Thursday, September 6, 2012

My wish for you. . . .


Recently, as I was running, my treadmill (in)conveniently facing a wall length mirror, I couldn’t help but think, “It’s a good thing I’m funny, because I am not pretty.”

Granted, this is as I was red, puffing, hair in crazy, sweaty curls stuck to my forehead, so I didn’t really expect to look good. But this has been a recurrent theme throughout my life - pretty vs. funny. Mostly I notice it now when pictures are tagged of me on Facebook that I didn’t pre-approve. I always seem to be on the verge of either laughing or sneezing.

I’ve never put a whole lot of stock in my appearance, though. Yes, I put on makeup, work out, spend way too much time picking out the perfect outfit only to discard it five minutes later for another perfect outfit. But then I would walk out of the house and pretty much forget about how I look.

In high school, my best friend and I compared ourselves to the women in the movie "The Truth About Cats and Dogs". She was Uma Thurman - elegant, blond, tall and pretty. I was Janeane Garofalo. Funny, witty, short and "cute".

Because I’ve never thought I was pretty. Cute, yes, but being cute has more to do with personality, with being short and willing to laugh at yourself, then it does with being attractive.

To me, being attractive conjurs up an image of another friend of mine in high school. She was a beautiful girl - where others were blotchy, her skin was perfect and smooth. Where I alternated between straightening my hair on an ironing board and letting the curls have their way with it, her hair was thicker and bouncier and shinier than any shampoo commercial. To this day, when I think of beautiful people - celebrities or not - she still comes to mind as the most attractive.

To top it off, I was always amazed that even with being so beautiful, she was such an incredibly nice person. In my mind, beauty and kindness didn't always go hand-in-hand.  People gravitate towards beauty and attractivness, especially in high school, so if you are beautiful, you don’t have to be nice to have friends. Anyone who has seen popular clich├ęs at any high school can atttest to this. Of course, not every beautiful or popular person is mean and unkind, but society as a whole tends to let beautiful people off the hook when it comes to being kind.

But my friend was so nice, and I couldn’t help but think that if I looked like her, I wouldn’t have to be nice. Not in the way I had to be to make friends. I learned how to put others first, to listen and respect way beyond the surface.

As I've aged, and sagged and grown inside and out, I have come to believe that it is not a bad thing that I am not beautiful. In fact, it was a blessing. Being not beautiful is probably one of the best things that has ever happened to me.

Being not beautiful has made me accept myself as a whole person, rather than just an outer shell. As age and kids have morphed my body into one unrecognizable to my 16 - or even 25 -  year old self, it has helped to remember that I am more than just the outer look I present.

Being not beautiful has forced me to develop my personality into a well-rounded stew of wisdom and intelligence, humor and compassion.

Being not beautiful has made me find other ways to attract friends - sense of humor, listening skills, ability to go with the flow.

I work with a lot of beautiful, well made-up, Botoxed women. But usually I am the one who gets compliments. On my smile, my laugh, my sense of humor. Those aspects that don't have anything to do with beauty, but in my personality shining through.

When I smile, I don’t think of  lines or wrinkles or spinach stuck in my teeth.. I smile with my whole face - wrinkles and Spinach be damned. People respond to that.

By being not beautiful, I have learned that my worth as a person is in my smile, my heart and my funny bone, not in my face or body.

So what I wish most for my daughter, my perfect beautiful little Peanut, is that you also be “not beautiful”. So that one day, you can realize that you ARE.