When I was a little kid and being a particular pain in the ass, which I was stellar at, my Grandmother told me that "God don't like Ugly." I was crushed. I thought she was telling me that God didn't like me because I was ugly. I was probably seven or eight and already battling being a pudgeball and had what child psychologists now bullet point as "low-self esteem".
My grandmother, all-knowing, all-wise, picking up on my crest-fallen face, must have understood what I was thinking and explained that God didn't like people who had ugly souls, displayed poor manners or who thought people were less than blessed because of the have or have-nots surrounding them.
I'm older now and having been in this big, wide world, I think my first reaction to what my grandmother said to me was damn accurate. I still use the phrase "God don't like Ugly" but have come to realize that people, in general, don't like ugly, period!
I'm not talking about "ugly" in the southern sense of the word, as spiteful, mean or rude, I mean ugly, as it is intended. People just don't like ugly. Studies have been done that show that infants, just hours old, respond more calmly and positively to an attractive face. There you have it, the primal need to associate oneself with the attractive people, the in-crowd at birth.
I have always found beauty in non-assymetrical items. I find faces with "flaws" more intriguing than faces that fit Fibonacci's equation leading to the Golden Ratio. For example, I think Owen Wilson or Christoper Walken are more compelling to watch than a textbook beautiful Brad Pitt.
I find it fascinating to watch people's general reaction to "ugly" in the world and have been enraged, amused and downright disgusted with humanity through my observations.
One afternoon, about 10 months ago, I had a front row seat to witness my theory in action. My mother and I were shopping at Loehmann's discount department store. I was downstairs, waiting for my mother, looking through a rack of t-shirts, when I witnessed some young girls laughing (the kind of laughter that indicated the girls were too young and hip to even disguise what they were doing) and I directed my attention to what they were giggling about.
Walking down the aisle was the living embodiment of a mixture between the Sea-Hag from the Popeye cartoons and Witch Hazel from Bugs Bunny. This amalgamated character had frizzy hair, whiskers on her chin and was missing a few front teeth. If you don't know the charaters I'm referring to, shame on you and google the names I've given you. If you don't, you shall forever be comically challenged.
Now, for some reason, perhaps because I pay attention, or am just too curious for my own good, people are attracted to conversations with me. As "Witch-Hazel" walked past, I smiled and she stopped to show me a dress she was buying.
Here's how the conversation went down:
Witch-Hazel "Hi, there. Do you like this dress?"
The dress in question was a sleeveless, silver sequined dress. It was a dress that called for a twenty-something, fuller figure and to my eyes, reminded me of a Goldie Hawn outfit from an episode of Laugh-in.
Me: "Yes, I do. It's sure sparkles and looks really well made".
Witch-Hazel: "I saw this and just had to have it. I've always wanted a sequined dress, I wish it was red, but oh well. My name is Francine, what's your name honey?"
(I shall now refer to Witch-Hazel as Francine, for that is her name and she spoke with a strong Jersey accent).
Me: "Nice to meet you Francine, my name is Nicolle. I think the dress is very elegant. Do you have somewhere special you plan to wear it?"
Francine: "Well at 74 years old, I can wear it pretty much anywhere I want, but I want my boyfriend to take me to Green Dolphin to hear some Jazz. He lives with me now and we like to go out at least once at month. Nothing like having a nice, cold beer and listening to jazz."
Me: "I think you picked a winner, did you get a deal on it?" (she did) "A nice cold beer during the summer is wonderful isn't it?"
Francine: "Oh, it is and it'll keep you young, look at me. I like to shop here, they've got good deals, do you come here a lot?"
Me: "Not as much as I'd like, but it's always nice to meet another bargain shopper."
Francine: "Nice to meet you too honey. Maybe I'll see you here next time and remember, a beer a day, keeps the doctor away." (chuckles)
Me: "Have a fun time on your date and make sure he treats you right."
Francine: "He sure does, that's the only reason I let him move in. Ya know, he's 12 years younger than me."
Me: "Good for you. You must need a younger man just to keep up with you."
Francine: "Well, I already wore out one husband, so I figured I needed a younger model. Are you married?"
I tell her that I am indeed married, to a wonderful man.
Francine: "That's good, that's very good. Every woman deserves to have a good man in her life. You tell him to take you out for some good jazz and a nice beer, alright."
Me:"I'll do that. I hope you have a wonderful time. It was nice to meet you."
We part ways and I watch her go with a strange ache in my heart. During my whole conversation, I could see people walking by with a strange look on their faces, resembling people that want to rescue small children from predators.
Had I been the type of person who catered to societal benchmarks on beauty, this never would have been written and Francine never would have left such an impression on me. We ignore the old, we cling to the new in this world and in the process we miss out on the vintage and patinaed beauty of life.
I'm still now quite sure how to sum up this wonderful encounter, except to write that I have a mixture of feelings including, awe, respect and amusement where Francine is concerned.
Dylan Thomas wrote one of my favorite poems, well known to most, but my favorite stanza is the first:
Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should rave and burn at the close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light,
I have no doubt that Francine will NEVER "Go gentle into that good night", but if she does, I hope she wears her new dress so she sparkles....the entire way.