In praise of homeliness
The wonderful American etiquette writer Miss Manners once received a query from someone who was worried about what to do when shown photos of her friend’s ugly grandchild. Should she lie? Miss Manners responded, “It is not a lie. All brides and all babies are beautiful by definition.”
Well, I’m not about to volunteer for crèche duty any time soon, and I don’t know about brides, but about babies she was surely right. A healthy, clean baby who is not crying is a beautiful object, yes?
And I would even extend this to a healthy, clean etc toddler.
All one-year-olds are beautiful.
But you cannot say this about all nine-year-olds, or all 27-year-olds, or all 53-year-olds. At some point in any person’s life, after perhaps the age of 18 months, they get mysteriously sorted into one of three categories:
- The undeniably beautiful or handsome. Not just Brad Pitt and Julia Roberts, but also people who are not film stars. Some people just are good-looking.
- The plain, in face or figure, or as I shall describe them, the homely. (Not necessarily unbearably ugly, you understand.)
- The vast majority, who are OK. The people who are beautiful on a good day, or when they’re very happy, and the rest of the time are “fairly nice-looking”.
As I imply, the vast majority of my readers fall into category 3, although I do know some beautiful people. I have always regarded myself as category 2. Please do not comment to agree or disagree.
(Interestingly, this is not hereditary. My children are beautiful.)
Everyone tells me that it is a huge advantage in life to be attractive. I’m sure they’re right. But, hey, there are a few advantages the other way too.
I am not under pressure to make an effort. The amount of time and money I must have saved in my life through not wearing make-up or shaving must run into several full days, and hundreds of pounds. (Presumably the time and money were all frittered away, but that’s another story.)
I do not need to be jealous of the beautiful woman at the party. They are not “Me As I Ought To Be”; they are just Different.
I have my husband’s permission to say that I do not keep him waiting while I get ready for us to go out.
I don’t have to be paranoid about photos of me, because none of them are going to be that good.
Even when I was single, I could talk to a male friend without worrying/wondering if he was going to ask me out. (“When Harry Met Sally” is one of my favourite films, but the tagline is wrong. Men and women can be friends.)
It possibly reduces the stress of growing old.
Last October I was at a conference where helpful talks were beamed at us from America by (largely) beautiful people. One glamorous woman’s talk was basically a lengthy anecdote about a holiday with her husband, and the misunderstandings that can arise in conversation. She told the story well and comically: in a nutshell, they were swimming; she made a romantic remark; he brushed it off. She interpreted this as “You are not attracted to me in a swimming costume any more”, but what he was thinking was “I want to get out of this lake, because I am scared that I would not be able to rescue my wife if we got into difficulties”. So she told us casually that, as we know, most men’s insecurities centre on not being able to provide for their families, and most women’s insecurities centre on their body image.
OK, I’m not most women then. I have many insecurities, but I think I can honestly say that body image, while there, is not top of the list.
Love from the PPI Blogger
PS Next week – a guest post from someone who is actually professionally qualified in his subject!