I came across this little sentence this morning (though there was no attribution, so forgive me) – “An ugly personality destroys a pretty face.” Sounds like something my maternal grandmother might have brought with her from the ‘old country’, packed in the suitcase with the two silver candlesticks. (There were some great Yiddishisms that don’t necessarily translate too well, but they’re so evocative – “may every tooth in your mouth rot except one, and may that one ache for the rest of your life”. Who came up with this?) Sorry – off on a tangent. Anyway, I never met her, though I was blessed with her name. I still think I’m too young for the heft of “Miriam”, though it’s a name I have grown to love. True, in the Bible she saved her brother (which one really can’t dismiss, for it was reflective of love and bravery and selflessness and there wouldn’t be a whole lot to write about if Moses hadn’t made it), but she died from leprosy – not exactly a happifying ending for a really nice girl.
Our family’s Miriam – my grandmother – appears in photos as this beautiful, serious grown-up with incredibly wise eyes and lips that remain fixed in a straight line. She betrays nothing in those few pictures – not what she has seen, endured, celebrated or lost. And arguably there wasn’t a lot for her to smile about until my sister was born and I believe that her arrival was her greatest joy, the most affirming, gorgeous, delicious experience she would ever know. I wish there were pictures of her holding Deb, for I think she would have been breathtaking, revealing far more than a stoic image with beautiful features.
And that really is just it – what distinguishes one lovely structured visage from another? What echoes in your soul when your memory constructs its image of a person? The initial description is often cosmetic – the color of a person’s hair and eyes, relative height and overall appearance. Laws of attraction come into play, I realize, which brings me to another one of my grandmother’s great lines – “an owl to one, is a nightingale to another”. I realize that some people are physically more attractive than others, and I am definitely vain enough to want to qualify for the more positive adjectives that can be applied to short women (though I really feel that ‘perky’ and ‘cute’ can’t compete with ‘gorgeous’ and ‘stunning’, but whatever).
So with those caveats, life has also been lived long enough for me to see that with a second look, there is nothing that diminishes or enhances a person more than their core. Some of the most good-looking people I have met are also the least appealing. Smiles that at best are disingenuous and at worst don’t reach the eyes, callous comments and narcissistic perspectives. Too much lipstick and too little warmth; six pack abs and an empty ‘can o’ care’ inside. Eyes that search for the next-thing-that-isn’t-good-enough and never settle upon a magical moment. Hands that are ridiculously smooth because they haven’t held onto anything for dear life. The most beautiful people I know are not indifferent to their appearance at all. They also don’t define beauty too narrowly. I gravitate to the magnificence of an open heart, the delicate touch of kindness, the warmth of an expansive smile. I think most of us do. At a certain point you realize that the reflections of a person’s heart redefine the parameters of attractiveness.
Or as my grandmother used to say “pretty is as pretty does”. Have a great Sunday everybody.