Beauty and its explanation have attracted attention through the centuries. “Grotesque” has less press.

A visceral experience this holiday sparked my interest in these opposites. A beautiful (or at least very pretty) acquaintance showed up during the Thanksgiving celebration with a half-shaved head and downright ugly top-knot. Scrunched. Tight. Meager. A pitiful use of hair.

I was so shocked at her transformation that I blurted out, “What happened to your hair?” “I shaved it.” she answered, seemingly comfortable with her effect on me.


“Because I wanted to.”

She is not a close member of my large extended family.  Though I have known her for several years, I had no right to say my next words, but they tumbled out before I could stop them. She was still looking, with interest, at my incredulous expression.

“Well, I don’t like it.”

She shrugged and moved to the other side of the table where we were all sitting. The holiday conversation resumed – I slowly unclenched my stomach muscles.

My totally inappropriate or appropriate (depending on your point of view, of course) reaction was overlooked in the ensuing conversation.

Later, my daughter reminded me I had said much the same thing when she wanted to have her ears pierced for earrings at age 12. I insisted she wait until she was 16. I then received a lecture from this daughter who informed me the half-shaved head was a “style” and many of the young crowd were doing it. A style. Sort of in the same league with the dropped britches that show the crack in the buttocks.

I could only think of two reasons to join this “style” since the difference between beauty and grotesque are clear to me.

Reason One. To attract attention. To stand out as “different” in a crowd of pretty women, age early 20’s

Reason Two: To protest against social conformity and our cultural norms.

Both of those reasons are legitimate stances for a twenty-plus year old. Though, in my opinion, neither justifies turning yourself into an “ugly.”

“Beauty is its own excuse for being,” is as true now as the first time penned. Later in the day, I apologized  to her for my words. This apology did not interest her. Nor me, actually. If you are a blonde, beautiful 20-plus year old, with soft, flowing locks, enjoy your beauty and all its benefits. Beauty often fades before you are ready. You are lucky to experience it while you can. Don’t dump your good luck by shaving it away.

Maybe grotesque is preferable to boring, but beauty is never boring. She obviously hasn’t learned that yet. Maybe always receiving admiring looks gets old.

It didn’t for me, and now that I am in my eighties, I miss this.

Old age looks grotesque to most of the youngsters. It’s not, actually. My husband became more beautiful to me, the older he got and the more I came to appreciate his kindness, his astringent honesty, and his creativity in dealing with the events and people of his surgery practice. My heart would respond when he arrived in the kitchen for breakfast.

Beauty is its own excuse for being.