Tower of Pisa
Photo: ThinkStock
In egalitarian America, land of self-made men and women, land of self-improvement and self-help, we operate under the assumption that everything—from faces to moods to places—can be fixed or made better. Which, indeed, is often the case.

But not always.

Some things are interesting precisely because they are slightly off. Consider, if you will, some famous teeth—Lauren Hutton's distinctive gap, Avril Lavigne's vampire fang, Mike Tyson's picturesque mouth thicket. Or think about some famously distinctive voices—Leonard Cohen's sexy rasp or Fran Drescher's bracing honk. These slight imperfections are, if not the basis of these folks' appeal, then at least strong contributors thereto; some of them should be accorded National Landmark status. Would you straighten the Tower of Pisa? Would you make dessert wine less sweet? Would you put a wide-screen TV in a fishing lodge? Had some deranged doctor deigned to alter the noses of either Gerard Depardieu or Barbra Streisand early in their careers, I think we can all imagine the consequences: French cinema would be a lot less ooh-la-la, and Yentl would be about a Waspy girl who wears suspenders so she can get a job at Shearson Lehman.

Some things, in other words, are best left alone. Or as the Beatles (a group that would have been so, well, yesterday, if Lennon and McCartney had made over their complicated relationship through therapy) put it: Let it be. One pitfall of makeover mania is that it's awfully easy to get carried away. For example, I give you (or, actually, I don't, and please don't give me) cheesecake-filled pancakes. Star Wars-themed condoms. Bacon-flavored mayonnaise. Likewise, toy poodles and men's grooming. Yes, it is lovely when pet owners give their animals the odd bath and make sure that little Fido's fingernails don't occasion bloodshed; but after that, I'm good. No animal's lustrous curls should put us in mind of Louis the Sun King. As for those other creatures: I grant you, one of the last decade's great leaps forward has been the gradual retreat from public view of male nostril hair. But some men don't know when to stop. Forty-year-old definitely-not-virgins wax their chest hair. Special razors create, instead of eradicate, stubble. If I think toupees are a blight on the landscape, I'm sure you can just imagine how I feel about those men who actually suture their toupee onto their scalp. Apparently not everyone got the memo explaining that bald can be sexy. I mean, Bruce Willis and Stanley Tucci don't exactly have trouble getting dates, now, do they?

In some cases, we simply don't have the technology yet to complete a successful makeover. I get the concept of, say, colored contact lenses, but somebody's got to figure out how to do it right: Have you ever seen a brown-eyed person wearing blue contacts who didn't end up looking like something out of Village of the Damned? And what can I say about those scarily omnipresent leaf blowers? I know they're an improvement over rakes but, oh, the decibel level. Here's hoping we'll one day have a blower that falls midway on the continuum between a broom and the space shuttle.
Finally, some things shouldn't be made over because they're meant to be unadorned or even boring. Like silence. I want to hear Vivaldi's Four Seasons piped into a parking lot about as much as I want to eat gum off the sidewalk. It will come as a great surprise to a whole generation of iPod lovers that the whole point of silence is that it is, uh, silent. Time spent without the Black Eyed Peas or the Wu-Tang Clan will only make our subsequent time with the Black Eyed Peas and the Wu-Tang Clan that much more meaningful, no? If you've ever taken a filmmaking course or talked to a sound engineer, you may have learned that room tone—the basic hum of silence—varies slightly from place to place anyway. So why mess with nature? I could probably live the rest of my life in airports and hotel lobbies and elevators if only they didn't pipe in that awful new form of white noise known as CNN.

And one last thing that should be left alone: bad moods. Far be it from me to dis Zoloft and Prozac or any of the other prescriptions that have changed many a depressed person's life. But even the most balanced among us has the occasional bad patch, and that's as it should be. Life doles out days of simmering nausea and mild apprehension, minor pains and heartaches, not to mention days of actual trauma and hardship, because Life wants us to appreciate that a day without these obstacles—that is to say, most days—is a victory. A good day doesn't have to be marked by anything noteworthy or unusual. A good day can be one on which nothing memorable happened. A day on which nobody tried to change a single thing.

Next: Eckhart Tolle on the beauty of today


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