Journalist and columnist Samantha Brick (Photo: www.samanthabrick.com)
Unless you live on or are a frequent visitor to Planet Narcissist, you are unlikely to have heard of Samantha Brick. Astrophysicists say Planet Narcissist is made entirely of mirrors. I think they are wrong. It is made of diamonds.
An artistic illustration of Planet Narcissist (The artist is Mayank Chhaya)
So permit me to introduce Samantha Brick, a columnist for The Daily Mail of London who has in the past couple of days become one of the world’s most reviled people. The reason for her current fame/notoriety, or let’s just call it fameriety, is because on April 5 she wrote a column in The Daily Mail that essentially says her fetching good looks are both a blessing and a curse. The headline of her column, for which she says she is not responsible, goes: “’There are downsides to looking this pretty’: Why women hate me for being beautiful.”
The basic contention of her column is that because she is an attractive woman doors have been opened for her throughout her life, although women have been surprisingly jealous about her natural magnetism. (Those are my words and not hers). She writes:
“Throughout my adult life, I’ve regularly had bottles of bubbly or wine sent to my restaurant table by men I don’t know. Once, a well-dressed chap bought my train ticket when I was standing behind him in the queue, while there was another occasion when a charming gentleman paid my fare as I stepped out of a cab in Paris.
Another time, as I was walking through London’s Portobello Road market, I was tapped on the shoulder and presented with a beautiful bunch of flowers. Even bar tenders frequently shoo my credit card away when I try to settle my bill.
And whenever I’ve asked what I’ve done to deserve such treatment, the donors of these gifts have always said the same thing: my pleasing appearance and pretty smile made their day.”
As our conceptions of feminine beauty go Brick is a reasonably pretty woman and I can see why men would just volunteer do to things for her. Men do things for attractive women in the off chance that they might get luck with them. Brick’s allure is not historic but there are elements that add up to something worth a second look. Let’s just say she might not be the worst looking woman on Planet Narcissist. If you know anything about narcissism, you must know that it tailors reality for you.
Critics have come down on Brick like a ton of bricks (Excuse the pun but that demon had to be slain) because they think she is being narcissistic and arrogant about her average looks. Her column has generated so much heat and publicity that even Ann Curry of NBC’s ‘Today’ show interviewed her yesterday and said, “You use the word ‘I’ at least 60 times in your article. Are you aware of how narcissistic your piece sounded?" This from a woman who rushes to a TV studio at perhaps 3 in the morning to put on make-up and appear on television everyday and does not miss any chance she can get to do a story on George Clooney.
Without a touch of irony Curry then went on to interview Kim Kardashian, the presiding deity of Planet Narcissist (after overthrowing Paris Hilton), and said as an opener, “Boy, you look like you got up on the right side of bed. You cannot look more beautiful.”
Coming back to Samantha Brick, I don’t think there is anything particularly wrong or even original about her assertion that pretty women do have it easy. That is equally true for handsome men as well. Somehow humans are genetically predisposed towards lending greater credibility to beauty even though one does not necessarily engender the other. As Oscar Wilde famously wrote, “Beauty is a form of genius–is higher, indeed, than genius, as it needs no explanation.”
I am not sure how much of this applies to Brick but it is not all that inconceivable that she has experienced being singled out entirely because of her looks. Contrary to the jaded cliché that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, there is beauty entirely independent of subjective judgment. I don’t think Samantha Brick is that beauty. But then the inhabitants of Planet Narcissist are required to be beholden to themselves no matter what.
I don’t know why people, including Ann Curry, are upset about Brick’s column. In keeping with my lifelong narcissism, I avoid quoting anyone else to make my point. But I do make an exception when it comes to Wilde who has said so memorably (Everything Wilde has said, has said memorably), “It is only shallow people who do not judge by appearances.”
Speaking of shallow people not judging by appearances, here is one of mine that photographer friend Jay Mandal took during Chicago’s peak winter. No one has ever held doors, sent flowers or paid my fares despite the fact that, quite like Samantha Brick, some of my friends do believe I am not so terrible looking . I personally think that I am among the plainest looking men on the planet who hide well under hip clothing. This is a classic case of narcissism because even while putting oneself down, a true narcissist will use extreme exaggeration. Hence, I cannot be just plain looking but I have to be “among the plainest looking men on the planet.”
P.S.: In case it is lost on some of you, my tongue is firmly in my cheek while describing myself.