In a conversation recently, a guy friend commented on seeing someone, saying, “She was in evening make-up.”
I’m still pondering that because I have never heard a guy — or woman for that matter — comment on “evening make-up.” That got me to thinking that I don’t have “evening make-up.” What you see at 9 a.m. with me is pretty much what you’re gonna get at 9 p.m. Anyway, that gave me the opening to ask curiously, “When she has on evening make-up does she look better than she does normally?” I stopped for a beat. “Because she is one of the homeliest women I have ever seen.”
There was a brief second of shocked silence, then he laughed uproariously. “That is so funny,” he said, still laughing. “I have never heard you say anything like that.” He knows me as well as anyone knows me so that was an expert opinion.
I replied quickly, “That’s not like me to say something like that. I never comment on someone’s looks adversely.” I was referring to women because I will make comments from time to time about men. That’s different, though, because most men aren’t sensitive about their looks the way we women are. Men are rarely defined by good looks or not. We women, though, for right or wrong, always have looks as a part of the description of who we are in both our own minds and in the eyes of others.
OK, I’ll come clean here and admit that the comment might have been a bit jaded, even catty. The woman had intentionally and unkindly caused me some grief. But — and this is an important “but” — my opinion had been shaped and formed by the comments of several others who, too, had remarked on her hollow-face plainness. It wasn’t an opinion that I came up with, solely on my own. Listen, plainness is worse than ugliness because at least ugliness has character to it. It’s better to be downright ugly than plain because at least ugly is interesting.
All that aside, I pretty much celebrate the beauty of all women. I do not hesitate to tell a woman how pretty I think she is because I am inspired by the beauty of others. In my travels, I have discovered that it is part of our Southern woman sensibilities and confidence. We notice beauty and we comment on it. I am particularly conscious to encourage young girls by complimenting them at a time in their lives when self-esteem can be built or broken.
My childhood friend, Winnie, is a fresh-faced redhead. Her clear porcelain complexion is scattered liberally with freckles. No doubt that being so fair-skinned has kept her out of the sun, so she has virtually no age or lines on her face. She is an editor for a prestigious national newspaper, so I stopped in to see her one day while in New York. She met me in the lobby and the moment I saw her with creamy skin and thick, gorgeous red hair, I said, “You are so lovely.” She blushed and I studied her face closely. “Your skin is incredible.” Note to all here: Stay out of the sun and don’t smoke. When you hit your 40s, you will be happy that you did.
Several months later, I happened across an old high school yearbook. Winnie’s brother, Neal, was one of my closest elementary school friends. She was a couple of years younger than us, so I first met her at an Easter egg hunt in the first grade.
She had signed my yearbook, “I have liked you ever since I met you and you said, ‘Doesn’t Neal have the cutest little sister you ever saw?’”
I was 7, which goes to prove that I was early at spotting beauty. That means you can trust me when I spot plainness, too.
Ronda Rich is the best-selling author of What Southern Women Know (That Every Woman Should). Visit www.rondarich.com to sign up for her free weekly newsletter.