Columns » Bob Lancaster

Too much cheek

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Butt cracks -- too many of them on display, need to cover them up -- is not a topic I'm eager to address in this space. Can you imagine how embarrassing it is for a high-minded columnist like ol' moi, in a high-toned newspaper like the Arkansas Times, to be publicly mulling, meditating, and discoursing on such a thing? A grown man. An OLD man. My goodness, what is this news media coming to? Makes you long for the good old days, when the lions of American journalism cogitated only on the exalted subjects, such as the exact degree of curvature in a certain presidential member, or the pet name bestowed on that instrument ("Willard") by an intimate who gave jocular radio interviews about the matter while relieving herself into a brass kitchen bowl. Such restraint, such dignity as we in the profession maintained then having since disappeared, we now regularly confront commoner, earthier issues -- butt cracks, alas, is one of them -- and it really is embarrassing sometimes. Bless her bones, my mother is squirming right now neath the sod that rests on her. But I don't think it's my fault. I don't get to define the news any more than you do; all I can do is follow it, like everybody else -- into the foul muck of recency, over the the cliffs of inconsequentiality, into this stupid culture war that will admit of no conscientious objection. And if one fine day it gallumps off in the direction of butt cracks, what am I supposed to do? Believe me, I'd follow a different drummer if there were one. I'd gladly focus on Carl Ditters von Dittersdorf. Or professional rassling. Or on Martin Heidegger's "field of being." On haute cuisine recipes that include gizzards. Or on M-theory, which I've just been reading about in a book catalogue: "The leading candidate for Einstein's fabled 'theory of everything,' M-theory depicts our universe as a 'bubble' floating in an expansive 11-dimensional multiverse … one of countless bubble universes only millimeters away from each other. In this new picture, Big Bangs create new universes all the time, and if they are as close together as scientists believe, our universe could eventually collide with one of them, with unimaginable consequences." Ach! but from such cosmic considerations, the mission statement shepherds me toward butt-crack ruminations -- "Think butt-cracks!" Editor Phil D. Hole exhorts -- and I suppose I might as well do it, before this ridiculous avoidance uses up every bit of the column space. All right, then. It is the Louisiana legislature -- no surprise -- that has put this bifurcation issue on the national agenda. A lawmaker in that august body noticed he was seeing an unusual number of those nether fissures, and he thought there ought to be a law, so he drafted one. Here is part of what HB 1626,even now awaiting final legislative disposition at Baton Rouge, says: "It shall be unlawful for any person to appear in public wearing his pants below his waist and thereby exposing his skin or intimate clothing." It was a colleague of this lawmaker who, while waxing eloquent in favor of the bill's passage, did the most eloquent concomitant deploring of the sudden eruption and developing practical unavoidability of public butt-crack sightings . We're up to our, well, you know, in them, he said. And he said, "I [also] don't relish the idea of seeing the beginning of these people's pubic hair." Like the bill's buttcrack-hating author, this buttcrack-deploring colleague identified the culprit as a popular style of low-hanging pants. You've seen them on Britney Spears, among others of our fashionably emaciated youth. Under HB 1626, you'd have to wear pants that came up closer to the navel, perhaps even the armpits, or pay a $500 fine and risk jail time. The proposed penalties prompted the local ACLU man to say that under HB 1626 "the fashion police could send people to jail for either willfully or accidentally wearing their pants too low." The ACLU man also said the bill would "infringe on young people's freedom of expression and their privacy rights." You might not have known, as I didn't, that youngsters even had constitutional rights pertaining to their blue-jean style preferences, but apparently they do, and again, who's surprised? The colleague supporting the anti-buttcrack bill said it's those jeans that are doing the infringing, -- infringing on the freedom of the rest of us to go about in public places without being "overflaunted" by buttcracks and by the most equatorial of the Tropic of Capricorn stubble on the obverse. So far so good, I thought, but then he went too far. "It just comes to a point of plain old bad taste and it's just gotta stop," he said. That's where I have to get off and throw in with the buttcrack crowd. My position is, yes, disallow britches that admit of dingleberry waistband overpeeking. Let the fashion police tell us all what we can and can't wear. But for the love of decency, don't give legislators a say in matters of public taste. The very idea is just too appalling. Listen, I knew a legislator once whose idea of sartorial sophistication was an electric bow tie. And his colleagues looked up to him. They thought he was "snazzy." It was a rare bird among them who didn't sport a water-squirting boutonniere. I knew another legislator whose entire wardrobe was 40 identical frog-green suits, every one with a hanky pocket faux coat-of-arms that featured dragons, Polish eagles, library lions, a pair of Dutch wooden shoes, a football, a dirigible, and a florid inscription that only resembled Latin. An approximate translation: "Yeah, Brutus, me and Urbi already et." Butt-crack regulation legislators can handle; capable guardians and arbiters of good taste they are not.

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