In Search of Better Stories

I Remember the Pretty Ones

Nobody is stopped in their tracks, inexplicably compelled to marvel the beauty of a cockle-burr. But a Tiger Lilly? Now that’s a different matter. Naked mole rats aren’t exactly filling up the spaces of glossy photo calendars purchased at the beginning of each year. Its horses snow-leopards that are called upon for that.

It’s no different for humans. I remember one time during my college years travelling with my friend Jordan. We were heading back home for winter break, and we stopped at a gas station somewhere north of Duluth. Some frisky girls were there, they looked us up and down as we got Jordan’s truck fuelled and ready for the next leg of the journey. One of the girls pointed to Jordan and said, “I would do him.”

Why wouldn’t she want to do me? I wondered. The answer was obvious, Jordan was deemed by the girls as more attractive. We didn’t stick around long enough to discover the seriousness of their advance. But it was pretty clear from their assessment that in the caste system of physical beauty, I was no Bromine.

There is a hierarchy of beauty in this world. There are physically attractive people and physically unattractive people. It feels like a cruel trick because even if a person is absolutely committed to treating all people with dignity and respect, it’s still the beautiful ones that get noticed.

Each morning I sit on a bench, next to a footpath. As hundreds of walkers and joggers pass me by, I regularly glance up and smile. I’m doing my part to help our city distance itself from the reputation it has for being unfriendly. As the years have passed, I’ve noticed a curious thing about myself; I remember the pretty ones.

When someone with the shape of beauty, enhanced by Lulu Lemon, passes me by, my effort to make a connection instinctively multiplies exponentially. I discover that my attempts to make eye contact linger longer. My smile feels more genuine. I am more inclined to offer to help should they require any assistance. Remarkably, if a connection is made, I have no trouble remembering their name for the next time they pass by. As for the others, the less shapely ones, the ones with physical imperfections, and harsher looks, I do my part to be friendly. Still, it’s simply not the same, for the most part, non-pretties just drift by mostly unnoticed. Somehow, deep in my subconscious, I prioritize the importance of connecting with physically appealing people.

What do I make of this? Should I resist the natural inclinations that push me to participate in the hierarchy of beauty? For those, like me, who are not at the head of the class when it comes to physical beauty, I say appreciate beauty wherever you find it. Comparison kills contentment and resenting someone because they are more attractive than you will only decrease whatever attractiveness you do have. If you can enjoy a beautiful flower, a sunset, or even a Picasso, you can enjoy a physically attractive person. “God, she’s beautiful” If said without jealousy or malice or predatory instinct is a joy-inducing statement. If you believe in God, it becomes worship.

For all the first prize winners at the county fair of beauty, I have this to offer. There is nothing more unattractive than a beautiful person who has become convinced that their physical assets make them superior to others. Never believe that. Don’t be the person the Northern Pikes sing about when they say

Her ego wrote checks incredibly fast
But her personality didn’t have the cash
I laughed out loud to my total dismay
She ain’t pretty, she just looks that way.

Instead, be the person that Sammy Kershaw has in mind.

She don’t know she’s beautiful (never crossed her mind)
She don’t know she’s beautiful (she not that kind)

I have a final word for all, wherever you land on this often brutal spectrum of physical beauty. Whether you have been kissed on the cheek by Aphrodite or smacked in the mouth by her, remember this: Lasting happiness will always be out of reach for those who make it dependant on physical beauty. The more enduring kind of attraction that produces the greatest joy in both yourself and those around you will come only when special attention is paid to the cultivation of virtue. Truth, humility, patience, love, teamwork, kindness, gratitude, and diligence are the qualities that form a foundation of attraction that the ravages of time and tragedy can never destroy.

If you are physically attractive, that’s great, don’t spend too much time thinking about it. Spend your time and energy cultivating virtue. If you are not physically attractive, I am sorry, life can be harsh that way, but don’t spend any time mourning the absence of what you don’t have.

All of us want to be attractive because all of us want to belong. If belonging is the end game behind the mystery of attraction, then the nurture of virtue in a person’s life needs to become the principal thing. In the abundance of virtue, there is belonging in the absence of it, there is only a vacuous chasm encrusted with strife and discord.

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