Katie Makkai is a poetry slammer whose poem Pretty has made a huge impression on Facebook and in the blogopshere.
When I was just a little girl, I asked my mother, “What will I be? Will I be pretty? Will I be pretty? Will I be pretty?"
The poem goes on to talk about the power of "pretty" and the lengths we women will go to achieve it -- nose jobs, boob jobs, injecting poison into our skin to freeze the muscles and lessen the wrinkles.
Makkai dedicates her evocative and powerful poem to these women:
Who will prowl thirty stores in six malls to find the right cocktail dress, but haven’t a clue where to find fulfillment or how to wear joy, wandering through life shackled to a shopping bag, beneath those two pretty syllables.
At one point, she tells her future daughter how much more she will be than "just pretty."
The word pretty is unworthy of everything you will be, and no child of mine will be contained in five letters. You will be pretty intelligent, pretty creative, pretty amazing, but you will never be merely “pretty.”
What woman can't relate? How many of us spend hours worrying about our appearance -- our clothing and makeup, our skin and hair? It's maddening.
For some, "pretty" is a curse, something they've been given, something that isn't earned, that carries them through until they hit the inevitable wall. Supermodel Paulina Porizkova recently wrote an essay about this issue:
Beauty, unlike the rest of the gifts handed out at birth, does not require dedication, patience, and hard work to pay off. But it’s also the only gift that does NOT keep on giving. It usually blossoms at an age where you’re least equipped to handle its benefits and rewards and instead take it all for granted, and by the time you start understanding the value of it, it slowly trickles away.
Ouch. And yet true. It isn't that beauty doesn't matter (it does) or that beauty isn't powerful (it is), but we should fear the fact that beauty fades.
If old age is, as the French Proverb says, "the revenge of the ugly," then we younger women ought to be cultivating a lot more than beauty now. So let's wear our makeup and designer clothing. Let's rock the latest hairstyle and manicure our nails, but don't forget the other parts that need tending -- read the newspaper, enjoy school, keep laughing -- because those are the parts of us that last and mean the most in the end.
Do you worry about "pretty"?
Image via YouTube