useful beauty

toni morrison, the bluest eye, paradise, beloved, chloe anthony wofford, african american writers, african american literatureWhen I was a little girl, I wanted to be paper thin and pretty and foolish. It seemed to me like the world just laid down flat and let pretty folk walk all over it, while the rest of us had to pick our way around them. I learned, early on, that my body took up too much space than was desireable; that my nose and forehead were unnaturally big; and my overdeveloped brain made me "too smart" for my age.

When I read Pecola in The Bluest Eye, I read myself. I didn't want blonde hair or blue eyes, but I wanted to be pretty -- desperately. Even now as an adult, minus the thick glasses and secondhand clothing, I'm conscious of an unquenchable need for physical validation.

Seeing Toni Morrison tonight, I envisioned all my childhood yearnings embodied in the person of one woman. When she opened her mouth, I half expected to hear a boom like God from the sky and not her gentle voice, somewhat self-conscious and prone to girlish laughter.

Writing, I always thought, was heavy stuff. But I'm beginning to think that most of the heaviness is likely what the reader brings to the page. I've been learning lately that a writer writes best with love and generosity and laughter. I suppose that is true for Morrison.

What I've also learned from her -- and myself, in my old age -- is that beauty is only important where useful. The kind that sits and is admired is useless; the kind that loves and nurtures and protects and perseveres is useful.

So perhaps it is okay that I am an awkward little girl who has grown into a creative, thinking woman. Perhaps that itself is beauty and I had been thinking of it all wrong. If what we call beauty is in fact artifice, I should rather be useful than beautiful.

2 comments:

{ Eyitemi Egwuenu } | November 29, 2009 at 9:10 PM said...

You wrote: "But I'm beginning to think that most of the heaviness is likely what the reader brings to the page."
This may sound trite but a huge chunk if not everything of what we call human existence is actually what we (the reader) bring to the situation (page)...daily I am reminded by events that perception is indeed reality as far as human interactions are concerned and this chord rings with a higher note still concerning the subject of beauty. I call it the MYSTERY OF APPEAL. At the risk of sounding banal, the mystery of appeal is actually heavily influenced by the appeal of mystery. In my younger years (high school that is) when I was wont to split hairs on every subject, and still do, I would argue that being pretty does not necessarily mean being beautiful; a beautiful face or form is not an outward expression of an equally beautiful soul if it is lacking in grace and nobility of spirit; in the absence of such a nobility of heart, such a beauty might as well be that of a "frivolous doll in pink and white with hair oftentimes not her own" ; my guess is that you concur with this sentiment when you wrote: "What I've also learned from her -- and myself, in my old age -- is that beauty is only important where useful. The kind that sits and is admired is useless; the kind that loves and nurtures and protects and perseveres is useful."
Your posts are always interesting to read, very thoughtful and has this element about it that commands an immediacy to everyday life.

{ Jaycee } | August 21, 2010 at 2:43 PM said...

"Writing, I always thought, was heavy stuff. But I'm beginning to think that most of the heaviness is likely what the reader brings to the page. I've been learning lately that a writer writes best with love and generosity and laughter."

Ditto!!!

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