Monday, April 22, 2013

Mixed blessings

The question of beauty and other worldly assets arose again this weekend during a discussion of a Dove video in which an artist produces pairs of drawings of unseen women. The first of each pair is based on a woman’s self-description; the second is based on a description of her by someone she has just met. In each case, the second sketch is deemed more flattering than the first. Let’s not even talk about what’s wrong with this picture, er, video.

First we started talking about how beauty can cripple. My friend said her sisters’ beauty had led to eating disorders and extreme and ultimately disfiguring cosmetic procedures. Then I said that as a parent, I’ve observed that early beauty—and the attention it draws—can give young people a distorted view of what is valuable about them and can discourage them from putting effort into endeavors that do not bring the easy approval that beauty does. Conversely, sometimes their peers dislike them on sight (“Don’t hate me because I’m beautiful”). 

My friend likened the barbs of beauty to those of wealth. She inherited money when she was in her 20s and feels her wealth robbed her of the satisfaction and self-esteem of earning a living. Which reminded me of how I feel about my demi-retirement: no practical worries but endless ontological ones.

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