Bella donna

RANGE: This glimmering, glittering, glamorous, but highly elusive spirit is believed, by some, to be extinct. She can only be seen in a mirror, and her many devotees pursue the sight of her in charm schools, makeup clinics, slimming gyms, mud spas, health farms, beauty parlors, tanning salons, and nose job boutiques. Hints to her whereabouts are sought between the glossy covers of fat fashion magazines full of skinny fashion models, and there are frequent reports of near-sightings after the prescribed ritual applications of paints, oils, powders, unguents, and lotions before the looking glass.
HABITS: Mira Chimera, like many a bewitching Fairy of ballad and song, offers the promise of romance, wealth, and power to whosoever sees and captures her. Specifically, she inspires the belief (in Americans of all sexes) that obedience to her harsh and arbitrary demands will result in an improvement in their “image,” thus guaranteeing a long and delightful life. “Fame and fortune can be yours,” she whispers, “and may be as close as your vanity table!” (Failing that, there is always the operating table . . .) The cultivation (or defoliation) of a mustache, a simple sandblasting of shoulder freckles, the loss, gain, or strategic relocation of a dozen pounds— perform any of these, she suggests, and charming, vivacious and successful Mira Chimera might be staring back at you! To a foxy East Coast lady, she might appear as a magazine cover; to a West Coast starlet as a movie poster; to a Midwest woman as a catalogue picture of an all-electric kitchen . . . provided (she implies) they (respectively) grow wild and rampant eyebrows, have their ears trimmed, and paint all their extremities fire engine red. Men, too, fall victim to her wiles, and have been known to believe that, were it not for a receding hairline, they might rule the world. (This fantasy often leads to a diabolical infatuation with the Devil Toupee.)
HISTORY: The Mira Chimera is a winged fairy of the Spanish Hadas, an exotic creature of surpassing charm. She always has been appalled and dismayed by human unattractiveness, and it has often amused her to suggest to mortal men and women that there is something they can do about it. In America, she has been responsible for the marketing of all manner of patent medicines and mail-order beauty aids, not the least famous of which were the celebrated wooden dentures which George Washington whitewashed nightly. It has been her habit to whisper contradictory beauty hints to alternating generations, so that children and parents look even more absurd to each other than is natural. “Tape ’em down,” she commands one decade. “Hang ’em out,” she instructs the next. “Grow it long.” “Chop it off.” “Curl it up.” “Straighten it out.” “Paint it.” “Wash it.” “Flash ’em . . . hide ’em . . . put a feather in it . . . beat it with a stick. . .”
SPOTTER’S TIPS: Reports of the Mira Chimera’s complete disappearance from our world are doubtless premature. She was said to be lost forever with the passing of long white gloves. She was supposed to have vanished with the hoop skirt. She was mourned when the movies learned to talk. She fled in tears when Bernice bobbed her hair . . . but her dedicated followers sometimes glimpse her still, reflected, if only for a moment, in the smoked windows of a passing limo . . .


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