There once was a young woman so astonishingly beautiful that no one took her seriously. Blessed with fortunate genes, she had a face worthy of magazine covers. Unfortunately — and it was unfortunate in a strange, completely backwards way — she also possessed the figure of a highly coveted centerfold: slender, strong legs; a perfectly proportioned heart-shaped butt; a flat belly; narrow waist; large, firm breasts; slim, toned arms, a feminine neck devoid of wrinkles; perfect posture. And she had great hair, thick tresses of pirate black hair.
People couldn’t avoid staring. This woman was the ideal vision of lust-inducing sexiness and poetry-inspiring beauty.
And no one took her seriously.
She wanted to be an actress. Not a movie star type actress, a thespian. She wanted to do Shakespeare and Chekov, Shaw and Albee, Durang and Mamet. But directors and casting agents took one look at her ridiculously flawless body and pegged her as a stripper with lofty ambitions. They saw her face and figured she should work as a makeup model. Female colleagues hated her. Male directors wanted to conquer her, not collaborate. She was too beautiful.
Although this is a true story, if it sounds like a child’s fable, it’s because within the narrative there’s a useful lesson. I’m not sure what it is exactly. But considering that most of us are obsessed with looking better, being more gorgeous in every way, perhaps this lady’s plight should give us pause.
A singer I know recently put out a jazz CD. On the back cover is a fetching photo of her looking spectacularly sexy. Although her outfit isn’t overtly alluring and the look on her face is pleasant (not beckoning), many serious jazz cats see her phenomenally seductive visage and promptly dismiss her as a pop star masquerading as a real artist. When they hear her sing, it’s a different story. But if her recording were to be judged strictly on her looks, this lady would likely never get played on the radio. She’s too beautiful to be taken seriously as a jazz artist.
The immortal composing team of Rodgers and Hart wrote a song in 1933 (made famous by Al Jolson) called “You Are Too Beautiful.” The lyrics go: “You are too beautiul/for one man alone/for one lucky fool/to be with.” (In his Vegas stage show, kooky Dean Martin revised this to “You are too beautiful/for one man alone/so I brought along my brother.”)
Those of us lucky enough to be partnered with someone “too beautiful” understand the wondrous pleasure of gazing upon and touching and sensing in every way that ineffable loveliness. But the possessor of all that beauty may not feel quite so fortunate. I don’t mean to suggest, fable-like, that the ethereal princess wishes merely to be like the simple peasant girl, or that those of uncommon comeliness long to be plain. I think all of us wish to be more beautiful than we are. Perhaps instead of obsessing about the beauty we covet, we could learn to be content with the beauty we have.