Friday, February 3, 2012

Homely as a Mud Fence

Travelling in a car rather than taking public transit, you don't have to mingle tightly with people of different colours, cultures and smells. The problem is, you don't get to mingle tightly with people of different colours, cultures and smells.

In my earlier adult years, I had a habit of walking down the sidewalk and holding my breath as I passed people of different colours, cultures and smells, as well as disabled people, the elderly, and people that I just thought were odd, as if their otherness would contaminate me if I breathed their air.

Thankfully, that old demon has pretty much faded away, except when it comes back in other forms to give me a prod.

I remember an older relative's favourite put down being "She's as homely as a mud fence." Although it used to make me cringe, I don't think I ever had the guts to call him on it. More frequently than I like to admit, similar uninvited unkind thoughts bubble up when I meet a face that will never be on the cover of Cosmopolitan.

I wonder how many young women have mastered the art of smiling only with their mouths but not with their eyes in order to delay the onset of one of my very favourite features of the human anatomy: crow's feet wrinkles.

We seem to have an irresistible urge to appear young and attractive, although I suspect our fear of looking old, or being thought of as old, is really a fear of being old, i.e. mortal.

The cosmetics companies, having hired the very brightest consultants and psychologists, know precisely how to manipulate us.

Use our product and you will look like, and then become, this glamour model. People will swarm after and swoon over you. Don't use our product and you will remain ugly, or at best, plain, and people will spurn you, or at best, ignore you. They will swarm after and swoon over the Beautiful People, but you will remain unnoticed, unloved, and alone.

So many of us, at some level, believe this sad fairy tale. We spend the money and buy the products and then spend years of our lives in front of a mirror perfecting our appearance because it's normal and necessary. Unfortunately, since we only believe the myth on one level, on another, we know it's a lie.

Although we sing the tune I'm beautiful, the other tune I'm frumpy, I'm dumpy, I'm pudgy, I'm fat plays in the background and follows us out into our lives. Too often, the tale ends in depression, anorexia, bulimia, family breakups, addiction to alcohol, drugs, sex, gambling, and in suicide.

This is probably only the visible tip of an iceberg of unhappiness. While not clinically depressed, how many feel beaten down by the culture of beauty paraded by the seemingly self-confident? How much are you and I responsible? What can we do about it?

Next time we encounter an 'ugly' face, rather than turn away, if we look closer, we may discover a very kind person, only thinly disguised, looking back. Someone different in appearance but in nature so familiar that we ask, "Why do I know this person?" Then we go home and look in the mirror.

Knock on a thousand doors
The same familiar friend
Answers each one


  1. "Why do I know this person?" Then we go home and look in the mirror.'

    I'm sorry to admit that when I was younger I was holding my breath too, when walking by what I didn't like to see.

    I love this post.Thank you _/\_

    1. Thank you, Karina. It seems so easy to forget how much we are mirrored in each other. _/\_

  2. some of the lyrics to one of my favorite John Prine songs:

    Ya' know that old trees just grow stronger,
    And old rivers grow wilder ev'ry day.
    Old people just grow lonesome
    Waiting for someone to say, "Hello in there, hello."

    So if you're walking down the street sometime
    And spot some hollow ancient eyes,
    Please don't just pass 'em by and stare
    As if you didn't care, say, "Hello in there, hello."

    1. So right. It's hard to describe the feeling when you look into the eyes of a withdrawn elderly person and get a huge smile back.

  3. If only I could have read this as a teenager. Beautifully stated -- well done!

  4. Finally catching up with you again. Many bows to you and your demon-practice!

  5. Yes indeed what a trap "lookism" is... For girls it's the pretty ones that are smart and good. And only the handsome boys are honest and brave. And well... If you're old - You can't be any of that! How terribly sad - We miss the best parts of each other simply because the shape doesn't fit the mold of what products try to convince us of.

    It's all a lie. How liberating to know that! Thanks for the reminder that beauty resides in the soul not the body.

    1. That's for sure. I can't imagine how much I've overlooked just because my mind was running in habitual thought patterns.


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