Well, it’s official: I am the worst mother. Of all time. On a scale of 1 to 10 on the bad-mothering scale I have just jumped off into the exponential. Why, you might ask? Well, my honor’s level college age daughter has just finished her first day at ‘beauty school’. Yep. Beauty school. And I encouraged it.
My daughter is one of those rare individuals who came out of the womb older and wiser than myself. Mere moments after her birth it was evident that I had not only met my match, but if I gave her a few days she’d easily be lapping me in the life-skills department. The term ‘old soul’ doesn’t begin to apply to her. She’s more the ‘really cool chick you always wanted to be friends with in high school but were way too intimidated by to ever consider approaching’ type of soul. Yep, that’s my daughter. She’s not only beautiful but she’s got confidence and self-assurance I could only hope for. So when she came to me after her first semester of college, questioning her decision to stay enrolled, read; stressing yet again her lifelong desire to be independent, earn her own money, and be done with this whole ‘under Momma’s wing’ gig, I encouraged her . Oh, how I encouraged.
My daughter is one of the ‘pretty’ people. And precisely because she is a ‘pretty’ girl I have attempted to teach her that life isn’t always about looks. I have stressed that looks are transient, they can come and they can go. I have preached the benefits of intelligence and kindness and darned if she hasn’t become the entire package! Did I think it was a great idea for her to go to beauty school over the summer because she could then parlay that education into an actual paying job thereby supporting some of her own way through college? Oh hell yes!
Now, lest you think my unconditional support was altruistic, allow me to disabuse you of that notion. Quickly. It was completely and totally in my own self interest that I allowed her to enroll in The Paul Mitchell School of Beauty & Esthetics. It’s all about me. You see, I can’t possibly handle going back to being unattractive myself. Selfish, I know.
Unlike my daughter, who is indeed beautiful and has been so from birth, I myself come from a mixed personal history of appearance. I have been ugly and I have been pretty. I lived the first 20 years of my life as an unattractive human. At the age 4 I left the ‘cute’ baby/child phase behind and entered smack into a 20 year drought in the looks department. My gawky stage lasted, and lasted, and lasted and lasted. Hell, it hung in there even after the hormones kicked in. I had the ‘energizer-bunny-esque’ era of awkward phases.
My ‘ugly years’ as I have come to refer to them started with a pixy cut  in the first grade. Remember that style? I’m not sure which movie-star made it popular but I hope she (or he, possibly) is long dead and freezing in a cold and lonely grave. Somehow, perhaps in a misguided attempt at ‘cool’, ‘hip’, or possibly just a desire to fit in (yes, even in first grade I knew with certainty I was a geek) I convinced my mother to allow me to chop off all my hair thus rendering me a frightfully ugly young Julie Andrews look-like . This is a regrettable look for a 6 year old. Allow me to assure you, I was NOT singing anything when the cosmetologist was finished. I really wanted to stab her in the eye with a scissor. And not one that had been in that smelly blue liquid. I started crying after the first side of my head was cut and didn’t stop until months later. If that. My first day back to school with the new coif, hair styled to cement-like consistency with Dippity-Do, ushered me directly into a new childhood category: Really Unfortunate Looking Children. If I had any doubts as to my ranking in that select group they were quickly dashed by a one of my classmates, he asked me the moment I walked into the room; ‘why do you wanna be a boy’?
Things only got worse from there. Following eye glasses in the 6th grade and braces in 7th, unfortunate break-outs in the 8th, 9th, and 10th as well as propensity for all things science, by the age of 13 I had myself firmly entrenched in the Geek Hall of Fame. So it came as a big surprise (huge) when I suddenly blossomed my first year of college. It’s amazing what a bit of Sun-In, contact lens’ and a tan can accomplish. (Ok, and the help of a room-mate who had a long-suppressed Brady Bunch fantasy; you know the episode? Where Marcia transforms the school nerd into a raving beauty who then overtly steals Marcia’s place on the cheerleading squad and then rubs her face in it? Ya, that one). I suddenly became, well, popular. I would like to think that it was because I was an outstanding student, that the boys that suddenly flocked to me did so not because of my looks, but because they sincerely wanted help in chemistry. But the closer I came to ‘cool’ the more evident it became that the attention was no longer on my brain but focused, ah, elsewhere. I was officially ‘hot’. It was a heady experience indeed. Guys who had snubbed me in high school (you know who you are Steven Z.) were suddenly and magically ‘interested’ in me. Concert tickets that were hard to come by fell in my lap, campus parking citations were ‘disappeared’ and cover charges in the coolest bars country-wide were waived. Yet none of that could convince me that I was indeed beautiful. I clung to a seriously out-dated image of myself. I refused to accept I was pretty. When I looked in the mirror I still saw that gawky 15 year old who once walked around for one entire day with the back of her skirt caught up in her panties.
Despite my looks, I continued to persevere in my desire to be respected for my brains and not my glamour. I worked hard at school earning straight A’s and scholarship after scholarship. I made it a point to be extraordinarily nice to others, especially women, so that no one would get the impression I was a beauty of the ‘stuck up’ variety. I was deeply disappointed to discover a boy I really liked, whom I had been tutoring for some time, wasn’t really in the relationship for the learning experience. Oh, he wanted experience alright, it just wasn’t of the biological variety! (Or maybe it was)? When I graduated college with the highest of accolades and proudly sported my distinctive ‘honors’ hood and tassel I heard a girl near me comment on the effort that had got me there. Suffice it to say it was less about my devotion to study and more about the application of knee-pads.
Professional life proved to be no easier. I still harbored the naïve belief that life was about more than just how you look. Boy, was I wrong. Being pretty didn’t get me promoted. Quite the contrary. Being beautiful simply made moving ahead more difficult. My good looks caused insurmountable problems. Women were the worst, always immediately jealous and prone to backstabbing and professional sabotage. I am here to tell you, for a fact, that those mean girls you met in grammar school? The ones who lured you into the bathroom to stick gum in your hair? Ya, THOSE girls. Well they grow up, unfortunately they just don’t grow.
I am sure most of you are rolling your eyes in a sarcastic ‘woe is me’ fashion. You’re probably thinking that there are worse things in life than being good-looking. Of course you’re absolutely correct. However a recent article in Newsweek Magazine discusses the topic of discrimination on the basis of looks. The author, Dahlia Lithwick reports that it might soon be illegal for us to discriminate on the basis of looks. Well good luck with that one Sweetie. I have three words for you; Isn’t. Gonna. Happen. I have been hated on for years because of my looks, and while I wholeheartedly agree with Ms. Lithwick that no one, regardless of appearance, should be discriminated against it seems that it is biologically impossible for us not to do so. Certain physical characteristics are inextricably and evolutionarily linked within our human brains. These characteristics are those that indicate not only attractiveness but genetic strength as well. Doubt me? Ask someone of the XY persuasion. They will tell you unequivocally that looks do indeed matter. As does breast size, waist/hip ratio and any number of characteristics up to and including the ability to wear six inch stilettos while hanging upside down and topless from a fire pole.
I have learned from experience that no matter your outward appearance, life is never easy. Don’t hate me because I’m beautiful. Since those days of wine and song (literally) when I woke up pretty, I keep waiting to wake up ugly again. I still anticipate someone to tapping me on the shoulder to tell me it was all big mistake, someone else was supposed to hit the genetic jackpot and it wasn’t me. Those thoughts of the ‘old’ me are never far from my mind. It’s miserable existence! So in order to ensure that I never revert back to that gangly dish-water blonde with the really bad haircut, I have chosen to shore up my bets. And yes, I have made my daughter complicit in my evil plan .
It is with a higher purpose in mind that I have sent her in to do battle with all that is evil and ugly and to attempt bring beauty and joy to the world. As for myself, I have absolutely no desire to go quietly into the night and plan on fighting the damnable march of time on my visage! But have no fear, I do have my standards! She is, after all, expected to maintain a honor’s level GPA, even if it is beauty school. And I have made my expectations of her abundantly clear; if she doesn’t get a ‘A’ in ‘Botox Injections’ I am going to immediately withdraw her!
 I still to this day have nightmares of this haircut. Just the memory of it will send me running for the chardonnay!
 Yes, I ‘modeled’ my panties for the entire school. All. Day. Long. In related occurances, while in college I did a modeling shoot for a Sears catalogue; pajama’s. Rumor circulated that it was the ‘underwear’ edition. Years later a classmate told me he searched and searched for that issue and was deeply disappointed not to find it! (He told me he had a great time looking though)!
 Dahlia Lithwick, Newsweek Magazine, July 14, 2010; pg. 20.