Once when I was a kid, I asked my dad whether he thought I was beautiful. He considered this for a moment and then told me, “You’re not beautiful, but you are pretty.” *
I took this pretty badly at the time, and I’m sure he got a telling-off courtesy my mother. I remember him trying to explain himself: he meant I wasn’t glamorous, all movie-star sleek like Grace Kelly. I suppose at the time beauty meant to him something stylish and lofty, but pretty meant something down-to-earth and affectionate.
This conversation has stayed with me, and I think about it often. Who do I think is beautiful? What is it about them that makes them so? Beauty is a broad term encompassing so much more than physical traits.
Ever notice how someone who’s initially good-looking can become way less so when you realize something unpleasant about them? (I became aware of this in the 3rd grade when a previously cute boy turned out to be a jerk.) It works the other way too: people become more physically attractive the more delight you find in them.
For example: Bill Murray.
He doesn’t have lush locks or a perfect complexion. But he has a beautiful face. It’s his eyes. His expressions. His half-smile. His laugh. His hair (it has his character).
His voice. How he delivers deadpan lines. The way he says “wow”. How he breaks into song. It’s his timing. The way he carries himself. His slapstick. He can bring me to tears with laughter.
It’s his thoughtful intelligence. His perception of himself. How he views life, purpose, people.
I would rather spend five minutes with him than an hour with Brad Pitt. I take huge delight in Bill Murray. In short, he is beautiful. ~Swoon and faint~
* Oh my life, what an unfortunate thing for a parent to say. hahaha! It’s true, though: I’m neither glamorous nor sleek. My dad’s words I suppose went some way to free me from that expectation (at least, from him).
I’ve been writing this in my head for a while and finally started to type something out a few days ago, but I got distracted. Then I saw the following article in the Guardian today and it more or less says what I’m saying here.