Grits and Purls

Spinning yarns about the grit of life

02mar09_emc2“Pretty is as pretty does, Michele, pretty is as pretty does.”

I cannot count the number of times my mother said that to me when I was a little girl. I never liked hearing it. I had no real understanding of what those words meant, and Mom usually said them to me at times when I was anything but interested in listening to her.

Those words were like the oft told nursery rhyme about the little girl with the little curl “right in the middle of her forehead. When she was good she was very, very good, but when she was bad she was horrid.” I didn’t understand that nursery rhyme either when I was a little girl.

These are sayings that a child really can’t understand. Life experience is required to understand them. But, children need to hear them, and often. Eventually they will sink in.

I was reminded of these sayings one evening when my husband and I took our daughter to a local restaurant for their fish fry. As we got up to leave, a couple seated at a nearby table stopped us.

“Your daughter was so well behaved” the woman said.

“Yes,” said the man, “very good, and she’s beautiful too.”

“Thank you.” I smiled. “We do try hard, and she is a great kid. She does have her moments, though.”

“Don’t we all?” the woman replied.

My husband and I left the restaurant, beaming. Our daughter, reveling in the extra attention, turned the charm button “on” and waved and smiled to everyone on the way out of the restaurant.

“Yeah, you’re such a great little girl.” My husband gave her an extra hug.

I remembered that saying of my mom’s: “Pretty is as Pretty does.”

The fact that the couple noticed that our daughter was well behaved before they noticed that she is pretty is telling. Pretty is as pretty does. I suspect that they would not have concluded that our daughter is pretty if her behavior had been characterized by whines and temper tantrums.

So often in the classic tale of good versus evil, the evil villainess is beautiful, but her beauty never manages to eclipse that of the heroine. As a little girl, I never wanted to be the Queen; I always wanted to be the Princess. So many of the fairy tales I knew featured beautiful but evil queens pitted against beautiful and kind princesses, but the evil Queen, no matter how beautiful her features, always seemed a little ugly to me. So, although I didn’t understand my mother’s words “pretty is as pretty does”, I did understand the principle behind them.

Pretty is as pretty does. Have you ever noticed that initial images of public figures are flattering and beautiful, but if we learn things about a public figure that reflect greed or corruption or other negative behaviors, the pictures become less flattering? Yet, public figures who lead a sincerely good life never appear tired or ugly—consider Paul Neuman, for instance.

Adults would do well to remember that pretty is as pretty does. As we rush to and fro, getting mud wraps, Botox injections, chemical peels and hair transplants in the name of beauty, we might think about what our actions make us look like. Does a kind heart shine forth and make our face and eyes glow? Can we stand upright and carry ourselves proudly in the knowledge of living a gracious life? Do we have a smile for others we encounter during the day?

Pretty is as pretty does. It’s something we need to remind ourselves of more often.

© 2008, 2009 Michele Arduengo. All rights reserved.

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