These Foolish Things

22 Dec

Every now and then I do something really foolish.

When I was about seventeen I knew this girl who had issues about her nose.

She told me that she wanted to have plastic surgery to correct what she saw as a defect in her appearance. She also told me that she felt inferior to some of the other girls she knew because they, in her opinion, looked much better than she did.  ‘They’re just like dolls’, as she put it.

I agreed with her that the girls in question were indeed just like dolls. ie hollow and plastic and totally forgettable, but this didn’t help much.

I also tried to persuade this girl that her nose was actually something of an asset since it gave her face character. (I should have anticipated that telling a teenage girl that her face has ‘character’ is generally unwise anyway. ‘Character’ being far too easy to interpret as a euphemism for ugly). What I meant, of course, was that her face was attractive in a way that was distinctive and memorable as opposed to the rather bland and forgettable prettiness that she seemed to be aspiring to.

I suppose you could say that my efforts were well-intentioned, but they were essentially foolish because essentially every word I said made the whole situation more awkward and embarrassing for both of us.

All I can say in my defence is that I was too young and inexperienced to know that there is no way to talk any woman or girl out of any issues she might have regarding her appearance.

You may, or may not, be able to convince a woman that she is, in fact beautiful despite her own misgivings by the simple expedient of falling in love with her, but I suspect that this would only be a temporary measure at best. (‘Love – flames for one year, ashes for thirty’ courtesy of The Leopard by Giuseppe di Lampedusa).

In any case I was never going to fall in love with this girl, in spite of her many fine qualities. The plain fact is that she lacked that finely honed edge of psychosis that I find so compelling in cats and women. (One major difference between cats and women, in my experience, is that women are far less likely to purr if you scratch them behind the ears).

In any case, if I had fallen in love with this girl she may have been flattered (at least temporarily) or she may well have been exasperated. Either way, she would almost certainly have told me that she’d always thought of me as a brother. (Lots of girls seemed to think of me as a brother when I was about seventeen. On one occasion I found this particularly vexing as the girl in question had a brother who was a complete prat).

I suppose the conclusion to all this is the simple fact that sometimes you just can’t tell people what they really need to know.

Maybe that’s why Socrates asked questions rather than making statements.

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5 Responses to “These Foolish Things”

  1. Lucille Hunter 22/12/2011 at 1:25 pm #

    This girl could easily have been me at seventeen, or indeed yesterday. I still haven’t grown to like my nose. During a conversation about it in a restaurant with my partner, he sort of unwittingly agreed that yes, it was my most prominent facial feature and I nearly threw my fork at him, even though it was the truth and he quite honestly thinks my nose is “cute”.
    Appearance issues can be very deep-rooted. Acceptance – and eventually fondness – of what we often perceive as our flaws comes, I am told, with time.
    I wouldn’t call it foolish of you to try and change her mind. Futile, maybe, but it’s what we do. If a partner of mine criticises himself (and they do, it’s not just the girls), I can’t help but argue with them about it. Human nature, I guess.

    • fekesh 23/12/2011 at 11:46 am #

      I suppose I thought of it as being foolish because I was too persistant. (This is with 20/20 hindsight of course) so I ended up making things worse.
      As for growing to acdept you’re flaws, well I’m pushing 50 and I still avoid mirrors and I hate having my picture taken. Call it a work in progress.
      Of course the irony is that it’s often our imperfections that endear us to others. By the way, Sophia Loren was once (very early in her career) told that her nose was too big and her mouth was too wide etc etc and that in general she’d never make it as an actor because of her looks.
      Sophia Loren was, and indeed still is, a Goddess. Check her out in ‘El Cid’, if you have any doubts.

      • Lucille Hunter 23/12/2011 at 3:58 pm #

        Ah, but wasn’t Madame Loren trying to push into Hollywood? Even back then, Hollywood had strict standards; there’s not much room for facial character unless you fit a certain mould. Her mouth is rather wide, but I think that’s something a lot of men can find appealing, and of course she’s beautiful.
        I once read an article (alas I can’t remember the author or where I read it, a magazine I think) written by a woman who wanted plastic surgery to fix her nose for years until she realised that her nose makes her look like HER. She said that if she changed it, she wouldn’t look like herself any more, and that’s a bad thing.
        On the other hand, in a society where “ugly” people are actually less likely to be hired, it’s very difficult not to want to fit in.
        Have I gone off-topic? Probably. Maybe you were persistent, but your intentions were good so that’s what counts.

  2. stupidlittlegirl 20/01/2012 at 4:30 pm #

    I don’t think the problem was her nose, I think something deeper was going on subconsciously that manifests it’s self as a desire to have a more normal nose, to fit in and be like everyone else.
    Something was making her feel like she stood out, she transferred that blame onto her nose, and you innocently tried to tell her that it was a good thing her nose wasn’t like anyone else and made her stand out because you wanted her to be happy with the way she looks since that was the problem she presented to you.
    But ultimately your compliments were no good because she refused to deal with her real issues.

    Or,

    Her mother (or father) had body issues, we often think our parents are the most beautiful people we’ll ever know as young children, but seeing one of our parents, constantly battling with their weight, on yo yo diets, avoiding mirrors, and obsessing about how they look, affects our out look on what is normal, healthy and beautiful,
    and subconsciously when we hear things like ‘you look just like your mother’ we start to associate that to looking bad because our mother has told us(unknowingly) she is not beautiful.
    So ultimately your compliments were no good because her own mother would also need to have addressed her issues towards her body image as well, for the message to sink in.

    Or,

    She was fishing for compliments and knew you would give them to her.

    • fekesh 21/01/2012 at 7:30 pm #

      I doubt if she was fishing for compliments, on the odd occaision when I tried out my adolescent gallantry she seemed to find the whole thing a bit awkward. (Maybe I was just incredibly clumsy, or maybe she realised that I was more interested in word play than any kind of romantic engagement).
      With hindsight I suspect that she might have had a more general problem with self-esteem. As I recall her father was a somewhat overbearing type who seemed to enjoy harrassing and intimidating her boyfriends. Apparently one prospective admirer was a little short in stature and the girl’s father promptly provided him with a box to stand on. The guy must have been quite a wit (In his own opinion, at least).
      I’m not sure about whether or not her mother had body issues. In fact I don’t think I ever met her or knew anything about her.
      I suspect you’re probably right about body issues sometimes being transmitted from our parents. Personally I stay away from mirrors and I never have my picture taken if I can avoid it. In my head I look like Robert Mitchum in Build my Gallows High and I’m not interested in having that delusion undermined by a trivial little thing like reality.

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