CHAPTER THIRTEEN – Wet T-Shirts and Aaron
All during the final week of school, Gunther kept his grunge look. However, with finals to take, Luann gave up on her miniskirt. It was hard to concentrate on tests and also be alluring. Besides, her bruise looked worse, all browny-yellow, like an old banana.
Now it was Friday evening. All the exams were done, reports turned in, projects finished. For the first time in nine months, Luann had absolutely no homework. It made her feel free, almost giddy.
The entire DeGroot family was gathered in the living room watching TV. After sitting through a PBS documentary on cactus , Luann took possession of the remote and flipped to MTV.
After a minute, Dad said, “These music videos are annoying. Why are we watching these?”
“We watched your boring cactus thing, dad,” said Luann. She was sitting on the floor. Mom and dad were on the couch and Brad was in the recliner, leaned back with his shoes off, eating a bag of chips.
“Gotta admit the babes are entertaining,” said Brad, munching loudly.
Mom said, “There’s certainly no shortage of cleavage.”
“And annoying music,” said dad. He took the remote from Luann and turned down the volume.
Mom said, “Why are music videos filled with endless shots of gyrating women?”
Keeping his eyes on the TV, Brad said, “Why not?”
“It’s just boring,” said mom.
Brad pushed another fistful of chips into his mouth. “I don’t think you’re exactly the target audience, mom.”
Dad said, “Who is the target audience? I thought teen girls were the big consumers of pop music. Seems like they’d be offended by videos that treated them as sex objects.”
Brad looked at Luann. “Hey, flabbutt, you offended?”
“Only one thing in this room offends me, Brad,” said Luann. “Anyway, dad, you’re not seeing what’s going on in these videos. The gyrating women have all the power. They’re not being victimized by the men, they’re controlling them with their feminine authority.” Luann pointed at the TV. “See how that girl just walked away from that guy?”
“Yeah,” said mom. “While three other girls in bikinis hang on him with feminine authority.”
Brad said, “And the problem is…?”
“I’ll tell you what the problem is,” said Luann. “It’s the nonstop images of perfect women. Not a plump, ordinary one in the bunch. It makes it really hard to be average.”
“You’re not average,” said Brad. “I’d say you’re a cut above useless.”
“I’m glad I’m someone you can look up to, Brad.”
“I agree about the perfect women,” mom said. “The constant parade of slim beauties and Victoria’s Secret models can make a woman feel inferior.”
Luann said, “There’s this girl at school, Tiffany Farrell, that all the guys drool over. Girls hate her because she’s gorgeous and makes us feel about as attractive as mildew, don’t say one word, Brad.”
“Isn’t Tiffany the one with the snotty attitude?” asked mom.
“Yeah. That’s reason enough to hate her. But the thing is, it’s impossible to compete with someone who looks like her. For instance, as you well know, I’m nuts about Aaron Hill. Well, Tiffany sunk her polished nails into him and now I don’t have a chance. And last week, that nerdy guy who has a crush on me, Gunther, even he went all mushy for Tiffany. The gorgeous people always win.”
Brad said, “Ooh! I love this next video! Check it out when the girls jump in the pool!”
Dad tried not to watch the TV as he said to Luann, “It may seem like it’s about being gorgeous, honey. But personality and character are much more imp –” The girls began jumping into the pool.
“Personality is fine, once you get a guy’s attention,” said Luann.
“But if you don’t look glamorous, you can’t get anyone’s attention.” Luann looked up at her dad. “Dad?”
Dad took his eyes from the TV and blinked at Luann. “What?”
Mom said, “I think the most important thing is confidence. Lots of big movie stars are pretty average looking. It’s their self assurance that’s attractive.”
Brad sat forward in the recliner. “Oh! Watch this slow-motion scene when they come out of the pool.”
Luann looked at her mom. “I think we’re losing this argument to some wet t-shirts.”
Mom took the remote and turned off the TV.
“Hey!” wailed Brad.
Dad cleared his throat, pushed his glasses up and said, “Thank you. That music was really annoying me.”
There was a moment of silence, except for Brad’s chip crunching. Finally, Brad said, “Luann, if you want Darrin Hall to –”
“If you want him to notice you –”
“Wear a t-shirt and carry a pail of water?”
“Maybe a pail over your head. No, what what I’m trying to say — if you’d let me finish — is, guys are visual. We respond to what we see.”
“Lucky for you, girls aren’t that way.”
“And that’s why there are 90 thousand face products for women and three for men. Your problem is, Allen’s used to seeing you. How long have you known him?”
“I’ve known AARON since third grade.”
“There you go. He’s seen the same old Luann all these years. He’s used to you. Why would he all of a sudden notice you?”
“Okay, Brad, I know where you’re going and I tried that,” said Luann. “I wore a sexy outfit to school last week and Aaron kinda noticed me for a second, but after that, zip.”
“You bought a sexy outfit?” asked dad.
“And wore it to school?” asked mom.
“Not SEXY sexy. Just… frisky,” said Luann.
“Frisky?” said dad.
“Wait,” said Brad. “Before you get into all that and punish Luann and ground her for six months and give me her desserts and allowance, let me finish what I’m sayin’.”
Everyone looked at Brad, surprised, because he never had anything to say.
“So what are you saying, Brad?” asked Luann.
“I’m sayin’ that you need to make a radical change in your appearance. Not just a fancy dress or some redder lip stuff. If you want Arlin to notice you, you gotta go for a major change.” He munched another handful of chips. “That’s all.”
Luann thought about this. If Brad was right, then a minor makeover wouldn’t jolt Aaron out of his years of indifference. The question was, how big a jolt was needed? How much would it take to go from invisible to irresistible? From 99 Cent Special to Big Value? A dye job? Nose job? Lip injections? And if it took all that, was she willing to actually do it? Was Aaron Hill worth that? Luann didn’t know for sure.
Despite what her parents said about personality and confidence, Luann DID know that you got a guy’s attention with one thing: eye appeal. Blame it on hormones or the babes on TV, but it was a fact of life — at least in high school.
As if to prove her point, Brad said, “Can we turn the TV back on now?”
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