A blog where families who love and live the Catholic Faith can share, encourage and support each other.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The Beautiful People

By Sue Elvis

My youngest daughter Gemma-Rose is extremely fair. She needs to be very careful in the sun.  When I was slopping a handful of sunblock onto her skin the other day, I started thinking about my own childhood. I’m fairly certain we never used sunscreen. Even though we lived in the harsh, hot Queensland climate, I can’t remember my mother ever saying, “Don’t forget the sunscreen!” She didn’t even remind me to put a hat on my head.

If anyone should have taken care in the sun, it was me. I have red hair and fair skin. I can remember my mother’s friends laughing at me: ”She’ll turn into one huge freckle before the summer is over!” I wasn’t amused. I longed for the sun to toast me an even brown colour.

Every week during summer was the same: beach on Sunday, red on Monday, sore on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, peeled by Saturday, back to the beach on Sunday.

I grew into a teenager who was obsessed with the idea of a tan. I was small and pale and freckly and unremarkable in appearance. But I wanted to look like all the popular girls at school. So every lunch time when they took up their places on the benches in the sun, I did the same. Everyone would grab their bottles of baby oil. Liberal quantities were applied to smooth legs which were then stretched out to receive the full effect of the hot rays. Of course, every leg slowly turned a gorgeous shade of brown except those belonging to me. My legs were quickly fried to a startling shade of red.

It is remarkable how persistent and optimistic children can be. An adult would have given up on the idea of a tan almost immediately. But I didn’t. “Perhaps next time”, I’d think, ever optimistic. Ignoring the pain of burning skin, I would again and again return to the sun. It must have been very important to me otherwise why else would I have persisted in such a senseless and unsuccessful activity? I think I must have wanted so much to be one of the ‘beautiful people’, to be popular, to be accepted and liked by the other girls and it seemed to me as a teenager, that appearance was everything.

I am much older now. I know there are so many things that are much more important than having a tan. I never think about the colour of my skin. I guess we live in a different era these days. Everyone is very concerned about being ‘sun safe’ and avoiding skin cancer. Those people who deliberately expose their skin to the harsh sun’s rays are actually considered rather foolish and uninformed.

No, I am quite happy with my pale, fair, totally untanned skin. Well, not exactly happy... Nowadays, I am more inclined to gaze in the mirror and wish I didn’t have wrinkles. Are we never satisfied? Always longing to be something we aren’t?

I have seen people with serious skin problems, disfigurements or unsightly blemishes. When I consider the difficulties they have to deal with, I am ashamed I spend so much time looking in the mirror wishing I could change my appearance. I have a perfectly normal and acceptable face. Does it matter about the freckles and the wrinkles?

I guess our appearance is that part of ourselves that the world sees. It is what we are judged on. It tells others a bit about who we are. The difficulties arise when our outward image seems to be in conflict with how we feel on the inside. I feel like I am in my twenties. I am fit and active and feel quite attractive. I don’t at all feel like a middle-aged woman. I really am quite happy until I glance in the mirror. There staring back at me is an aging woman who, I am sure, is not really me at all. Perhaps the answer is not to look in the mirror.

I wonder if I am alone in my struggles to come to terms with my appearance, and especially the effects of aging. Probably everyone else has already come to the conclusion that what really matters is inner beauty, the kind of beauty that will last forever. Yes, the genuine ‘beautiful people’ are those that possess the virtues, those people who never have time to glance in the mirror. They are far too busy thinking and caring about others to worry about themselves. 

There is something else I have noticed. Inner beauty is eventually reflected on the outside. Grace cannot stay hidden. It shines out and the beautiful people truly end up being 'the beautiful people'.

Freckles, suntans, youth, wrinkles... grace. Will I one day end up beautiful?


  1. Dear Sue,
    I can relate. I too have freckly skin and did what you did in search of a tan which was never present.
    Today too I think of myself as a much younger woman and so yesterday believe it or not I was shocked to see more grey in my hair. Shorely I am not old enough for this to happen was my thought. It seems we are young at heart and so expect to see it reflected in our faces, lol
    Oh and I keep forgetting to say I am trying to get your books sent back pronto. Just keep forgetting. Perhaps it is old age.

  2. I burn and freckle easily too.. and so this made me smile. :)

    I am not much wrinkled.. Aside from a LOT of grey hair, which I cover, I do look younger than my years.. (44 next week) What I (not intentionally) concern myself with, is I am very well aware that I am VERY overweight.

    I know God doesn't make "junk", and that I am made in His image, and that Jesus loves me no matter what... but when it comes to weight... I am afraid I am perpetually stuck into wishing I was one of the 'beautiful' people. No matter our ages... no one wants to hang out with the fat girl.

  3. Gae, we are kindred spirits!

    You said, " I think of myself as a much younger woman". Yes! I walk down the street feeling I'm about twenty something or perhaps thirty something, and thinking I look that age. One day it occurred to me that the people I meet don't see me that way at all. What do they see? An ageing woman, someone who has slipped past her prime? One day they might even think 'there's a grandmother!" Wow! That will take some adjustment.

    Thanks for sharing! God bless!

    PS The books? No problem!

  4. Susan,

    You are a teenager compared with me! Well, maybe not quite that much younger than me. But you can be my younger sister. I'll slip you into the family just below Vicky!

    How much we suffer because of our external appearance! People are so quick to judge and can be cruel. And it doesn't seem to matter how much we reassure ourselves that we are beautiful in the eyes of God, we still have to deal with the people here around us.

    I guess we are all dealing with something. Even the 'beautiful people' probably aren't totally happy with their appearance. I bet they are very anxious when they start to age and lose their looks. At least I don't have to worry about losing exceptional looks. I didn't have any to start with!

    Susan, I love you just the way you are. I'll hang around with you. I love WHO you are.

    God bless!