(from November 5, 2012)
The little girl across the waiting room from me today was cute as can be. She was around 7, waiting with her mom and her older sister for a doctor to see them. Her little round face was framed by dark brown hair, and her brown eyes looked shyly at me from time to time as I studied their family from behind my magazine. She was doing some studying of her own. She had picked up a magazine and had begun leafing through the pages, ooohing and aahhing over the pretty pictures, occasionally lifting one up to her mother. "Look at that dress, mama, it's pretty, ain't it?" Her mother looked at the picture, wrinkled her nose, and shook her head, probably willing herself to remember what I try to when I see those pictures: They aren't real. They are airbrushed. It's makeup and lights. Baby girl tried a few more times to show her mama some pretty pictures, and her face showed the delight of a little girl discovering something beautiful: "OOOoooo, look at her lipstick, mama" and "Ooooooh, shiney!" were just a few of the words she was exclaiming as she looked at the pretty magazine, full of pretty people in pretty clothes with pretty makeup in pretty poses.
While I watched her, I could see myself in those brown eyes, first discovering what the world called "pretty". It made me sad, as delighted as she was, because I knew that the wheels in that sweet little brain were turning as she absorbed what allure magazine called "pretty". And as she also absorbed the very message that many of us do from an early age: that she will never measure up.
While we were sitting there, an older woman came in to see the doctor. She had to have been in her late seventies or early eighties, but she was poised and pulled together, her white hair in a smart bun and her lipstick a carefully applied coral. Her skin was a smooth porcelain, and although she bore the obvious signs of aging, she showed wisdom and grace in her blue eyes and wrinkles. I was astounded by her beauty and grace. She was living proof that beauty is ageless. I wondered if she had ever felt beautiful, because if she had not, it would only be because she didn't believe it herself.
That woman would never be in allure, because that magazine, like most, has a very narrow and exclusive definition of what beauty is. But I saw today what beauty really is: a sweet young girl's expressive eyes and careless brown hair, her mouth formed in a perfect O as she delighted in pictures; a mother's wrinkled nose as she rebuffed, if only for a second, the world's pronouncement of beauty; a woman's white hair and thin, wrinkled mouth with carefully applied coral lipstick; and blue eyes that revealed a grace and a wisdom that only time can give.
Truth, and goodness, and beauty are but different faces of the same all.
--Ralph Waldo Emerson