The Trouble with Beauty

I'd be lying if I said I didn't obsess about my looks sometimes. I think even the most seemingly confident girls do, probably even more so than the rest of us. We hear all the time that "beauty is only skin deep" and that people who really care about us won't care what we look like. But it's not that easy, is it? We hear it, but we don't live it. We may not all apply fake lashes every day and spend two hours in front of the mirror before we let a single soul see us for the day, but I bet it hasn't been long since you've looked in the mirror and been disappointed in something about yourself. Or since you've seen someone you consider beautiful and wished you had some of her features.
But there's something missing from beauty, something that we refuse to acknowledge, and it is this simple truth: Beauty is hollow. It truly is only skin deep. We can recite that mantra every day of our lives without ever truly believing it. We can tell ourselves that sure, beauty may not be the most important thing, but it would sure be great if I could lose 10 pounds, or if my nose wasn't so big, or if...(fill in the blank.)
The other day I was working on my novel and I found a great printout that was supposed to help flesh out my characters. I sat down with several pages of questions to answer about my main character. Some were simple, others really made me think. One question said to list what was beautiful about my character. That was easy! She was fiction, and seeing as she is my main character, I of course put a little of myself into her. In a way, it is like creating a more perfect version of myself. This Anndee, going of course by another name, was radiant. She stopped people dead in their tracks. I think I actually wrote the words, "her beauty got a lot of second glances" or some other nonsense.
Then I got to the hard question, which read, "What is ugly about your character?" The writer of the worksheet had listed a few examples to give you ideas... are her ears too big? Is she freakishly tall? Does she have buck teeth?
Although I had sped through the worksheet up until this point, I was suddenly stumped. It wasn't that I couldn't come up with unattractive characteristics, it was just that I didn't want my beautiful, radiant, head-turning character to have any unattractive qualities. To give her an imperfection made her just that: imperfect. Every time I would finally concede, "Ok, she can have big ears." I would immediately erase it. She can't have big ears! She has to be beautiful. After I moved on from Denial I started Bargaining... maybe she can just have an ugly flaw, the kind of shortcoming we brag about at job interviews. She's just too organized, it really gets in the way of her work sometimes. (No stealing, that one is mine.)
After at least ten minutes of wrestling with this, it finally hit me: I was doing this character a great disservice by making her beautiful. I had so easily come up with beautiful traits for her that column was filled to the brim. But as far as I could see this character, beauty is all that she was. She was the kind of character that directors love in their movies because you'll be so distracted by their beauty that you hopefully won't notice the horrible script. ("You can't hide in the band room anymore. I see you." Actual quote from a really stupid movie that Caleb and I wasted an entire evening on just this week. I won't ruin the surprise, let's see if you can find it yourself.)
For those of us who have had the unfortunate experience of reading Twilight (it sucked me in! It was so bad that I had to read every one! That is time I am never getting back, and I personally blame Stephenie Meyer.) I think we can all agree: Beautiful characters are boring. ESPECIALLY in a book, because we don't get to gaze upon them and enjoy their beauty... rather, we are left with a bunch of empty characters sitting around admiring each others beauty. 
Lest you think this is only a problem in literature, let me assure you that I've thought about this a lot lately, and it is a real life problem as well. I started thinking about the people that I'd most like to look like. The girls who always seemed to get all the attention, the ones who quickly learned to manipulate boys affections, how to bat their eyelashes to get their way. I thought about all the times I was jealous when a boy asked for my friends number and ignored me like I wasn't even there. I thought about the girls who seemed to have everything in life handed to them on a silver platter simply because they were born with particularly good genes.
And then, my eyes opened. The five years of detoxing from High School finally paid off and I realized... most of those girls were really, really boring. Most of those girls had little to no hobbies or interests outside of anything regarding their hair, makeup, or clothes. Most of those girls went on dates with those boys who had ignored me, and then after realizing they didn't have much to talk about, those same boys never called again.
What's more, is most of those girls are still the same today as they were in High School. They still date around, never wanting to settle down for the affections of one man for the rest of their life because they are so used to getting attention from a wide selection of boys. It finally, finally, hit me that I have nothing to be jealous of. I found a husband who fell in love with me for my sense of humor, our shared interests, and even the fact that I'm a writer. I found a husband who looks bored when I show him new clothes I bought, but who lights up when we talk about how far I've come on my book, or our future together.

After years of looking in the mirror and being disappointed in myself, I was finally justified in my disappointment... not because of my looks, but because of my attitude. Because as much as I'd like to walk out the door every day and turn heads, I finally realized that doesn't really matter. All my life it's been thrown at me from every angle that my beauty is my only important quality. For every time I felt inferior to someone else because of my looks, I am now so grateful that I never let it define me. I am grateful that I used those times to focus on my strengths, my interests, the things that really do matter. The things that make a person attractive, not just pretty.

1 comment:

  1. Andee - I KNOW why you are in Young Women's with me!!! Our Young Women need to KNOW this truth!!! You are the best!!!