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Sunday, October 24, 2010

Sure There Are All Kinds of Beauty, But This One’s Physical

My sister is beautiful.

You can imagine how this has gotten on my nerves over the years.

Not that I’m not attractive as well, but Karen has never had an awkward phase, has never been overweight, required glasses, or split her pants in public.

Naturally, I’m against this.

I mean, her beauty doesn’t make me love her less, but it does make me wish she’d get a pimple or two, if only for the weekend.

We’ve not let this unfortunate case of being pigeon-holed by our parents as The Pretty One (her) and The Smart One (me) get in the way of our relationship, however. I’ve had some very good times with my sister, including drunken arm wrestling and anonymously mailing her coupons for gas-reduction products addressed to Bloated and Musical Occupants.

I was thinking about her the other day, thinking about beauty and what it means, and I remembered a little Vietnamese restaurant that opened in our town when Karen and I were teenagers.

Minnesota, in the late 70s/early 80s, welcomed to its chilly bosom a large amount of immigrants from Viet Nam, primarily Hmong. One minute there were no Hmong, and the next there were plenty.

Who are Hmongs? Oh, just a mountain-dwelling people who were the United States’ allies in the Viet Nam War.

If you’ve seen the movie Gran Torino, those are Hmongs, there with Clint Eastwood.

And yes, the Lutherans sponsored them.

The new Asian place was pretty decent, especially considering that Asian restaurants in most parts of Minnesota in the early 80s tended to be run by people whose last name was Larson, included entrees heavily laden with celery, and came with horrible packets of dark-brown liquid purported to be soy sauce.

And so it was that we were in this restaurant one afternoon, no doubt picking up and dropping our food with the chopsticks we were determined to master, when a woman about four foot nothing approached our table.

“You,” she says, looking at Karen, “You muddah mus’ be beh-yee boodeefo!”

Karen looks at me with “What?!” in her eyes.

“I’m sorry?” Karen says to the woman.

“You muddah mus’ be beh-yee boodeefo!”

Karen smiles. “Thank you.”

And with no further conversation, the woman turns around and goes back into the kitchen.

Karen leans over the table and whispers, “What did she say?”

“She said your mother must be very beautiful.”

And then we sat there, quietly, both of us reflecting on this most interesting of compliments. She saw, not the physical beauty in Karen, but the beauty that must have come before her.

And then we laughed. Our physical attributes were passed to us. Sure, we choose to wash our hair and wear lipstick, but the rest is purely luck.

We are who we are. Sometimes it is chosen for us, sometimes it is as a result of our own efforts, and sometimes we have a leg-up by way of parentage.

Either way, I’ll bet your mother was very beautiful.

34 comments:

Gregory said...

Yes she was

Kavi said...

You bet. You bet.

Thats exactly the point. And now the gripping downfall is completely on me !

The mad woman behind the blog said...

Where is this restaurant and will they serve my toddler?

Such a lovely post, my friend. And I've missed you!

EcoGrrl said...

ha...i was the only child - scottish and german - of my mother and father who grew up with an older brother and sister of, you guessed it, norwegian descent. tall, bubbly personality, thin, blonde hair, blue eyes, tanned easily and - even worse - great CHEEKBONES. i was definitely stuck as 'the smart one' in my glasses and braces and awkwardness. my older sister was always a size 6. eventually we all grow up and things evolve and i stopped looking like SJP in square pegs, and she became an alcoholic. i had withdrawn from her because of this disease and so when she got clean a couple years later and i saw her? 50-60 lbs heavier and barely recognizable. my mom, who had long obsessed on our looks, was mortified. it showed me a lot of who my mom was and helped me see the whole of my sister and how quickly things can change.

ok this started out funny and ended up kinda sad. sorry about that.

Camille said...

Awwww Pearl, I'm kerflempt. Nice post.

Rezden said...

Great story. Beauty is different though from person to person. Where someone might see perfection, another might see flaws. That's what is so great with being human though. :)

Irisheyes said...

Great post! And I am also impressed by Ecogirl's memory of Sara Jessica Parker in Square Pegs. I was put into the Black Sheep category as a teen. Not much has changed except the weight I have gained. I think I have a pimple brewing in the cork of my left nostril right now. Thanks Pearl!

lgsquirrel said...

This was a very, very nice post. Your mother must be very smart and funny too. Or would you like to give your dad some credit too?

Douglas said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Rene/ Not The Rockefellers said...

Thanks, Pearl, for providing us with the pick-up line of the year :)

And for the record my mother is a stunner...my sisters and I pale in comparison

Douglas said...

How'd ya know? My mother was a babe with a balcony one could do Shakespeare from. Of course, that was before I met her. Long before. Being the third of three mistakes in her perfectly planned family, the damage of motherhood had been done. She never lost the baby fat from her first pregnancy. So she was always the quintessential American Mom, a tad pudgy, a tad tired, a whole lotta motherly. Her mom was also a babe. A truly beautiful woman of French extraction. It all passes down. Me? I look my my father... except for the thinning hair and shrinking eyebrows.

Boom Boom Larew said...

“You muddah mus’ be beh-yee amoosing!”

IndigoWrath said...

Ah shit, yer gorgeous. Live with it x

a Broad said...

This made me cry.
Your muddah did good :)

My mom was ok but my aunt was The Beauty :)
for some reason, known only to the gods of genetics, I look like my aunt.
In a family of tall leggy Scottish freckled dark haired people, my blonde green eyed aunt is the one I look like .. though I am not tall.
I think I was lucky- none of the Others aged well .. but she did .. I plan to.

savannah said...

this was really good! well done you. ;~D xoxox

Molly Potter said...

My dad used to say I had the personality and my sister had the good looks.

I'd say that was a very effective way of insulting two young girls.

Lynne H. said...

What a great story... Hmm, wonder if anyone has ever asked any of my 4 daughters that question.."Vanessa, Brittany, Renee, Deandria, anyone ever said that to you guys"?..lol..loved this Pearl

WrathofDawn said...

Meh. Pretty is sheer dumb luck. Funny. Now that takes talent AND hard work.

Saw this linked on Facebook today. It pretty much sums up my feelings on the subject.

And it's not sour grapes. I've been told I'm pretty on occasion. Meh!

Oilfield Trash said...

Another great post.

Kittie Howard said...

Thanks for the warm smile your post brought. My mother was drop-dead gorgeous!

Smart Mouth Broad said...

She was. *wink*

Eva Gallant said...

That was a really nice post! And I thought my mother was extremely beautiful, the kind of beauty that glows from within.

Joanna Jenkins said...

Does your Dad get any credit???

As always, a great story Pearl.

xo jj

Riley said...

Lovely.

Jhon Baker said...

I am nothing like those that have come before me - that said I do look a lot like my uncle and a grizzly bear.

River said...

I'm no traffic stopper, but I'm not drop dead ugly either. I'm not too concerned with my looks anymore, I've decided I'll be beautiful on the inside.

Pat Tillett said...

If my mother was a very large woman with a large moustache, then yes...

Judging by how good you look in the photos on your blog here, “You muddah mus’ be beh-yee boodeefo!”

Gaston Studio said...

My favorite grandmother always told me "beauty is in the eyes of the beholder" and she's right. And yes, my mother was considered beautiful and yes, I got a lot of her genes, but beauty is more powerful when it comes from within and lightens everyone around it. So glad you and Karen are close sisters.

Toomuchtime said...

Really liking your viewpoint on this. Yeah, physical beauty is just that: physical. And like with everything physical, it lacks true meaning. I myself have a hideously huge nose and an uneven split chin. But people love and respect me for who I am, and so do I.

Georgina Dollface said...

My Mom was (and is)! Whenever I see old pictures of her, I see Isabella Rossellini. Sadly, none of that was passed on to me. - G

Bossy Betty said...

Being the best looking person in the family is both a blessing a a curse. Sigh.

dogimo said...

Being beautiful is like getting a really great haircut - whether you're born with it, or you just grow into, there's nothing you can really do about it, except for the part about the haircut.

Linda Medrano said...

Your children's mother is very beautiful.

Green Girl in Wisconsin said...

I love this. What a wonderful complement!