Society places such importance on beauty that it doesn't seem fair to those of us who were not endowed with the requisite large eyes, shapely figure, or other attributes deemed necessary to popularity.
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder; so goes the old saying. Not so, if you're a vulnerable teenager. Some people never grow up and keep judging people by physical attractiveness. (The boss who promotes the cute secretary who can't type, the jerk who hires an attractive unqualified applicant over a plain one who has the experience, etc., etc.) Well, you get the picture.
You have all heard the old joke, "When they passed out noses I thought they said 'roses' and I asked for a big red one." I think that must have been me. Apparently my hearing loss started in the womb because I certainly didn't intend to ask to be plain.
There are some very attractive physical features present in my ancestry. There are also some not-so-attractive features; apparently I chose those. Why didn't I inherit my father's beautiful shapely legs? No, I got my mother's small calves. Why didn't I get my great aunt's beauty or my father's handsome face? Nooo, I got a combination of those features, but not in the most pleasing manner. And why didn't I inherit my grandmother's lovely figure? Nooo, I got my grandfather's sway back and the resulting big bum.
As if my physical appearance wasn't burden enough, I had Nystagmus and my eyes looked like they were trying to find a way out of their sockets. (I exaggerate for literary emphasis. My eyes do, sometimes, move involuntarily.) To my embarrassment I was constantly asked by my contemporaries, "What's wrong with your eyes?" At long last a very nice girl said, "Darlene, your eyes dance." I loved her fiercely from that moment on. One kind remark can stay with you a lifetime.
I had one redeeming feature; my hair was my crowning glory. It was thick, held a curl for a week (if necessary) and had red tints that gave it highlights. A neighbor gave me a left handed compliment once and I have never forgotten it. She said, "If Darlene's hair looks nice she does also." The unspoken half of that statement is, of course, that if my hair needed styling I was an ugly duckling.
It doesn't take long for the message to sink in that you are not beautiful and by High School you don't expect to be popular; and you aren't. How I envied those cute cheerleaders in their short pleated skirts who got to wear the letter sweater of the handsomest jock. How I wanted a boy to ask me to go steady. Never happened! I wasn't a complete washout. I did have some dates, but none that were exciting. (Well, there was one boy that I will never forget, but that's another story.)
There are exceptions to beauty being the path to popularity. One of the most popular girls in my High School was overweight, had a swarthy complexion and was not pretty by anyone's standard. Her popularity was based on the fact that she had such high self esteem and was so genuinely nice that everybody loved her. How could you not? She was the real McCoy and it showed. Even shallow youth rec0gnize someone who has the maturity to be comfortable with who they are. I'll bet all of you have known such a person and you know what I am talking about.
It wasn't until I gained the wisdom that comes with hindsight that I discovered those cute cheerleaders quite often ended up in bad marriages because they were so self absorbed they had not learned that the world stopped revolving around them. Many of the girls who were wallflowers went on to become successful women in their chosen fields. Sometimes life offers compensations.
[Of course there are also some beautiful people who are also genuinely nice. They are the cream of the crop. They are not the ones I am talking about when I point out that some people who are stunners trade on their beauty and never develop the other necessary tools to living a successful life.]
After I graduated I had acquired some social skills that enabled me to become more popular. I had many dates and quite a few marriage proposals. I am not sure just how serious some of them were, but it was flattering to be asked. I felt redeemed.
As a further explanation as to how an ugly duckling suddenly became a swan, I should add that I lived in a military town during WWII with a lot of lonesome GI's who knew they were headed for war. It was not hard to get a date.
Only in retrospect do we see how fleeting is beauty and how those who have to work at being popular develop hidden strengths in the process. We try to tell our daughters what we have learned about how outer appearance does not define who they are, but it is something that they have to learn on their own. After all, what does a mother know when you are a teenager? As Mark Twain remarked about his father, "It's amazing how much smarter my father became by the time I was twenty." (Or something like that.)
After accepting the fact that I did not turn heads, I quit obsessing about it and became more content as I matured. I learned that everyone possess strengths that make us unique and we are all special in some way.
The pretty ones may have a head start, but most of us find ways to compensate as we gain wisdom. And most of us learn that being beautiful can sometimes be a burden. Inner beauty becomes much more important as we age and makes us beautiful in the eyes of our loved ones, no matter what the rest of the world thinks.
And finally the last word.