After writing a bit about my father, several friends have remarked that he was very good-looking. I started thinking about extremely attractive people I have known and came to the realization that many of them are arrogant and entitled. It appears that being blessed with extreme good looks gives the individual a huge advantage over us mortals, but conversely can easily make him or her unbearable.
There is no doubt that beautiful people get chosen first for job advancement and even get jobs over more qualified people when they compete. They also get away with things that ordinary people can’t. Jerry Pope tells the story of being in a car with a gorgeous female friend. When they were pulled over by a State Trooper he took one look at Jerry’s friend and went pale. She was short with the policeman, but still escaped with a mild warning that going more than twenty miles per hour over the speed limit should be avoided in the future. Anyone else would have had a ticket at the very least. Jerry says he would have been dragged off to jail.
Very beautiful women are also rich men’s first choice in second wives. My friend Betsy Bilger told me about being invited to a party in Charlotte hosted by a wealthy friend. As she and her date approached the house they could see the party through the front window. She said the crowd consisted of rather ordinary-looking older men and their arm-candy dates. She told her date she would not subject herself to spending an evening in their company and they left.
So what does this kind of power do to a person? It can make him or her twisted. If you are told from the time you are a child that you are beautiful and special, you must begin to believe it. I had a friend in college who was stunning and had been lauded from babyhood by her adoring family. She and I spent our junior year of college in Switzerland. A group of us would spend weekends visiting other parts of Europe, and wherever we went, men would approach Gloria to tell her how beautiful she was. We were roommates in a student house until she told me I had to find another room. She and her boyfriend back home had been feuding by letter, and my crime had been not to recognize that she was upset and try to soothe her. She didn’t speak to me for the rest of the year.
I always dated men I believed to be attractive, but steered clear of the Adonis type. No matter what I did, anyway, that sort of guy would not have been interested in me. One summer during college I worked as a waitress in Wood’s Hole on Cape Cod. I had a great time and made many friends. To my surprise, a very handsome guy started courting me. He had blonde hair and Robert Redford good looks. One day he invited me to go sailing with him. Even though I am scared of the ocean, I was so flattered that I accepted.
The afternoon of the date we went to the yacht club and walked out past one big sailboat after another. Finally we arrived at what I thought was a dinghy used to get out to one of the large boats anchored further out, but it turned out to be his sailboat. It was no larger than a rowboat, but it did have a sail and a tiny motor. We climbed in and putt-putted out onto Buzzard’s Bay. He struggle to get the sails raised and we caught the wind and started skimming over the water. We were heading in the direction of a lighthouse perched on a pile of rocks in the bay, and it seemed to me that were were getting pretty close. I was hesitant to say anything, but I was getting nervous. I asked politely if there were any chance that we were going to hit the rocks, and he angrily snapped something smart at me. In the next minute we were ramming the lighthouse and hung up on the rocks, and water was gushing in through a hole in the hull. It suddenly occurred to me that we had no life jackets in the boat. I was terrified.
After cussing up a storm, Herb got a grip and told me that our only hope (yikes!) was to continue sailing across the bay to Martha’s Vineyard where we would get the boat patched up. And that I had to get down on my knees and bail like my life depended on it. Needless to say, I bailed like a mad woman and we made it and docked the boat. I climbed out and almost fainted with exhaustion. We left the boat with a repair guy and staggered to a bar nearby.
We sat down and Herb ordered one cold beer. “Is that for me?” I asked weakly.
“No,” he said. “Get your own beer.” I hadn’t brought my purse and had no cash on me. He let me have one sip and then drained the glass. I knew we had a long trip ahead of us across the bay with a patched up hull and no life jackets, so I said nothing. He might have thrown me to the sharks if I mouthed off, and would not have any regrets. Bye-bye, Herb.
I mean…would an average-looking person have done that? Would he have expected me to be a galley slave, not thanked me, and not even offered me a beer? I think not. The rest of us know that we depend on others and are grateful when we get help. We don’t expect other people to read our minds and anticipate our needs, and then bend over backwards to make us feel better. We just try harder.
This brings us back to my father. His head was so big, there were no hats large enough to fit him when he started swirling a long lock of hair over his bald spot Trump-style, trying to secure it with a baseball cap perched on top. Even that unattractive look didn’t stop his swagger.