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Is she beautiful?  Oil on canvas.  Julie Seyler

Is she beautiful?
Oil on canvas. Julie Seyler


I recently read an article in The Times about the ugliest woman in the world. According to the article, she was born with two genetic conditions: hypertrichosis lanuginosa and gingival hyperplasia, and as a result she was covered with hair and had super thick gums. This guy used her as a freak act in a traveling road show, and to secure her loyalty, and thereby a guaranteed income flow, he married her. They had a child together, but sadly it died at birth and she died five days later. The drawing of her confirms she was outside our concept of “beautiful.”

Then I remembered that classic 1960 Twilight Zone episode, where we watch the surgeon unwrap the bandages from a facial surgery.  The nurses chatter, discussing how many operations the patient has already had to try to correct her deformity of being ugly.  She can’t have any more. If this surgery failed, she will be deported to an island with others who look like her. The last bandage comes off; a unified gasp arises.  We know it has failed. Pan to the doctors and nurses with their pig snort noses and elephant ears. Pan to the patient – a “beautiful” blonde.

So what is beauty? And definitely what is “beautiful,” as we age, and live in a society that disdains the signs of age. What do we do when our peers look younger than us because of Botox, collagen fillers, chemical peels, eyelifts and the ultimate alteration: the face lift?  Do we succumb?  Do we decide it’s worth the bucks to have a face stripped of wrinkles? At 40, I proclaimed, with superior conviction, “I shall never get a face lift.  My wrinkles are a testament to the life i have lived.”  But each new contour tests my “wrinkle pride.” I am certainly old enough now to know to never say, “never!”