A recent article in the NY Times claims that the wish to be beautiful is healthy, normal.
There’s no question that beautiful/handsome people have an easier time of it than the rest of us. But equating physical attractiveness with moral superiority and societal worth, a belief which religions and advertisers advance with rigorous conviction, is, well, crazy.
Or is it?
My mother abandoned me as an infant back in the baby scoop days when adoptions were conducted in secret and with little understanding of the complexities of profering very young children to strangers.
I grew up with people who were small-boned, exotic-looking, dark-haired As opposite my own English/Scots-Irish/German big-boned, coarse-featured self as could be imagined.
To make matters even more complicated, the supposedly infertile couple had a daughter of their own when I was about 2 years old. Their daughter grew up to be perfect: thin, beautiful, athletic, popular – the favorite of aunts, uncles and cousins. I was the black sheep in every respect: looks, personality, abilities.
So I didn’t grew up beautiful, and it certainly has impacted work, relationships and my place in communities.
I was so hated in my last town, Mashpee MA, that I had suicidal thoughts every day. I was hated at every place I’ve worked. I need to be very careful of how I act around other people in the course of normal affairs so much as that I’ve taken to avoid contact as much as possible.
The irony is that young children adore me, always have. There is no reason for this other than their purity and innocence.
I was blessed with one magnificent aunt who loved me without condition and who understood instinctively that my childhood rages came from a loss that was so bone-marrow deep that it expressed itself as “spoiled brat” non-verbal fury.
Being unattractive has been character-building, I suppose. I have a reputation for rock-solid integrity. Some people might even think of me as kind.
But does that make me or people like me valuable and worthwhile, especially in the United States? Particularly if we pair plainess or homeliness with intelligence?
It seems to be okay to be unattractive if you’re an object of pity, someone other people can patronize or about whom they can feel superior. Especially if a handicap makes a human being something of a family pet, a symbol of a parent’s forbearance, their “ticket to paradise” and guarantee of societal approval here on earth.
The way you look is determined by genetics. Americans’ preference for tiny women, for example, can’t be achieved with sheer force of will: a natural size 14 will never inhabit the executive suite, marry as well or be as well liked in her community as her size 2 counterpart.
And I don’t buy the story that is often advanced about a mythical size 18 woman who has such a sparkling personality that she’s married to a gorgeous man.
Maybe so, but that woman might be living a home life of sheer misery.
Trust me on this one.