Why We Should Celebrate Beautiful Women
Not long ago, I took a solo road trip. Christmas was fast approaching, and I was looking for adventure and time alone before diving in. I booked nights at bed and breakfasts all over northern California and took off for five days of exploring, visiting museums, and learning about the history of this little-known area.
Most nights I ate dinner at a local restaurant recommended by the B&B owner. At the Parsonage Inn in Nevada City, California, Abigail recommended New Moon Café. I walked the two blocks in the 35-degree cold and got myself a table for one (two if you count Pnin, my book companion). It was a wonderful dinner—arugula salad with shaved parmesan, flaky bread, a pork chop in a brown sugar sauce. My waiter was kind and funny—you could tell he had a great rapport with whomever he was serving, and his presence enhanced the dining experience.
When I could eat no more, he brought the check to the table. And then, right after he told me to take my time paying the bill, he told me I was very beautiful. He said it quickly; there was no phone number written on my bill, no knowing wink. He was avuncular and chatty and didn't set off any red flags. No agenda, not creepy or lingering. Just a kind compliment.
Last week, ESPN reporters Brent Musburger and Kirk Herbstreit made headlines when they repeatedly commented on the beauty of Katherine Webb, the girlfriend of Alabama quarterback A. J. McCarron: "'You quarterbacks, you get all the good-looking women,' Musberger said when the camera panned to Webb. 'What a beautiful woman. Whoa!'''
After the game, ESPN issued an apology, saying that "the commentary went too far." And that was right: At 43 and 73, Herbstreit's and Musberger's remarks about a 23-year-old quarterback's girlfriend isn't exactly what America tunes in for. The fact that Webb is a beauty queen—literally, she was Miss Alabama USA 2012—complicates the situation.
But is noticing another's beauty automatically demeaning? Webb did nothing to deserve her face or her hair. She may have made choices that other people wouldn't have; as a pageant contestant, there are surely routines involving hair products and makeup and hemorrhoid cream that most women don't follow. But Webb, like every other (naturally) beautiful person, did not choose the arrangement of her face. As my mom says, physical beauty is one of the least interesting qualities of a person—at least until you get to know them, when you can see how the outside connects to what is within.