**Dearest reader of the following, please do not take this too seriously. It is mildly satirical. Enjoy**
She flips her hair with a single, graceful flick of the wrist. A move so practiced she’s barely conscious of it. She swipes her card and answers the cashier with a sigh. “Credit,” she says, shifting her weight toward the bag boy as she signs her name, fully aware the poor boy is moments away from literally drooling over her. Deliberately, she applies a coat of lip-gloss as she waits for her receipt, tactically ignoring the bag boy who is already deeply in love with her perfectly applied make-up. Soaking up his attention like fuel, she leaves the store, swinging her hips methodically for the benefit of the young man she knows is watching her go. From behind her in line, I watch this episode with sadness. My heart breaks for her. I'm not a doctor, but I do believe she has a bad case of the Pretty.
Researchers disagree on the cause of the Pretty, but I have a theory. I believe the Pretty begins as a gift - one of many gifts - like tools in a box. But this one gift, though lacking in utility, is especially sparkly and shiny. It attracts attention. It is the first thing other humans notice. It is the first and sometimes only thing on which other humans comment. And this, I believe, is where the Pretty shifts from gift to disease - when it's holder begins to confuse 'shiniest' and 'most recognized' as 'the most valuable,' or worse, 'the only' tool.
While the other tools might grow in strength and usefulness with exercise and attention, the Pretty will not. This tool will fade and rust and eventually lose any utility it might once have held.
This is when the symptoms become most acute - when the sufferer, believing this is their most valuable asset and facing its inevitable decline, scrubs and shines and spends and suffers in a futile attempt to restore it to it's initial condition.
Most disconcerting is the neglect shown to the remaining tools - tools which, with attention, might grow in usefulness, might make the world a more beautiful place, might contribute to a lasting legacy, might remain strong and useful even when a face has aged to a point where no amount of make-up can hide the lines. Instead, these amazing gifts are too often left to rot, unused, unnoticed, unappreciated.
I count myself among the lucky ones. Among the tools in my box, 'pretty' was not the shiniest. It was, in fact, defective. At two weeks old, strange growths began to appear on my face - large, raised, red-purple bumps, which grew at an alarming rate. It took some time for the doctors to rule out a brain-damage inducing disease, but in the end my brain was fine - my face, however, was not.
My mom can tell you the story of a woman crossing a grocery store when I was a baby. She moved in such a deliberate fashion that my poor mother was certain she was about to hear yet another rude comment or accusation regarding my birthmark. Instead, the woman commented on the beauty of my eyes. Bless her.
Despite having pretty eyes, the rest of my face thankfully discouraged well-meaning adults from commenting on my prettiness. Bless them.
Instead I received a great many comments about my intelligence, my quick-wit, my athletic abilities (which, alas, were fleeting), and my ability to whip out poetry like a vending machine. A great many people complimented and concurrently encouraged me to use the many tools in my box.
Though at times I did regret not having a better 'pretty' tool, as it seemed to be quite important to so many others, I eventually viewed its defectiveness as one of the greatest gifts I have ever received. After all, not once have I ever ruined a moment of laughter, or tempered a smile, over concerns of future lines in my face. Never did I learn to rely on cuteness as a way to get what I wanted, or flirtation to attract attention. And I don't believe I'm in any danger of suffering from the Pretty. Like an immunization, it was uncomfortable for a moment, but protected me against disease.
I do feel the burden to share my perspective - to raise awareness - to bring this disease out of the shadows and into the light. I wish to see us, as a society, fight this disease instead of glorifying it. Many among us would perpetuate the disease for the sake of profit, which is quite sickening. Many perpetuate it unintentionally, which is quite sad. I think it is time we acknowledge the Pretty, encourage those who suffer, and remind the world they are so much more.
To the Pretty I say: Thankfully, you are so much more than pretty. Be amazing, be the kind of beautiful which grows with age, be you.