I once read a great book about Cinderella’s stepsister . It didn’t make Cinders out to be a bitch, exactly, but she wasn’t entirely nice either. The sister, on the other hand… What I liked about the book was that the sister was strikingly plain, but somebody fell in love with her anyway because of her engaging conversational skills and as a consequence (I guess) actually saw her as attractive. Whereas Cinders had to do it the other way around (as maybe most beautiful people do) – prospective suitors fall for the looks first, then hopefully later appreciate the less obvious characteristics (or not). We (humans) can’t get over looks though.
First, being ugly. I could write a book on it and probably will one day. There are very few people in the world who ARE actually, inarguably, ugly – but that leaves many of us in the questionable category – are we or aren’t we? In the fluoro-lighted lift at work – yep, that face would turn toads off. By candlelight in a darkened room, not so much.
My mum always said I was beautiful (she still does, only now she’s just about blind so I’m not sure how much faith to place in that testimonial). Men, when they’re hoping to/about to/in the process of having it off with me, and sometimes even when they’ve done the deed, often say ‘you’re beautiful’. But then in cooler moments they say things like ‘well, of course I think you’re lovely, but neither of us is that much to look at, realistically,’ and ‘I wouldn’t want a really beautiful girlfriend, cause other guys would always be trying to steal her off me.’
And one of the best I’ve ever got (Me, post coitus: do you think I’m attractive? Him: Hmm, well you’re not the belle of the ball, but you’re not ugly..). So, well, the jury’s still out. As I tell my teenage daughter (who’s stunning), you don’t have to be beautiful to be successful with men. In real life (as opposed to LA and Cosmo), charm and intelligence (and willingness to put out, though I don’t say that) are equally as important. After all, even the beautiful will eventually get ugly (though not as ugly as the ugly) in old age – take my friend H, for example, who in her last years was basically a skeleton with some not very decorative flesh attached.
The lovely thing about being human, when you think about it, is that we live in a world where there is no such thing as absolute truth, and just about everything is equivocal. Which is to say that beauty is in the eye of the beholder and that some of us go through life trying to find that one beholder who has our particular brand of gorgeousness stuck in his eye like a particularly resistant case of conjunctivitis.