Monday, October 28, 2013

For all practical purposes

My oldest sister is a lovely woman. When she was a teenager, she would ask my mother if she was pretty. My mother would answer her, "You're pretty enough for all practical purposes."

That was an understatement. My sister belonged to that small slice of young women whose looks drew men in large numbers. It grew to be quite a nuisance for her. She'd be at home trying to study for her college classes, and again the phone would ring for her. "Why can't they just leave me alone?" she would wail plaintively and sincerely. Turning guys down was hard for her because she has a kind heart. Fortunately, she was able to sort wisely through the candidates for her affection and married a good man who, while appreciating her looks, also valued her more lasting attributes.

We have four little girls, and they are slowly growing up (no matter how many times I "squish" them on the top of their heads as part of a long-running joke to keep them little forever). I wish for them to be "pretty enough for all practical purposes" but not more than that. I don't see many benefits to being extremely beautiful in this world. It draws predatory and vacuous, narcissistic men in large numbers to a young woman, wasting her time and preventing her from having as many interactions with men possessing more sense and humility.

Another consideration in the pursuit of beauty is that the amount of time that meeting transitory appearance standards (such as 4-inch heels, fake nails, time-consuming and damaging hairstyles, etc.) can easily suck an hour or more of grooming time out of every day, and the fashions tend to make women less able to accomplish anything besides attracting. (Have you ever tried to cook a meal or garden with a new manicure job? I can't imagine fake nails make suturing wounds any easier, either.) I am sad to think how much young women as a group fail to learn and do in their youth because they're too busy trying to meet airbrushed, expensive ideals. Now, I'm not going to say to my daughters: "Burn the makeup and the bras; guys should love you just the way you are no matter how you look." I'm no fan of the grunge look. One can find a happy medium.

I would wish for my daughters to be kind, happy, healthy, and intelligent. With those four attributes, they'll figure out how to look "pretty enough for all practical purposes." Based on my own experience (I was a bit of an ugly duckling), I seemed to almost magically become prettier when dating someone I wanted to impress. I have every reason to think that things will work out naturally for my girls in the looks department when it's time for them to partner twenty years or so.... :)

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