My mother is a lady. And she’s one of those truly effortlessly, classy ladies. Of course I happen to know as most people in my family know, that my mother is also fierce and when she’s on a mission, even the devil shakes in his boots. She tried to make a lady out of me, I think. I often hope she’s not disappointed. And I try to do my best to practice her most important lessons – honesty, compassion, wisdom, and of course the practicalities of choosing my words carefully, having good manners, and all the rest. But I grew up with three older brothers (and a young sister that came later on). And indeed I have some of my father’s rascality (underneath the English-like gentleman-ness he also portrays). And heck, sometimes I’m just obnoxious, loud, and much too self-assured. But my mother always taught me to be beautiful.
Especially as a teen, I didn’t always understand my mother’s lessons. I internalized a childhood that was spent being teased for being dark-skinned, and therefore ugly by my peers standards. I used to think it was easy for my mother – everyone always thought she was beautiful. She never understood where I was coming from; how could she? And so I bet on myself to be everything else – especially smart, and sporty, and funny, and interesting; I would be everything else. But as every girl knows, if you’re not considered beautiful, it will leave you with a void that can’t be replaced by all the other things you are. And I would missed my mother’s point.
See, my mother is a physically good-looking woman who was at her prime, undoubtedly a gem. And being one of those naturally beautiful women who to this day cares very little for make-up or “face paint” as she playfully calls it sometimes, it just added more of an air to her natural lady-like persona. And even after five children who have probably aged her through stress, she is still as beautiful as ever. But that was never the beauty my mother was primarily concerned with, or I think, that people mostly praised her for. See, more than being a beautiful woman, my mother is a beautiful person. And although in my adulthood, I see her flaws in a way that I never did when I was a child, she still continues to be the best person I have ever met; the most beautiful person I know. I think I get the point these days.
My mother wasn’t told she was beautiful as much as she was, because of how she looked, but rather because of who she was; who she is. And I truly believe that had my mother been an ugly person on the inside, I would have never grown up thinking that she was beautiful. And maybe she watched her young teen wrestle with what the world would consider of her physically, with some worry. But I think my mother was, and will always be most concerned for what I am on the inside. Some days I think I can do better. But the other day she told me she was proud of who I’m becoming – and I don’t know if I’ve ever felt more beautiful.
You see this thing called beauty or its many synonyms can be defined in so many ways. But when we define it only physically, I think we lose a great deal. I suppose having had the childhood I had, now, I don’t care much for everyone in a room thinking that I’m beautiful – what good does it do? I learned not to need it. I suppose I still do care that some people think I’m beautiful on the outside – usually the ones I think are beautiful too. I guess I am human. But in the end, I’ve found it’s more important to pay attention to the other parts of beauty that often go ignored – the parts that no one can see physically. Because no matter how beautiful you are on the outside, it will never make up for the ugly on the inside. Physical beauty may or may not stand the test of time, but inner beauty always will.
So take care of your body and your face as you should; they should certainly not be ignored. But don’t forget to take care of everything else too – the really, really important things. And in this way, I think I finally get it – what my mother has been trying to teach me all these years: Being beautiful is the most important thing you can become. But the great lady only meant the temporal body to be a small part of that; the great lady, my mother, was referring to one’s soul.