Pretty vs. Beautiful

Woman in Blue Red Dress Shirt Walking in a Fashion Room

I’m not particularly fascinated with celebrities or their lives. I am impressed when they use their notoriety as a tool to bring a social issue to the forefront or personally fund needed gaps for groups bettering the lives of many but I could care less what their homes look like, what toothpaste they use and even what they wear on the red carpet.

Occasionally however, I’ll find an interview of a famous person whom I admire and the interview inevitably starts like this:

The journalist meets insert female celebrity name here at a local coffee shop where said celebrity walks in airily with hair naturally tucked into a ponytail or slight messy bun with just a hint of lip gloss on and as they take a sip of their green herbal tea, the author notes that they are wearing a comfy t-shirt, boyfriend cardigan and relaxed sloppy jeans. “How refreshing!” they always say to have a woman so confident in herself to show up just as she is.

Now.

If I, as a work-from-home mama of four, were to show up for an interview for a national magazine in ripped jeans and a man’s faded t-shirt, with a ball cap and only blush and mascara on my face, I’m pretty sure they’d think I was mugging them or I’d be executed via social media for days.

Am I the only one who realizes that there’s a huge double standard here? What we forget is that they have people. People who style them and then Photoshop what they’ve spent hours styling.  People who do their hair, choose their clothes, clean and stage their homes, cook their food, even people to de-lice their children. That last one is for sure tempting.

Outside of Hollywood, I wager that there are three kinds of women in this world: women that really care about what they look like and will spend ample time and money making sure it happens, people that sort of care about what they look like and will try to spend a little bit of time on the occasion and those who could care less. This last group is the single reason ball caps and ponytails were invented and I often fluctuate between the latter two but never the first, mostly because I have terrible work ethic when it comes to my looks and because my hair is possessed.

Woman in Black and Gray Hoodie Jacket during Daytime

I have friends and family who love that alone time blow drying their hair, curling or flat ironing it. They sincerely like primping and taking the time to look pretty. Me? I’m piddling around the house until ten minutes before I have to leave and then I’m shocked to look down and realize that I’m still in my pajamas and my hair looks like I dipped it in Elmer’s glue, ran through a wind tunnel and stuck my finger in a socket for good measure.

My hair is also wurvy. Wurvy is a term I created and fully expect to be included in Webster’s by 2020. Wurvy gets the w from wavy and since it’s not really curly as it is curvy, we get wurvy. Please start using this adjective and convince all your friends to as well.  Thank you.

As I approach forty this year, I am attempting to embrace my wurvy hair instead of fighting it so much. I have finally joined the Legitimate Grown-up Club by regularly scheduling and keeping hair appointments. Recently, one hour before an appointment and because I am my worst enemy, I convinced myself that having a ponytail three days out of the week meant I should just chop it off. Never mind that every other time I cut it short, I regretted it–completely ignoring the fact that having short wurvy hair means “Ain’t nobody got time for that” every morning.

Free stock photo of woman, morning, bathrobe, bathroom

And all you straight hair women who wish you had curly hair-let go of the delusion. Sometimes the other side of the fence is just as ugly. I was with a straight-haired friend recently and I asked her, “It just does that? It just lays there without attitude or opinion?” And she replied sadly, “Yes. It just lays there.” While she mourned and wished she had more oomph in her hair I wished my oomph lost a little of its zeal.

All joking aside, in discussing beauty and observing my teen look at herself in the mirror and critique her amazing (and legitimately curly) mane of hair, and to all women everywhere who fret and worry about bangs, flat stomachs, stretch marks and eyebrows, this is not where your worth lies. Sure, it’s nice to look pretty but you are so much more.

I wish I’d learned earlier that pretty is different than beautiful. Pretty is what you were born with and have zero control over: your nose, your hairline and even your propensity for a gut that makes jean shopping a nightmare. Beautiful is who you become and how you feed your mind and soul—something you very much have control over.

So, what can we do to make ourselves more beautiful? Continue to educate yourself by learning, reading and stretching the bounds of your knowledge. Learn to love, empathize with and care for those whom you have nothing in common. Find ways to serve those around you quietly, sincerely and without fanfare. Learn and do things that challenge you. Put as much intent, effort and time into your relationship with your spouse and your children, your family, your friends, and your community. The older I get, the more I realize how relationships strengthen and beautify my life in ways nothing else can. Whatever engenders charity, love, humility, and kindness creates beauty.

Grayscale Photo of Laughing Old Man

I’ll let you in on another secret and one of my favorite pastimes at this end of year concert/recital/awards ceremony/graduation craziness: mothers and fathers look most beautiful and handsome while they beam at their children. I dare you to try it without looking like a total creeper. While children are squeaking their instruments, giving halted speeches or shaking hands and accepting paper certificates, look around at their parents.

Mothers radiate awe, pride and pure bliss when they see their children succeed and do well.  Sometimes I have to slap the snarky voice in my head saying that it’s not the Nobel Peace Prize—it’s just the attendance award—but if you want to see true beauty that requires no make-up, hair stylists, image editing or light filters, watch a woman watch one of her creations succeed and do well despite all the challenges and obstacles (or maybe because of) that have been in their path.

And if that’s not true unadulterated beauty, I don’t know what is.

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