Sheet metal, saggy flesh
It’s time to confront the heartbreak of Harley Ferrari syndrome. No longer can we allow this tragic affliction to hide in the shadows.Before we can go any further, there are two necessary tasks.First, we must accept, sadly, that Aspen is home to perhaps the single highest concentration those who suffer from this sad disorder.And second, we must agree to banish from our minds the persistent thought that Harley Ferrari would be a great name for a porn star.That done, we need to properly define the syndrome itself. Here’s the classic definition from the widely used college textbook “Afflictions of the Leisure Class”: Harley Ferrari syndrome is the persistent belief by wealthy, overweight middle-aged men that their sagging flesh, falling hair and failing manhood can be cured – or at least obscured – by ownership of a fast, flashy motor vehicle.For another, perhaps more complete definition, you might refer to the March 2007 South Central Miami Medical Journal article, “Confusing Horsepower and Manpower.”(By the way, this affliction should not be confused with Peter Pan syndrome, men’s refusal to grow up, which does not necessarily involve motor vehicles and which would not be a good name for a porn star.)Let’s look first at the Harley part of the syndrome.What we see here are men who have come far enough in life to be able to spend large sums of money pretending to be the greasers who beat them up and stole their lunch money back in high school.To some extent, our Harley lads are in luck; most of those tough greasers are either dead or in jail – otherwise they just might show up and, instead of stealing lunch money, they’d steal those shiny bright new Harleys.On the other hand, there is some real danger involved. For one thing, there still are some real bikers left in this world, and a fake biker (a fiker?) has to watch his step lest some random Hells Angel decides to take offense at a rich pretender on a Harley.And, for another, there’s the very real danger of falling off the bike. (Which may explain why so many of the women who ride on the back of those Harleys have equipped themselves with their own built-in airbags.)But all of this is territory that has been thoroughly covered before.Perhaps more interesting is the Ferrari part of the syndrome.What’s most interesting here is that sports cars really do not seem to have any natural and appropriate audience these days. As noted, there still are real bikers in this world who can, could and should be riding Harley-Davidsons.But when it comes to sports cars, who are they meant for?Clearly, a pudgy middle-aged guy – with or without hair implants – looks ridiculous behind the wheel of a hot sports car. But here’s the catch: No one else can afford one.Sure, there’s a certain number of spoiled young rich kids who eagerly spend daddy’s money on a hot car. But there aren’t enough of those guys to buy up even Ferrari’s limited production – to say nothing of Maserati, Lamborghini and the rest.And so, the reckless youth who ought to be driving around in their hot sports cars with the top down have all been replaced by guys who can’t put the top down until they make darn sure their toupees are glued on tight. These are guys who, if their wildest dreams come true and the Ferrari actually does attract a hot young chick might find themselves as embarrassed as a toothless man who spends a lot of money on a juicy steak – guys who wind up wishing that the “V” in their V-12 Ferrari stood for Viagra.It is sad, so very sad.And now here we are in Aspen, Colorado, finding ourselves surrounded by flocks of Ferraris, the wrong car in the wrong place. You certainly can’t drive one here in the winter – a Ferrari on ice is like George W. Bush taking the Mensa exam. And in the summer, well, I guess a Ferrari just might be the perfect car to drive up the pass … behind a Winnebago going 10 miles an hour.So please, everyone, do your part to stamp out Harley Ferrari syndrome. No donation required. Just take a vow to make savage fun of middle-aged men in hot sports cars.(For more on this topic, see the May issue of Psych-sexual Disorders, page 32: “Looking under the hood for your lost manhood.”)Andy Stone is former editor of The Aspen Times. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
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