“Everything has its beauty, but not everyone sees it.” ~ Confucius

whooper-swan

“We simply assume that the way we see things is the way they really are or the way they should be. And our attitudes and behaviors grow out of these assumptions.” ~ Stephen Covey

 “The most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched, they must be felt with the heart.” ~ Helen Keller

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The Epitome of Beauty: The Venus de Milo

How many times have you looked at someone you do not know and made assumptions about that person based on the way that he or she looks? How often do you see a woman in ill-fitting clothes or with a bad hairstyle and think to yourself that she should take better care of herself? Have you ever been in line at the grocery store and noticed that the person in front of you is wearing out-of-date clothes and shoes and is a little overweight? Did you make assumptions about this person, or perhaps, increase the space between yourself and the other person?

If I am going to ask you these questions, then it is only fitting that I answer them. Yes, I have made assumptions about people based upon their physical appearance. Yes, I have thought to myself, “why doesn’t she do something with her hair?” or “she would be more attractive if she lost some weight.”

But then I will catch myself and think, “who am I to judge?” I could stand to lose some extra pounds myself. I’ve run out of the house in sweatpants and an old t-shirt, my hair in a pony tail. I’ve gone into stores feeling very self-conscious because I know that I don’t look particularly great, but I needed a gallon of milk. 

“Your assumptions are your windows on the world. Scrub them off every once in a while, or the light won’t come in.” ~ Alan Alda

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One of The Great Beauties, Marilyn Monroe, incredibly self-conscious and suffered from low self-esteem

Harsh though it may be, scientific studies have proven that physical appearance makes a difference in the amount of money you earn, how you are treated by physicians, how educators react to you, and even whether or not you make partner.

According to a CNN article by Kate Lorenz, “Do Pretty People Earn More?” the facts show that attractive students get more attention and higher evaluations from their teachers, good-looking patients get more personalized care from their doctors, and handsome criminals receive lighter sentences than less attractive convicts.”*

So what does this mean to individuals in society who do not resemble Daniel Craig or Angelina Jolie? Dr. Gordon Patzer has made it his life’s work to study attractiveness and its role in human behavior. According to Patzer,

“Human beings are hard-wired to respond more favorably to attractive people . . . Good-looking men and women are generally judged to be more talented, kind, honest and intelligent than their less attractive counterparts . . . People go out of their way to help attractive people—of the same and opposite sex—because they want to be liked and accepted by good-looking people.”

This societal preference for attractiveness is called the halo effect, due to the association with the perfection of angels. The halo effect occurs when an individual is influenced by a person’s strengths, weaknesses, physical appearance, behavior, or any other single factor.

Whether or not it is fair, research shows that attractive people also have more occupational success and more dating experience than their unattractive counterparts. Attractive people tend to be more intelligent, better adjusted, and more popular—probably because they have received better treatment from their teachers, their peers, and their bosses.

*(http://www.cnn.com/2005//US/Careers/07/08/looks/)

“Perfection consists not in doing extraordinary things, but in doing ordinary things extraordinarily well.” ~ Angelique Arnauld

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Academy-Award Winning Director Peter Jackson

But let us pause for a moment. How many persons of note in history actually do not fall into the beautiful people category? Albert Einstein certainly wasn’t an attractive man, with his bushy eyebrows and unruly hair. Bill Gates, one of the wealthiest and most generous men in the world is what most people would describe as ordinary. Peter Jackson, a genius in the film world, resembled a hobbit when he made Lord of the Rings; but even he felt compelled to lose weight.

Is physical beauty truly necessary to be successful, to be considered extraordinary? I don’t believe so. Think about it. What about intelligence? Does anyone ever say, “Oh, her brain is so beautiful”? No. But shouldn’t they if they are really going to look at a woman or a man and judge her/him? 

“When a woman isn’t beautiful, people tell her: You have lovely eyes, you have lovely hair.” ~ Anton Chekhov

Why am I pondering this point? I was reading an article about a Scottish woman who appeared on “Britain’s Got Talent,” the UK’s version of “America’s Got Talent.” The judges for this program are the ever-snarky Simon Cowell, Piers Morgan (who also judges on the U.S. version), and Amanda Holden, an English actress who is mostly recognized for her television appearances.

A brief lesson for those of you who do not follow the show: Contestants apply from all over the country to be finalists on the show. In the initial rounds, the three judges watch the one-minute performances and then vote yes or no on whether or not the individual is talented enough to go to the next round. Once the contestants are reduced to 24, then there is a round for the semi-finals. In the finals, the viewing audience votes on who should stay and who should go. The winner is decided by audience votes.

“Beauty is about perception, not about make-up. I think the beginning of all beauty is knowing and liking oneself.” ~ Kevyn Aucion

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Contestant Susan Boyle Singing "I Dreamed A Dream"

Now picture this: an older woman (by older I mean not in her 20’s, not old for god’s sake) with bushy eyebrows and a very unfashionable dress and hairstyle walks out onto the stage. It only takes seconds before Simon Cowell begins his attack dog shtick, the raised eyebrows, the rolled eyes, the crossed arms. All of it. A pan of the audience shows that almost to a person no one is liking this woman: sneers, crossed arms, negative body language abounds.

Already, the judges and the audience have formed an opinion on this contestant based solely on her physical appearance, and that opinion is not positive.

How fair is this? Not at all fair. Has the woman had a chance to perform yet? No. Does the audience even know what she plans to do for her talent before they cross their arms? No.

The woman declares to the judges and the audience that she wants to sing, that she has always wanted to sing. You can hear the snickers from the audience. After all, how can this unfashionable, frumpy woman sing, let alone sing well enough to be on the show?

“There comes a moment when you realize that virtually anything is possible—that nothing is too good to be true.” ~ Kobi Yamoda

What happens next is positively enchanting. Susan Boyle opens her mouth, and pure beauty emanates from it. The audience jumps to its feet. Simon Cowell raises his eyebrows, and this time, it’s not in a malicious way. Piers Morgan is stupefied.

Boyle sings “I Dreamed A Dream” from Les Miserables, an incredibly difficult song to sing because of the range. As I watched the video of her performance, I got chills, and I began to tear up.

I wanted to reach through the screen and hug Susan Boyle for her performance, and I wanted to slap Simon Cowell for his disbelief that a woman who looked like Boyle could have such an angelic voice.

“Women notice details that most men don’t . . . They notice all the details, then make assumptions about every other area of your life based on these details.” ~ David DeAngelo

But it wasn’t just Cowell, was it? It was everyone. When the opening refrain of the song played, Morgan appeared to be totally uninterested, Holden had her hands over her head as if she were trying to stifle a yawn. No one was truly interested in the woman on the stage.

However, as compared to males, we females can be absolutely merciless in our criticisms of the women who are in our office, the women our friends date, the women who do our hair, or our nails. But we can be especially venomous when it comes to total strangers. Don’t pretend that you don’t know what I’m talking about: only saintly women or women who are completely self-confident do not beat down other women. And how many of those do you know?

“It matters more what’s in a woman’s face than what’s on it.” ~ Claudette Colbert

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Pursuit of Beauty Gone Horribly Wrong: Jocelyn Wildenstein

This is the very problem with assumptions. We make assumptions about people all of the time, every day, based on their looks, on what they are wearing, on how their hair looks, how scuffed their shoes are, what kind of purse they are carrying, how old their suit is, even what kind of car they are driving. And admittedly, women are worse when it comes to judging other women.

In my own experience, I have found that many beautiful women lack in self-confidence, while those who are not considered beautiful, abound in self-confidence. It’s as if they know that the world doesn’t believe in them, but they don’t care. They believe in themselves. How wonderful that is to believe in yourself, truly believe in your talent, or your goodness, or your abilities. And how pitiable it is when women abuse themselves by repeated plastic surgery in attempts to be more beautiful, look more youthful, more perfect, not stopping until they resemble caricatures of themselves.

“Although beauty may be in the eye of the beholder, the feeling of being beautiful exists solely in the mind of the beheld.” ~ Martha Beck

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The Ugly Duckling Is Not Always What It Seems

Now what I did not mention is that when Sarah Boyle came out on stage, she was obviously prepared for Cowell’s sour disposition, but it didn’t seem to affect her at all. She answered all of his questions with a smile on her face. It was as if she were challenging him: “I know that you are assuming that I have no talent, but you just wait. You’ll see.”

Boyle stood her ground, even doing a bit of a jig in her sheer delight at just being invited to the party. And when she finished, she knew that she had won the battle. She walked off the stage with her shoulders back, a broad smile on her face, and joy in her eyes.

All three judges were effusive in their praise. But the best part is this: With her talent, her incredible voice, Susan Boyle has a real shot at winning “Britain’s Got Talent.” Wouldn’t that be something? And about time, too.

But just a closing thought: Why were we so surprised that Susan Boyle could sing? That is probably the heart of the matter, and a question that we should be asking ourselves even as this incredibly talented, sincere, selfless woman stands before the world and graces us with a voice from the gods.

 And on that note, I present Susan Boyle singing “I Dreamed A Dream”

Embedding has been disabled. To see the video of Susan Boyle’s performance, go to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9lp0IWv8QZY

More later. Peace.

My Calendar Fetish

2009-calendars

Isn’t Daniel Craig dreamy? There were no calendars like that available, and besides, I don’t buy man candy calendars. That would be sexist . . .

Just Like Books, You Can Never Have Too Many Calendars

So today, we did one of my favorite after-Christmas things: We went to Barnes & Noble to scope out the 50 percent off calendars. Now some years, I buy calendars for everyone before Christmas and wrap them as presents, but lately, I’ve found that buying them after Christmas is not only more cost effective, but it also allows the kids to pick out the calendars that they want as opposed to my buying what I think they might want—big difference.

I mean, when they were smaller, it was pretty easy: Thomas the Tank Engine, or then later, Sponge Bob, or something like that. But now, they have branched out. This year, Brett picked out a calendar with black and white pictures of trees. This after first picking up a star chart, then a night sky calendar.

Eamonn shopped by phone. His first choice was a Red Sox calendar, but sports calendars sell fast; then he wanted a Venice calendar (?), no Venice, but could I interest you in a landscapes of Italy? No. Then I remembered that he liked motivational quotes. I mentioned that. He wanted to know if it was too girlie, so I had to describe the pictures. That one seemed to meet his approval.

Moving on to Alexis. She has pretty eclectic tastes. One year it was Jimmy Hendrix, the next Bob Marley. Far Side always works. This year, I knew that I could win with a Family Guy, so I grabbed what appeared to be the only one in the store. I could not find, however, a daily planner, lots and lots of weekly ones, but no daily ones. That search was quickly sapping the little energy I had left (we had made two stops before Barnes & Noble). Not to mention, my daughter is very persnickety about her planners; i.e., they must be a certain size with the pages laid out in a certain way. No way I was going to chance that one.

Then it was my turn. I used to buy four calendars: one for work, one for the kitchen, one for the bedroom, and one for my purse. Now I don’t have to buy one for work, even though I dreamed this morning that I had to go back to work on Monday for a former female boss whom I absolutely loathed, and I hadn’t done any of the projects that I was supposed to do while I was out of work. Don’t you hate those kinds of dreams?

We won’t discuss the number of calendars that I actually ordered at work or you might think that my OCD was/is truly out of control. And it was three, by the way, not counting the one that I brought from home, or the one that I had in my purse. And yes, I used all of them . . . moving right along . . .

So I found my first calendar right away, the kitchen calendar: it was an orchid calendar, beautiful miniature orchids in very simple vases with lots of open light. The bedroom calendar was giving me fits. That’s the one that I write all of my doctor’s appointments on and keep on the wall next to the computer, so it needs to have fairly big boxes, and be of good quality paper. I also need to like it a lot. I looked at the motivational one that I had picked out for Eamonn, which is why I knew about it in the first place.

I looked at other flower calendars, a Celtic calendar, a wildlife calendar, a fairy calendar (I like fairies if they don’t look too overdone), and a Dalai Lama calendar. I knew that I wasn’t in the mood for a country (as in Italy or France or whatever, which I’ve had before) or an animal (which I’ve also done before). What I really wanted was black and white, and the only one that I had seen was the tree one that Brett grabbed. And then there it was, on the bottom shelf of course where it is hard for me to bend down to see, a black and white Zen calendar. I grabbed it and put it in the basket.

Then I picked up a small weekly planner for my purse to duplicate all of the doctor’s appointments, etc. But I still manage to confuse times and days somehow, even though I check the calendar on the wall and the calendar in my purse. Don’t ask me how I do that because I’m still trying to figure it out. And don’t suggest that I use the calendar on the computer, because I’ve done that, too, with the reminder system and everything. I still show up at the doctor’s office on the wrong day or at the wrong time because I really don’t remember what day it is.

I didn’t have this problem so much when I worked because my body clock was set the same as normal people’s, but when you find yourself finally closing your eyes at 5:35 in the morning, it’s hard to be in sync with the rest of the world, and unlike one of my regular correspondents who can get by on four (4!) hours of sleep a night, I now need at least 9.

What’s really hard to believe is that I used to get by on five hours of sleep without any problem, and I would wake up early on purpose to get in at least 30 minutes of work out time, including 150 crunches every week day morning. This was when I was a single mom and had to fit in the work of two parents into one parent’s body.

You adapt. Then, I was buff and strong. Now, I’m a slug.

So back to Barnes & Noble . . . Brett and Corey are off looking for reading material because Brett has decided to try to spend less time playing video games and more time reading, and I am trying to find just one book (which is very restrained of me): the sequel of Into the Woods by Tana French. I don’t know the name of the sequel, but I know that it is out because of  Publisher’s Weekly, a really wonderful online publication that I receive that keeps me up-to-date on new releases and things that are happening in the publishing world.

So Corey finds out from the help desk that the sequel is indeed out, that there is supposed to be one in the store, and an associate walks him over to where the book is supposed to be located, but of course, it is not there. Of course it isn’t because I could spend all day in bed tomorrow reading it. It would be wonderful. I can just imagine it. Ah me. Reading nirvana.

By the way, if you like mysteries, read Into the Woods. It’s a first novel by French, and it is masterfully written. I finished it, and I started having a tantrum to which Corey asked, “What’s wrong now?”

“It’s just not fair,” I whined in my most petulant only child voice. “This is her first book, and it’s wonderful. And, it’s a cliffhanger. I hate her and I want to be her.” Yes, Lola logic at work once again.

So we left the store with just one little problem: I set off the security alarm, which I had done when I walked in. I had asked the people at the checkout to scan my purse and explained to them that I had set off the alarm when I came in, and when I entered and left Kohl’s and had no idea why. They obligingly scanned my purse, said there was nothing there, asked if my coat was new, to which I replied, “nope.” We walked out the door perplexed until I realized that I was wearing new jeans that Corey had bought me for Christmas from Old Navy. Maybe there was a magnetic strip somewhere inside one of the seams?

Why me? When I get home, I take off the jeans, and lo and behold, there is one of those bulky tags that says, “remove before washing.” It’s one of the new security tags. No wonder I’m setting off alarms. I’m just glad that I look too much like a goofball to be thrown to the ground and manhandled by some security guard because my back couldn’t take it.

Speaking of Kohl’s, Brett’s jeans were exchanged, and so ends the great Levi’s 569 saga of 2008. Let peace reign again. I left a message on his father’s voice mail and told him that we were near a Kohl’s (true) and that we exchanged the jeans without any problems (also true), so everything was taken care of (also true). Now if he can accept that, everything can be fine. (We’ll see).

Also ends the great calendar quest as well as the jeans saga of 2008 as we approach the end of the year, and I have to say that I am awaiting 2009 fervently hoping that I can find a curse breaker to end this long-running streak of bad juju that has befallen our family. If you know of any good curse breakers who aren’t complete frauds and charlatans, ask them to send some good juju my way.

More later. Peace and goodwill to you all.