When I was five or six, I had the very first ‘boyfriend’ that I can remember… Eric. I remember that we came together because we were both the first-borns of our families, tasked with the responsibility of taking care of our siblings, both of whom were in the same class, and at the very start of pre-school. We discovered each other and these remarkable coincidences when we both sat at the same bench, one break-time, keeping an eagle eye on our siblings.
To this day, I clearly remember feeling able to stare at him for DAYS on end, like I would an original Van Gogh. For Eric was GORGEOUS. I remember his perfect shock of chocolate-brown hair, and matching chocolate-brown eyes, which were wide and warm, and beautiful. I think he was the first and last ‘GORGEOUS’ boy I’ve ever ‘been with.’ Since then, somehow… I can’t really tell.
Hans and I were discussing the other day how our perceptions of Beauty have shifted, as we’ve grown older, but, at college, while still in my discriminative days, I was regularly shocked by what my friends and roommates presented to me as ‘Drop Dead Gorgeous’. I truly don’t know why any man would feel insecure –in reality, girls are ruled by their emotions, which colour and shift and distort their actual vision, so that, however unacceptable your looks might be to one girl (or even the world at large), three more would be quite willing to swoon for a moment of your attention. And sometimes, even if they don’t initially find you good-looking, all you have to do (if you are a man of substance) is open your mouth, for your entire appearance to change into that of a Prince. Women!
I had a gorgeous Italian girlfriend, in college, who could literally have had ANY man she smiled at… I won’t tell you how I felt when she came to visit me with Simon, whom she’d described to me over the phone as “… and he’s SO attractive, Ciggie –he’s BEAUTIFUL!!”
He was extremely tall, and gangly with it (no crime at all.) After an hour or so, I was able to perceive that he had very kind, warm brown eyes. But it had taken that long, not because he was unpleasant (indeed, he was mannerful, soft-spoken, smart, generally lovely, and just right for Laura) but because no matter what I did, or how many times I reminded myself of my manners, I just could NOT tear my eyes away from his nose, which was large… and broken.
Within that first hour, I had introduced myself to his nose, offered it coffee and biscuits, asked it how it liked its coffee, handed it a mug, and laughed politely at its jokes. It was only when his personality began sinking in that I was able to see beyond it, and even then, when Laura called me later for a What-Did-You-Think Report, the first thing I asked her was… ‘What is with the NOSE?’ Her answer literally made me sit down.
“Isn’t it WONDERFUL!!!” She gushed, giggling madly, “I just LOVE broken noses –don’t you?”
I don’t think I asked another question.
Another girlfriend ‘loved’ a man that looked that the dictionary’s definition of a twerp. Short, thin and bespectacled, he was alternatively mute or inaudible, which last drives me NUTS. I mean, I understand shyness, awkwardness –and even geekiness has its charm. But this thing seemed to have absolutely nothing to say for himself. For the two hours I had to bear his presence without relief, on our first meeting, it was like my friend had come over alone. And naturally, she was one of these bubbly, happy beauties you’d think would fall for a tall, hardy life-of-the-party type (which, incidentally, I instinctively distrust. It’s just as suspicious to assert yourself too much as not to at all.)
I don’t remember him much now, but I believe I did warm up to him a little eventually… but only because I tend to. I could NEVER believe that they would last, and expected, every time I saw her, to be told that she’d seen the light. And naturally, I couldn’t tell her anything about him except that I totally approved (OH WHY do we girls DO that?!!) when I was really thinking that he was a serial killer in the making. I don’t remember what eventually happened with them, but wouldn’t be surprised to find out that they were married with six kids. Life’s funny like that, and so are our impressions of people.
Yet another girlfriend dated someone whom I could only describe as… well, a clown. The freaky horror movie type –without makeup. A tall, LARGE man. Everything about him. Improbably BUSHY eyebrows, BULGING eyes, WIDE, flat nose, a HUGE bottom lip and no upper… LARGE teeth. LOUD, and BOSSY, and OBNOXIOUS (and sometimes funny, that’s true.) And when he sat down, he spread himself all over the place… I disliked him so, I congratulated her when they broke up, telling her, with the cruel blatancy of youth:
“What if you’d gotten pregnant by that thing? Do you realise what would have come out?”
I was speechless when she burst into tears, informing me that he’d dumped her… for someone else. I’ve dated my share of lizards (then wondered at myself) but, I hope, never a living clown.
Models are plain, as a standard, because they work as the canvases on which fashion-makers need to write their own script. Yet they are uniformly spoken of as ‘stunning’ (please don’t believe ANYTHING said on TV any more, by the way, because apparently everyone semi-famous is ‘gorgeous’ and that is DEFINITELY not the case. At least, objectively.)
Actors and actresses, on the other hand, are lovely to look at, because they come in all shapes and sizes, and may become attractive or less, so based on their characters. (Willem Dafoe is a GREAT case in point.) And I think that’s what Beauty is really like. Like Grief, it looks different on everyone. It isn’t shallow to say or think that ‘Looks matter’. They DO. But they’re also relative, and change with personality.
The way people say that someone isn’t good-looking is by referring to their personality. “Is so-and-so good-looking?” “So-and-so is a WONDERFUL person. So interesting and so kind!” And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. There’s much, much more to Life. And having an interesting personality makes you attractive –which is much better for you than simply being pretty. Beauty fades, as you might recall… and all that’s left is personality.
Still, the kind of Beauty anyone should look for in a partner, is the enduring kind; not objectively, but rather personally beheld. Agatha Christie once advised girls to consider how they feel about their potential partner when he has a cold (I think this goes for guys too!) If you’re still attracted to them, you’re on the right track!