too well thought through or else settled on by default when patience ran out. “There, that’ll do” must have been the decision ultimately arrived at, followed by a giggle of delight at the effect produced. That giggle caused the greatest pain. Straining to focus its eyes as the child turned away in search of the next cartoonish bit of plastic to jam into it, the potato struggled to understand what could possibly be going on in a mind that would take pleasure in such mayhem. Only when it felt the gashing thrust of a pair of lips did the potato find itself blurting out, from hitherto unsuspected depths within, the words “Why are you doing this to me?” At first, the child only giggled some more, as though its own pleasure was justification enough, before leaning over to pick up another potato and bring it up close to the first. “Woman potato, meet man potato. Good? Good? Happy? Happy?” What a woeful sight! The potato could hardly bear what it beheld. The same seemed true for the other potato, judging by its equal anguish at what it saw. How like a willful child to believe the innate attractions of a potato could be improved upon. For in place of the wonder to be found in a splendid tuber fresh from the soil—the full richness of life in all its elemental swellings and presence—the deforming wounds visited upon this potato pair betrayed the brutality of an arbitrary perfection. To judge by the repeated efforts at fixing ears, eyes, noses, lips and whatever else was to come in just the right places, the goal must have been some rigid combination of absolute symmetry, regularity, completeness, and permanence as a universal standard of beauty. Quite a lot to demand of a potato. But far less, in fact, than what the merest spud attained without any guidance or model whatsoever. Such a mismatch between reality and wish fulfillment in forging an ideal beauty was bound to have unwelcome results. And when these became obvious, the child’s disappointment quickly turned to frustration and from frustration to a wailing attack upon the objects of its mounting ire. “Ugly man potato! Ugly woman potato! Bad! Bad! Bad!” the child raged, ultimately hurling both to the floor and stamping them to a pulp.
Copyright © 2020 by Geoffrey Grosshans