Glamour Gets a Bad Rap

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No one takes glamour seriously anymore. To an alarming degree glamour is the avoided G word. This thoroughly delightful and venerable component of the human “G nome” is, in my mind, unjustly maligned when it is dismissed as deceitful. My definition of glamour includes the shimmering laughter heard echoing off complex surfaces of elaborate embellishment.

Glamour is a Scottish/Celtic word originally meaning to cast a spell and as such glamour is a power unto itself. It is an ancient word with a powerful meaning and a long evolving history.

In our era glamour has been trivialized to connote vapid personal beauty or charm, projected by film stars and models. It is ironic then that the original Greek term from which glamour evolves is “grammatike tekne which translates as the art of letters with a sense of both philology and literature. The root word gramma or “letter,” stems from graphein, “to draw or write.”” [Dictionary.com Douglas Harper]

Graphein then refers to the very foundations of learning and civilization with its dual meaning to draw and to write. This clearly describes the art of calligraphy with all of the additional richness of that art when the hand of the scribe imparts his very soul into the message. With this image in mind we can begin to trace the thread of supernatural power lurking at the periphery of our understanding of glamour.

Glamour makes a continuing journey across international borders and throughout the centuries surviving the Roman Empire in the form of grammatica which the old French tweak into grammaire sending it along the way. Stopping in England around 1176, grammaire morphs into gramarye. The English understood gramarye to mean “learning in general and knowledge peculiar to the learned classes, which at that time included astrology and magic; hence the secondary meaning of occult knowledge.” Glamour then traveled on to the mist-shrouded highlands of Scotland where by 1720 the ever magical Celts added their rolling brogue and came up with the now familiar word, glamour. They believed that the “knowledge of the learned classes” and skill to weld that power, allowed the initiate to cast a spell. That’s what the Scot’s meant by glamour and so do I.  [Dictionary.com Douglas Harper]

Glamour Galore is a trilogy of fictional novels that are the stuff that dreams are made of in a place where magic spells are cast. But this in no way refers to the waving wands of Merlin or Gandalf. Much as we dearly love those two fairy fathers with their sweeping robes and all knowing protective spells. In the world of the Glamour Gang we meet a new class of actors and conjurers playing roles they wrote for themselves. Although they often break character they do not revert back to tired old Dick and Jane. Rather they change their mask, like clicking the remote, revealing a new layer of fantasy.

Naughty Astronautess, Book Two of the trilogy, includes the outrageous space-case, Urna Flamanté who gets booted out of Lilly Land with a swift kick to her sorry ass and goes flying over the pink garden fence landing in the trash. Some say this is Urna’s natural habitat so sympathy need not be heaped too liberally.

The Star of Naughty Astronautess is Lilly Linda le Strange who throughout the book keeps slipping in and out of gender—much like Virginia Wolf’s Orlando. In some strange way her ambiguous identity contributes to her extraterrestrial meanderings. At one point she is sprung from a circus cannon and rockets over the rose garden in Boston’s Fenway neighborhood landing at an unexpected destination in uncharted territories.

It seems to me, practically the only glamorous people left in our time and place are drag queens. They are the ones who dare to walk the razor edge of acceptability wearing jewels, feathers and high heels. Although I say ‘drag queens,’ and some of my best friends are, what I am really thinking to myself are people who wear masks. I believe we all have a universal desire to be more than our one self, to wear a mask, to walk in another man’s shoes, even if they happen to be three-inch spike heels. This is why we read books, go the theater and opera or for that matter the baseball game. We all want to be Red Sox heroes, bigger than life.

In ancient Greek drama the famous masks of tragedy and comedy were used to assume different opposing characters and also, at the same time, as megaphones to project their voices in the outdoor theaters that often seated several thousand spectators. The actors needed masks to project both the visual and audio aspects of a character portrayal.

In my writing I need glamour to project my voice above the clamor and din of roaring traffic. So many of us are rocketing down the proverbial highway encased in 6 tons of steel going sixty miles an hour—one person to a car. While we trudge those lonesome highways I intend to give you something to laugh at and something to think about.