the pretty one or the smart one

Earlier this week, I read a “to my future husband” (courtesy of tmfs.tumblr.com) that said: “Everyone thinks my sister is much prettier than I am, but thank you for being the only one who thinks otherwise.” I immediately let out that little sigh that every girl knows to mean “oh my word, that is freaking adorable.” And I know that every girl reading that was thinking to herself, “Yes. I want to find that one guy that finally looks at me and thinks I’m pretty.” I reblogged that post, yearning for that moment when a man will look at me and finally see me without comparing me to my sisters and my friends. I want to be the pretty one, even if its only in the eyes of my husband.

One of the books on my overflowing shelves is called The Smart One and the Pretty One. It is about two sisters (and I’m starting to think its sad how sisters are set up for comparison), one who is defined by her intelligence and one who defined by her attractiveness. As the story progresses, the smart one learns that she truly is pretty, while the pretty one learns she needs to become smarter. I found it somewhat upsetting that while the smart one could also be pretty, the pretty one could not also be smart. Her prettiness was considered her flaw, and she was not given her happy ending. We live in a society that condemns and upholds attractiveness. It is what the smart/normal/average/girls-with-good-personalities strive for, and society tells them they need to have it. And still, it is what the pretty women are told just isn’t enough. They are judged by their pretty face, assuming that is all there is and ever will be.

During my break from literary fiction, I’ve been reading some Christian nonfiction works (along with the Bible). At the moment, Captivating by Jon and Stasi Eldredge is lying open on my bed. It is a book about the mystery of a woman’s soul and heart, and her place in God’s story of the world. Early on in the book, they pose the idea that a woman has one fundamental question for which she is always seeking an answer, and that is: “Am I lovely?” The question seems like the most simple of things, and many women may be able to say they are in an place where they know without a doubt that yes, they are lovely. The Eldredges go on to say that women not only want to know if they are lovely, but desperately, it the deepest part of their soul, need to be lovely. A woman wants to be considered a Beauty, because that is how God created them.

God is considered to be the most beautiful and wonderful of things. He is, after all, God. He is everything that is perfect, and everything that He has made is also perfect. He is the creator, and we revel in the majesty of His creation. The Eldredges in their discussion of beauty mention nature: “Nature is not primarily functional. It is primarily beautiful. Which is to say, beauty is in and of itself a great and glorious good, something we need in large and daily doses.” I had never really considered this before, but I believe this is very important. As people, we enjoy nature not because of its usefulness or its practicality (and in many ways, the most awe-inspiring aspects of nature are not useful or practical), but rather because it is beautiful, wonderful, awesome, or has God said during creation, good. We go into nature, hike through the mountains, live in the country, sit in the forest and listen to the river because of how absolutely lovely it is.

And I truly believe women crave to be seen in the same way we see nature. We are tired of being chauffeurs, errand-runners, secretaries, financial advisors, cooks, or maids. We want to be special. We want to be something that is not enjoyed because of its practical uses, but because we can bring beauty and love and joy to those around us. We want men to look at us and desire to unveil the beauty the world has told us to hide or has cheapened. We want to be the pretty one, because we are created in His image and He is the most beautiful one of all.

But we don’t want to play dumb. We don’t want to be the accessory to man, the pretty bauble he takes with him wherever he goes. We want to be cherished for our physical beauty, but also for the beauty of our mind and spirit. We want the man who can recognize these both and revel in them. I have gone through four years of undergraduate studies that gave me a degree in history, and a year of graduate school in British history and literature. I am proud of my academic success and shouldn’t have to hide my intelligence. It is a part of me, something God blessed me with. It means something to me to be able to say that I am an intelligent woman. But I shouldn’t have to sacrifice my beauty for my intelligence. I shouldn’t be limited to one or another. As a woman, God created me with both. I am the smart one and the pretty one. I am as God made me.

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