Fifteen years ago, on a lazy Sunday afternoon, I settled onto our soft living room carpet, plucked Parade magazine from the bundled newspaper, and flipped to the back pages. With my husband and children napping, I looked forward to this simple weekly pleasure. Those were the days when Parade’s writing was mostly thoughtful.
On this Sunday, an editorial was written by a man whose wife had spent an inordinate amount of time and money on cold creams to stop the premature wrinkling of her skin. It is one thing to spy crows’ feet at age thirty, but this woman had begun wrinkling in her twenties, and by the time the article was written, she was nearing fifty but looked far older. She was not a vain woman but nevertheless ached to give her husband a beautiful face to love.
I only wish that I had kept a copy of his writing. (I spent a few minutes searching, but so far nothing.) The author’s words pulsed with devotion and unconditional love for his wife. He wanted no part of lotions and creams. He told her every day that she was the most breathtaking woman he knew. I still remember how my heart swelled with the idea of such a devotion despite the world’s opinion. We all ache for such a human love.
John O’Donohue, the late philosopher, said that the world mistakes glamour for beauty. Yes. And the glamour is not even real. It is airbrushed and obsessive and restrictive in all of the wrong ways.
Which reminds me…
Two years ago, our neighbor died of a heart attack in her bed one January night. She was fifty-five years old. Within a week, her sister Brenda arrived to clean and sell all possessions before putting the little yellow house on the market.
Brenda was breathtakingly lovely. She was tall and large-boned and hugely overweight. Her hair had thinned down to wisps after enduring chemotherapy and surviving breast cancer. A large mole clung to the tip of her nose, her eyes were squinty, and her clothing was ill-fitting. She spoke kindly, expressed genuine appreciation for the smallest things, gave away quality belongings of her late sister to neighbors, and accepted all help graciously and without apology. She shared challenges in her own life with an authenticity that, for me, was unprecedented. And despite her own recent trials, she listened well, laughed loudly, and loved big.
Imagine if we all were this beautiful.