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Jewish World Review July 6, 2001 / 15 Tamuz 5761

Dayle Allen Shockley

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Consumer Reports

Beauty can be a disguise

http://www.jewishworldreview.com -- BEAUTY seems to be an American pastime. You can't pick up a magazine without finding at least one article on how to improve your appearance. Hair, hips, weight, teeth, skin and, of course, fashion awareness are popular subjects.

Don't get me wrong. I have nothing against body and beauty tips. I believe that men and women should take care of themselves, striving to look the best they can. Obesity is a major health problem that should be discouraged. If you have bad teeth, by all means have them repaired or whitened. Nothing makes you feel better than an attractive set of teeth. A neat, clean appearance is important. I am not an advocate of slobs.

The problem I have is that mainstream America seems to have fallen hook, line and sinker for the notion that outer beauty is the ultimate goal in life.

That flawed concept not only is aimed at adults, it is being peddled to our children. They learn to believe that if only they were skinnier, had thicker hair, bigger breasts, fuller lips, slimmer thighs, smaller waists, longer fingernails and creamier skin, their lives would improve dramatically.

No matter the age of the deluded consumer, such pipe dreams breed misery and discouragement. Marriages have fallen apart when the wife couldn't compete with the airbrushed models in magazines or the touched-up actresses on television. Plastic surgery patients have been hacked and deformed in an effort to look better. Young men and women have been left fighting for their lives and sometimes have died because of their desperation to be thin.

Yet with all of the tragic endings, the messengers continue their campaigns, hoodwinking whosoever is weak enough to fall for their malarkey.

What is it about outer beauty that drives us to seek it so desperately? Perhaps it is because we see too many unattractive people left on the fringes of society, shunned by others at the workplace, looked over when promotions are handed down, stared at in public places and ridiculed by rude children.

Mirrors -- and first glances -- can deceive

Why? Can't we understand that beneath the unappealing exterior there just might be a person of exceptional intellect and skills?

I met Karen after the corporation I worked for agreed to hire an assistant to handle my overflow work. She was one in a long line who came to apply for the job.

When I walked into the room for our interview, you could have knocked me over with a leaf. There was nothing attractive about this woman. Bad hair. Bad clothes. Bad posture. And a frightening set of yellow teeth.

Forgive me, but my initial reaction was: Not in a million years. I can't have a woman working for me who looks like that. Karen looked nothing short of illiterate.

However, I came to my senses and decided I wouldn't fall into the trap of judging the proverbial book by its cover. I would give her a chance to impress me.

As we talked, it became clear that Karen was no dummy. Intellectually, she had her act together. Her computer skills were extraordinary, and she had passed myriad tests with flying colors.

I wondered how many doors had slammed in her face simply because people refused to look beyond her sad appearance. Now faced with my own decision, I wondered what I would do.

As our interview ended, Karen started for the door. That is when I noticed she walked as if her feet were killing her. My concern must have been obvious, because she said, "If you notice I'm not walking very well, I had foot surgery a few months ago. But the doctors say I will get better in time, so I hope you won't worry that I can't keep up the pace around here."

That was when I knew I need look no further. Not only did Karen have a remarkable brain behind that homely face, she was undeterred by circumstances and determined to succeed. What more could I ask for?

Karen made an excellent assistant, and the last I heard, she remains with the corporation today. It would have been my loss had I let her looks control my decision.

Whether you are a delusional beauty chaser or an arrogant demander of unrealistic beauty from others, I hope you will reconsider the path you travel, for you are doing yourself, and society, a grave injustice.

Perhaps Judge Judy Sheindlin's father said it best: "Beauty fades. Dumb is forever."

JWR contributing columnist Dayle Allen Shockley is a Texas-based author. To comment on this column, please click here.


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© 2001, Dayle Allen Shockley