The Gene of Beauty.
My mother used to say that she carried the Gene of Beauty and our father carried the Gene of Intelligence. With luck we might inherit them both or singly but in the “right” proportion. The society, she said, put a lot of pressure on women to be young and beautiful. Men could look like nothing on earth and still consider themselves to be God’s gift to women. Her attitude seemed eminently sensible to me. She was incredibly beautiful, exactly with that type of face and figure described in most novels, when a woman is so stunning all the men’s heads turn in her wake. By the way this always seemed somewhat dubious and even fishy to me. If a man is married or is with a beloved partner, isn’t he supposed to regard her as a sort of Helen of Troy? Naturally when we get married or a la mode settle down with a significant other, we do not become deaf and blind. We do notice a handsome man or a pretty woman. But they are not the ones who make our hearts beat faster, not the person who makes our souls soar.
Studying myself in a mirror as a teenager I pondered the family wisdom, trying to discern either signs of great beauty or catch the beams of wisdom which surely would pour out of my eyes. My mother would spend a considerable time and effort working out an ego booster for me. I was extremely thin and thus looked taller than I was. She bought a new pair of shoes with higher heels than usual and stoically walked in them by my side when we went out. “See, I am taller than you are, it’s OK”, she would point out. My Granny taught me the best principle of all. One cannot saw off a couple inches from one’s height nor can one glue on the same. Be content and make the most with what you have. This helped me through my sister’s never-ending taunts. Ah, older siblings are here for a reason! It did not alleviate matters when the same sister began yelling gleefully at any gathering, “Look at my kid sister, she inherited genes from both parents!” And she would pirouette and preen and fluff her hair and put her hands on her hips to show off her excellent figure.
My favorite aunt got married. Her new husband, as I suddenly noticed, would always greet any of us with the same phrase. “Hello our Beauties!” He would proudly introduce me as his niece and exclaim, “Isn’t our girl absolutely lovely!” He was completely sincere in his praise, and I realized that for him all the nearest and dearest were simply the best and thus the most beautiful people in the world. His own daughter, we privately agreed with my mother, was not even pretty. But she grew up in the same loving atmosphere and thus had no qualms, no inhibitions, no doubts. Her good nature was reflected in her face, her smile was open and friendly and she was well-liked. My own niece visited me recently. No, she did not inherit the family Beauty Gene, but when I mentioned “our Beauties” she grinned and said, “Yes, we all grew up with that, aren’t we lucky to have him?”
Surprising though it may seem not all babies are cute; youth is beautiful of and by itself but lots of adolescents are really ugly. One never knows whether an ugly duckling would become a magnificent swan or remain the same unattractive creature. Whenever I meet such a child who feels awkward and shy, I invariably say, “Oh she is so pretty!” And “My, doesn’t he look intelligent!” The smiles they give me in return to the simple compliment, the shining eyes, the straightened shoulders, the animated talk tell their own story.
It is allowed for a girl to be intelligent, and a boy is allowed to be stunningly handsome. Yet the ancient “distribution” lingers, so it is safe to compliment youngsters in a different way. “Auntie, I am not beautiful. Am I plain or just ugly?” I looked at my god-daughter, aged seven and already worried about her appearance. She certainly wasn’t pretty, not even as a toddler, though it never bothered me. But now she reached the stage when it started to bother her. I suggested we do something, like comb her unruly hair and put a nice bright barrette in it. I also talked to her mother and offered to buy the girl a new pair of eye-glasses; we chose a pair with very stylish rainbow-colored frames. These simple measures helped boost the kid’s self-confidence and raised her mood immensely.
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder as we adults know. Truth is, children often are the beholders of their own faces and figures and general appearance. Once they start school they begin worrying about their intellectual abilities. This is where we can help them overcome the fears and insecurities. The Gene of Kindness is probably the most important one of them all.
The Gene of Beauty.