One thing Mama always told me was to never make fun of the way a person looked. She said that was just terrible for someone to make fun of someone based on something they had no control or say so in whatsoever.
“They could stay home,” was Granny’s tart response.
Mama, in case y’all hadn’t noticed, was the gentler influence in my life, the honey; Granny has always been the vinegar.
“That could be said for you for a number of reasons too, Mother,” was my Mama’s quiet reply.
I had heard Mama’s reminders, feeling pangs of sadness when I would hear people making fun of someone who was not the typical ‘pretty’ they were supposed to be.
Maybe their clothes were not the newest or latest fashion. Maybe they battled acne. Maybe, and oftentimes, they were chubby like me – or it was me they were making fun of.
And I admit, shamefully, that there were times, that I made a snarky comment or more about someone. But when I told Mama, the admonishments were enough to make me never want to do it again.
Then I started noticing, there were some people who were pretty, but their actions weren’t necessarily attractive.
Mama would remind me that beauty is only skin deep. I was too young to understand what that meant, so she explained how sometimes people could be pretty on the outside, but sometimes they weren’t real pretty on the inside.
Or as Granny put it, “Ugly goes all the way to the bone.”
That comment would get a sideways glare and a frown from Mama.
“Is that true?” I asked. Did ugly go all the way to the bone?
Granny was quick to give an affirmative, but Mama reasoned that it was more about how a person’s attitude, their heart were reflected to the outer world.
“Pretty is as pretty does,” Granny said. “And some folks ain’t got a lick of pretty in ’em if you go by their ways.”
This whole thing of prettiness and ways worried me somewhat. Were we judged by our looks, or by the way we acted – or both?
I had seen some women and men who may not be considered attractive traditionally to be transformed by their personalities once you got to know them. Mama would say that was their real beauty shining through.
I saw people who were supposed to be beautiful or attractive that just turned me off – the fakeness, the multiple selfies, begging for attention – to the point no matter how superficially pretty they were, they were not that pretty to me because they were too in love with themselves.
Sure, we blame the media, the advertisements for making us feel bad about the way we look, but maybe we do the bulk of it as we compare ourselves to others, to our past selves. Maybe we should try to find that inner beauty shining through instead of trying to find things to tear them apart over.
As Cole and I watched TV one night, I asked him if he thought the girl on the screen was pretty. He studied her in earnest for a second.
“She’s pretty on the outside,” he began. “But not inside. Or at least the character she plays is not.”
“What makes you think that?” I asked.
“Because, sweet girl, pretty is all the way to the bone.”
“Don’t you mean ugly is all the way to the bone?” I asked.
“Oh, no,” he said. “Pretty just goes all the way through you and even if you may not have a lot of makeup or jewelry or things like that, if you are a good and nice person, your pretty goes all over you. It makes a person pretty to the bone.”
It was the paradox of Granny’s saying, putting his Cole-spin on it and I had to say, I liked his theory much better.