I can’t quite remember when it was I began to notice that little girls’ hair and clothing styles are much prettier than when I was a child. My once a year haircuts, and I mean hairCUT as opposed to hair STYLING, were left to grow as nature dictated. That led, alas, to school photos it would be far too embarrassing to post here in order to prove my point. Were people uglier way back when? Are people today really prettier than they were way back then?
My uncle, “one o’the nine,” wrote what he intended as a humorous column about being ugly. As he had a tendency to preach to his Looking Back column readers, I was tempted to omit portions that suggested teacher-mandated church going resulted in uglier but happier people, but upon reflection I decided to reprint the entire May 7, 1987 article as he wrote it except for minor grammatical issues.
A few weeks ago I was at a homecoming at a little country church where I grew up. One of my cousins was there with a bunch of picture taken in the early thirties when I was about seven years old. They were pictures of a group of school children from the little country school that I attended. There were only 15 or 20 children in the whole school.
The one picture I noticed most was taken behind the school house as we faced the sun and schreenched [sic] up our little faces. Truthfully, I believe that was the ugliest group of children I have ever seen in all my life. Papa had just given me a haircut with the horse clippers that he used to cut the mules hair with in the summer. Papa only knew one way to cut hair; that was as long as he could find hair, he cut. My ears stuck out on each side of my head like two pot lids.
I looked like a Volkswagen with the doors open, but I was not the ugliest one in the group. No, ole Shorty was even uglier than I was, but it really didn’t matter. Everyone was ugly back in those days.
I had a great aunt named Aunt Clara, and she looked just like the wicked witch from the north. She didn’t have any teeth and her long hooked nose almost touched her long sharp chin. When Aunt Clara came to see us we always had a good time because she was always jolly and happy; but when she picked up the broom we didn’t know if she was going to sweep the house with it or take a ride on it.
As I write this, I have my three beautiful daughters’ picture before me on my desk. Honestly, I must be truthful–they did not get their good looks from me–but from their beautiful mother. The only difference in me now and then is, I was young and ugly then, and I’m old and ugly now.
But I know for a fact that people were uglier when I was a child than they are now. I also believe we were happier then that they are today. All 20 of us that went to the little country school together each grew up to be a responsible adult, and took our places in society as honest trustworthy men and women, but then we weren’t taught premarital sex in school. We didn’t know about drugs as the young people do today. They taught us ugly bunch of younguns that we had to work for a living and to live a clean godly life. We also learned to read and write and respect other people.
There was a Baptist Church about a half mile from the little school, and when they had revival the teacher would march us up the road that half mile and we had to set quietly in the morning services each day of the week until the revival was over. Maybe you think it didn’t help us much. Well, it sure didn’t do us any harm. Today our children can’t even pray in school without breaking the law.
We may have been poor and ugly and maybe you think it wasn’t right for the teacher to force us to go to church. Maybe not, but we didn’t have to build new prisons each year because of over crowding, and the only AIDS we ever had were BAND aids.
Postscript: I’ve seen variations of the photographs he mentions and a good correlation would be if you imagined characters such as those stereotypical hicks from the 1972 movie Deliverance. The ole Shorty friend really was very unattractive due to very bad teeth and diet related issues that led to his scrawny appearance. As for Aunt Clara, my paternal grandmother’s sister, she did indeed look witch-like due to untreated orthodontia issues, but she was one of the kindest women I ever knew, much like Granny herself.
As a modern woman who was brought up on cliches I remind myself that “pretty is as pretty does,” and “beauty is only skin deep.” I’ve added one more: Those who look for beauty usually find it.