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Jewish World Review
The beauty of nice
By Andrea Simantov
A former glamour-consultant comes clean
Even after closing my beauty-consulting firm, the phone still rings occasionally. The calls arrive mostly from people who live overseas and, planning to wed in Israel, they discover an outdated advertisement for my Bridal Day Beauty Package. Despite being happily ensconced in a new career, it still hurts to turn down a bride.
Even though I no longer perform "makeovers," old habits are hard to break, and I often find myself looking at women from the corner of my eye and "adding a scarf" or (silently) screaming, "Moisturize!!!" At the end of the day, however, none of this matters, because all the scarves, "statement" jewelry, and lip liner in the world won't improve the appearance of anyone male or female if they don't add "kindness" to their daily beauty regimen. Lest anyone question my credentials, I merely reveal the data based on years of lay-research.
I worked with brides.
Some of "my girls" would have been declared "homely" by universal standards, but I can assure you that the most beautiful brides to grace any home-album were the ones who, on their wedding days, asked anyone entering the bridal suite if they'd had enough to drink or noticed the new hairstyle of an attending guest. These were girls who, in appreciation for having arrived at a most important day in their lives, let both glee and gratitude pour out and radiated sunshine to everyone within a ten-mile radius.
One of these young women was a "little person" who couldn't borrow a gown from any charity-sponsored rental facility, because no one could afford the cost of cropping-down a perfectly lovely dress to accommodate her short stature; but whatever "inches" she lacked was overcompensated for with incomparable goodness. I recall that she arrived late to the hotel where I patiently waited, because she was delayed at the nursing home where she regularly volunteered. When I asked her if she could have allowed herself a morning "off" from this noble work, she stared at me in disbelief. "But I'm taking off eight days after the wedding. It wouldn't be fair." Need I tell you how beautiful this bride was? All 4'7" of her appeared a majestic 7'4".
With his first foray into novel writing, the cartoonist/satirist Jules Feiffer penned a brilliant portrait of the pathological narcissist with the 1963 masterpiece, Harry, The Rat With Women. I read it as a pretentious 13-year-old, which only meant that it would be years before I'd meet men who romanced and discarded women for personal gratification or befriend women who felt competitive with others of their gender. At the age of 13, I had yet to hear the term "catfight" in relation to women, but I was already being fed a diet of gossip and "diss" via recreational reading of Teen Beat and watching Johnny Carson laugh with the celebrities of the day. Quickly, I learned through popular culture that one-upmanship was a competitive sport, and survival belonged to the nasty, serpent-tongued fittest.
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I recently co-planned a two-day charity event for my organization, and I'll admit on these pages (only to you) that I'm still not my perky self after many months of preparation. Literally day and night my cohort and I attempted to work out every detail and foresee potential "glitches" before they occurred. There was an inordinate amount of list-making and record keeping in addition to hundreds of back-and-forth correspondences. But our end-goal was clear and, despite the stress, the joy in what we do and for whom we do it seemed downright corny. Several times a day the two of us would race throughout the building in order to "high-five," hug and wave to the special-needs children we promote in an effort to keep both the mission and goal of this particular project fresh in our minds.
Can I share the information that the two-day celebration went off almost perfectly? That the guest speakers and performers all arrived on time and embraced our overseas visitors with humor, honor, and warmth? Shall I whisper that the parents of our disabled participants wept with surprise and delight as they witnessed their children interacting with other youngsters and volunteers? May I brag a bit and mention that all of the better media outlets picked up the story and are thereby enabling us to pave a brighter tomorrow for thousands of special-needs children and their families in the land of Israel?
While I didn't have a lot of time to actually eat the catered dinner, I managed to sit down several times during the evening. Two women whom I hadn't met earlier sat to my right and seemed genuinely pleased to meet the evening's "coordinator." Their questions about who we are and what we do seemed friendly at first, but I grew uncomfortable when I saw one roll her eyes at the other as the program chairwoman began to speak. It all felt so familiar, so "high school" that I wanted to scream. The speaker is a stunning woman: wealthy, elegant, educated, and passionate about our organization. (She reminds me of both Jacqueline Onassis and Caroline Kennedy Schlossberg.)
When they finished mocking her with their eyes, one turned to me and said, "I hope you didn't pay full price for these flowers. They're second rate." I responded with a lopsided grin accompanied by silence, but inside I was both fuming and embarrassed. Had we paid too much for second-rate flowers? Am I such a frier (loser/sucker)? Woman number two asked me two or three questions about the data contained in our freshly printed 50-page brochure which I had written from scratch and before I finished answering, she tossed it onto a tray of refuse awaiting the busboy. And I could hardly contain my tears when woman number one snorted aloud and said, "Who hired this band? Can someone tell them to either shut up or get out?" It goes without saying that the "hiring someone" was me, and, yes, I changed tables.
The honing of a "good eye" is a laborious task, made even more difficult by blasting airwaves and ultra-large print touting the exploits of mega-brats like Paris, Nicole, and Lindsay. Bad behavior and stomping on the reputations and spirits of others in order to appear taller would seem to denote societal illnesses that are being lauded more and more frequently as desirable character traits. From personal experience I can say with near-certainty that although I spent years of my life pointing out flaws in (and along with) others, opening my eyes to the magic, quirkiness, and love in the heart of my fellow human being is the most cherished and possibly undeserved gift I've received in this lifetime.
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JewishWorldReview.com contributor Andrea Simantov is a Jerusalem-based columnist and single
mother of six. Comments by clicking here.
Where We Live
Shades of life
A pear for my father
To raise a man
Baywatch Babe Baskets and Eminem's evil Israeli twin
Springing into Tu B'Shevat
Chanukah: The quintessential female holiday?
© 2009, Andrea Simantov. This column first appeared in Orange County Jewish Life