Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Shunning the Beautiful

It is no secret that feminine beauty carries unique weight in our culture, affecting a woman's prospects in her career, in love, in her friendships, in her potential for fame. Most of us fall somewhere in the middle of the spectrum, neither ugly nor particularly beautiful. But even within that vast middle realm, there is a wide spectrum. I've had the somewhat unique experience of traversing that middle realm, having been much less attractive in my youth than I was lucky enough to mysteriously become in middle age. So I have some experience with both ends of the spectrum. But I have never been extremely beautiful, and that is a state which is both a blessing and a curse.

I've always avoided the extremely beautiful-- both men and women-- feeling no attraction whatsoever for those men with square jaws, piercing eyes and cut... things. Likewise, I've never wanted to befriend beautiful women. In both cases, I once assumed that I was invisible to these celestial creatures, and treated them as being similarly invisible, meanwhile comparing myself to these women as a yardstick for my own achievements. I would sharpen my achievements against theirs, failing to outwardly acknowledge anything they had achieved. I think this response is common, and I think it is mean.

It has only dawned on me in recent years that this response is harmful, not only to me but to the people whom I have treated this way. The beautiful attract so much of our hatred and so little of our guilt for the same. But imagine for a second what it would be like for people to respond to you in this way from your earliest memories-- for people to always be sharpening their talents against yours, for people always to be seeking to prove themselves your superior in some small (or great) way, and simultaneously to see the backs of these competitors' heads as they turn away from you every time you walk into a room.

It's become apparent to me that the beautiful are treated, in many respects, as ill as the ugly, that their very appearance attracts undue attention, and that even kindness, to them, is often thinly concealing a dagger.

I think it is encumbent upon us, as women, to go to great lengths to show kindness to those other women whose beauty cows us, to be as kind to them as we would to anyone else who needs our help-- in a transparent and simple way. Competition is not helpful to any of us if it is not infused with kindness, grace, and humor.

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