September 16, 2014
When I read about Joan Rivers” death, my eyes welled up with stinging tears. Not because she”d died (come on: she was 81) but in anticipation of the mouthwatering multi-million-dollar malpractice suit that was sure to follow.
Her endoscopy clinic denies it, but reportedly, a doctor performed a highly irregular biopsy on the veteran comedian’s timeworn vocal cords. “Can we talk?” indeed.
So, yes, “Joan Rivers died doing what she loved. Having surgery.” But how ironic that for once, Rivers had gone under the knife not to tweak her Winchester House of a face, but presumably to repair her all-important voice box.
(Although there is a cosmetic surgery procedure called a “voice lift” now, because of course there is. As the japes at Cracked.com explain, “The idea is that if your voice has become old and scratchy with the years, this will have you sounding like a young man again! You”ll look 20 years younger! On the phone!”)
How or why Joan Rivers (or anyone within earshot) figured her voice suddenly needed fixing, I couldn”t tell you. Since she wasn”t beautiful, Rivers” voice was usually described as “raspy” or “grating.” Had she looked like Kathleen Turner and sounded exactly the same, the word would”ve been “husky” instead.
To state that Joan Rivers” life would”ve been completely different if she”d been better looking is to say nothing””If we had ham, we could make a ham and cheese sandwich if we had cheese””and, yet, everything.
Beauty is the female’s primary reserve currency. Some women inherit a pulchritude trust fund; others, like Joan Rivers, are the ones we hear about in stump speeches, those born already owing some five-figure debt to someone or other.
To rail against the unfairness of it all, to labor in vain to overturn “society’s standards of beauty,” is to take gravity to court, boycott DNA, or “raise awareness” among salmon regarding the numerous hazards of swimming upstream. Of course, this hasn”t prevented any number of modern women from doing so.
Now, when I was a punk, I wasn”t “challenging” the “corporate patriarchy” while secretly hoping to attract boys regardless; I was trying to look even uglier than I already was and be left alone. I liked feeling free and fierce“for a time. But it’s an exhausting way to live, and, yes, unnatural.
For most women”the ones born “in debt””it takes far more effort to try to look beautiful, but it’s also a more natural pursuit, which ameliorates the “exhausting” part. So while the ship-of-Theseus results were literally plastic and ultimately grotesque, Joan Rivers” pursuit of beauty was, in fact, perfectly natural, normal, and sane”a sound female mind’s attempt to escape from an unsatisfactory body and unfair fate. In that, Rivers faintly resembles another tireless, pioneering Jewish entertainer”Houdini”right down to the dumb, ignoble death.
Rivers was more successful at paying down debt of a different kind. She awoke from the nightmare of her husband’s 1987 suicide to learn that he”d left her $37 million in the hole.
Astonishingly, instead of declaring bankruptcy, she paid off that debt little by little, the old-fashioned way, taking every job she could, then went on to leave a $150 million estate.