Being beautiful is a beautiful thing. Personally, I wouldn't know, but I'm willing to bet it's better than being unbeautiful.
But it ain't all it's cracked up to be. I happen to have way more than my fair share of beautiful people in my life, so I've seen the other side.
For clarification: I'm not talking about "real" beauty or "deep" beauty or "three-dimensional" beauty. Everyone knows you can't judge a book by its cover — even though the cover of my book is amazing — and that physically beautiful humans can be hellishly ugly and so on. Everyone gets that, the same way everyone knows that sticks and stones break bones, but words break hearts and souls. So let's let that be, for now.
I'm talking about being a physically gorgeous woman. (Sue me.) Again, it's a beautiful thing, more pleasant than the alternative. But not always.
Middle school. Ninth grade. Helen of Troy changes schools in late September. She's internally confident, but externally shy, the tug-of-war between those two paradigms only evident in Kodak memories, stories from old people and a tiny tug in the root of her being that tells her she's gonna win, or at least keep going, no matter what, in spite of/because of her beauty. She gets more attention — always has and will for the rest of her life — than she ever wanted and will ever want. The first dimension of a multidimensional blessing/curse. If you're a beautiful woman, you know what I mean.
She eats lunch by herself every day. The popular incumbent girls have no interest in inviting — encouraging — a competitor. The guys, at least the cockiest, are intimidated, like looking at a magical dragon — fascinated but unworthy.
"Look at her."
"I know. It's like she's from somewhere else."
"She is, stupid."
"I know, but I mean somewhere else."
"I know; I said she is."
In her own head, there's a freshly budded recognition that should be confidence but isn't, that she's in for it. A dawning realization that she'll forevermore be looked at. Watched. Looked at. Considered. Thought about. Looked at. Dreamt about. More.
On Wednesday nights, Farrah Fawcett-Majors shows adolescent girls what beautiful is and how it acts. Assertive. Strong. Smart. Clever. A bit irreverent and sassy, but not too much. Oh, and sexy. Beautiful means sexy. Flirty. Over-the-top smiley.
The catalyst for #MeToo started a helluva long time ago.
Helen of Troy gets through middle school.
And high school.
And the blessed curse amplifies.
Pressure is applied. Her beauty intensifies as she ages, as does the impulse — external and internal — to keep it.
You're pregnant? Stay beautiful.
You're smart? Stay beautiful.
You're interesting? Stay beautiful.
You're ambitious? Stay beautiful.
... And, oh, yeah. Stay sexy. Smile a lot. Blink slow. Your face is amazing.
Your voicemail salutation: Make it a slightly higher register. Be "welcoming."
... And, oh, yeah. If guys pay too much attention, it's a compliment. Stay frickin' beautiful and no one gets hurt, Lady.
Eventually, the self-narrative equalizes and, if she's lucky, the people in Helen of Troy's life get the point across that there is a multidimensional quality to her beauty and she receives it, embraces it.
But physical beauty is tricky. Seductive.
Who doesn't want to be beautiful? Stay beautiful ... physically. Be honest.
As always, some are simply gifted. Some people look like they're 30 when they're 60. Some like 60 when they're 90.
But the truly beautiful — those humans are like unicorns doing pirouettes on a four-leafed clover on the nix of a pin. The truly beautiful, Helen of Troy, launched a thousand ships. Each of those thousand ships full of hungry, half-crazy, war-scorched, lonely, terrified, bloodthirsty men. She launched a thousand ships. Her beauty a thousand million dreams. None of them hers.