The longer I live, the more convinced I become that conventional beauty in a woman, despite what studies show and what most people believe, is not an advantage. In fact it might even be a disadvantage because it attracts people for what my husband used to describe as “the wrong reasons.” Over the years, I've known many truly beautiful women: knockouts, traffic stoppers, former actresses, models, and not one of them had what I would consider a happy marriage (despite numerous tries). Men came after them in droves but they were sought after as trophies and not for their other qualities. If they tried to be something more than just a pretty face, the men in their lives were not supportive. Age becomes a real problem for these beautiful women, a never-ending search for a magic potion to keep their looks intact. Without exception, all the really good-looking women I have known were unhappily married to men who didn't want them to be anything more than well-dressed arm candy.
On the other hand, my not-so-attractive friends, those who didn't hit the lottery in the looks department, all have had men in their lives who adored them, thought they were beautiful and found them endlessly interesting. They were also successful in business, hard working and creative. Not being able to fall back on a pretty face or a show-stopping body, they had to develop other qualities, ones that last long after conventional beauty is gone: loyalty, intelligence, humor. They’re fun to be with and after a while, you think they’re the best-looking women in the room….and, if you’re an employer, you should grab them. Studies have shown that being pretty is an advantage in being hired, but what happens after that? Our Plain Jane, who doesn’t rely on her looks, may win out in the long run.
If you've ever painted a portrait, you know that the hardest people to capture are those with regular features, the pretty faces. There’s nothing to work with, nothing that distinguishes Ms A from Ms B. They all have large, wide-set eyes, short, straight noses and bland, oval faces. Nowadays, with such easy access to plastic surgery, I see more and more women who look like a TV hostess’ version of a Barbie Doll. Just check out daytime television: everybody looks the same. The women I like to paint have character; they've had hardscrabble lives and their sagging faces and bodies show it. They won’t win beauty contests but they’re not narcissists; they make great artists’ models and, best of all, they’re real, not dolls!
I once had the most adorable neighbor, Phoebe. She was the quintessential All-American cheerleader type. She had come to New York to be an actress and had some modest success before marrying and moving to the suburbs. One day, I confessed to her that I had always wanted to be cute like her. “And I always wanted to be interesting looking, like you.” She replied.