I was in a retail store yesterday, when Elton John’s Candle in the Wind came over the speakers. As I listened to the piano cascade over the familiar riffs, I thought about how the song had been repurposed for Princess Diana’s funeral, with different lyrics. It made me drift back twenty-some years ago driving the car when the news came on the radio about her death. It’s really odd that I should remember that, just as people say they recall where they were when 9-11 went down, or if you are older, when John Lennon was shot, or when Elvis died. It’s a select club… those who are remembered as opposed to the very many who are forgotten. There’s a particular dynamic in the case of Diana, she was famous for being ever before the cameras, both when she liked it and when she did not. The cameras plagued her up to her death-by-papparazi… and yet she remains almost untarnished in memory. I don’t think I have ever heard anybody speak ill of the princess. She was for a lot of people, the Disney Cinderella come to life. Born in relative obscurity, noticed by a royal, and then ever before the world as if on a stage.
Why? It wasn’t the rags to riches story really. It’s because Princess Diana was beautiful. Full stop.
You likely accept this without a second thought. But let me pose you this. Mother Theresa died a week later. Despite her efforts to make the world a better place by serving the poorest of the poor, her death went almost unnoticed because the world was already overwrought with Diana. She dominated the news cycle. Mother Theresa was buried with barely a mention by comparison.
Far be it that I speak ill of the dead, or pretend to judge just who is worthy and who is not, but the stark contrast between the two women illustrates the power of beauty. It buys you a ticket few can beg borrow or steal in a lifetime, what some call the lucky genetics club. For those who find themselves there, it is a place that is held effortlessly, and yet does not seek to justify itself. I can remember reading a magazine article about Jessica Alba, asked about her beauty regimen. She had a few tips, but basically she did not have to do much but sit around and be beautiful while the whole world swooned in admiration. No particular diet, no particular exercise routine, just natural beauty walking on two legs. It’s the stuff of royalty, where beauty can buy you a place among the rich and famous. If you doubt that just drum up a few names of people famous for really not very much. Kylie Jenner, Paris Hilton, or Emily Ratajkowski. It also makes me think of the much repeated story of supermodels and famous actresses. Evangeline Lilly was simply walking down a street in Banff, Alberta when somebody noticed her, offered her an acting gig, and the rest is history. She didn’t really have to work for it, for all those aspiring models who put in the ground work of getting an agent, paying for portfolio shots, and beating the drum to be noticed by the right people.
Depending on your particular sense of fairness and justice, it could be maddening. Beauty wins the day, and does not really have to dish up much in return, except for simply being, and being seen.
Because I am a guy, and grew up among guys discussing girls and their merits, I know that a lot of men will go out with a “crazy but hot” girl and consider it worth the pain and punishment. Meanwhile, a lot of “but she’s got a great personality” girls, will get passed by. This allows for some levity. In every guy group, there is one who is not really particular. For that guy, it’s all neutral. If it has two legs and walks, it’s a “fox”. Comedy ensues. Some men will even swear by “ugly women” because they make very worthy girlfriends, considering themselves lucky to get the attention.
Is this fair? Not at all. And yet I think few would deny that it is true. It makes me think of a particular project manager who would come to the art department to beg special favours for her client. Put her at the front of the list. Just do her job first. She wouldn’t have to ask very hard because all the guys in the art department were in love with her and would knock each other out of the way trying to be the one who could serve her particular need. And yet none of us really noticed until one woman in the department looked disgusted one day as the scene replayed itself, and pronounced us all idiots.
Yes we were fools. Fools for love. It may be what makes the world go around, because beauty makes people in general and men in particular pay attention. We don’t even care if the woman is very high maintenance. We don’t even care that beauty will no doubt fade over time. We just fall in line and do what me must do. Yes, beauty is a free ticket and there is little justice in it, no doubt.
It even gives way to some awkward truths. It’s that song they sing in bars, once everyone has had a few, and potential romantic partners suddenly begin to look just a bit better. It’s the 1963 “Ugly Girl Song” by Jimmy Soul, which I will take the liberty to quote.
“If you wanna be happy for the rest of your life, never make a pretty woman your wife
From my personal point of view get an ugly girl to marry you…”
Whether it’s good advice I don’t know. I also married a beautiful girl.
Gazing at her picture was enough to sustain me over a two year long distance relationship. She can be high maintenance at times. Am I an idiot? I don’t know. I may have followed the herd on that one. I may have followed instinct. I could laugh and just say that in nature the laws of genetics are such that the best genes are the ones most likely of being passesd on. It’s true. All three of my girls are beautiful. They effortlessly take their place among the select, those ones who will be chased and noticed throughout life. I also can’t take credit for that, it’s the lotto of the gene pool. Aren’t they beautiful? It’s positively unfair.