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Columnists

It figures

Jude Simpson

SimpsonA girl generally knows where she is on the beauty/intelligence scale, and defines herself by what she lacks.  Which is why beautiful girls need to be told they are clever and clever girls need to be told they're beautiful. 

The accepted wisdom is that beauty is a shallow value by which to judge someone.  Yet we cannot disassociate ourselves from it.  We deride ourselves for the horrendous effects that our need to be beautiful wages on our self-esteem.  Yet that same self-esteem refuses to thrive purely on our GCSE / A Level / Degree / Postgraduate / Driving Test results.  The occasional 'You look great' will take us further than a string of As ever could - even As achieved before the star had to be added.   

At the six-month point after the birth of my baby, I'm technically supposed to have 'got my figure back' (that figure over there, that's mine - this one is just borrowed), and I ought be well on the way to being a 'yummy mummy'.  I will never accept the implication that my physical attractiveness is as important an ingredient for motherhood as tenderness, compassion, discipline or love.  But can I separate myself from the desire to have all that and a flat stomach too? Can I heck. 

There is no current requirement for me to be physically attractive.  Not even in Darwinian terms. My unfathomable husband still desires me, even with a flabby belly, stretch marks and nipples tattered from Little One's regular biting.  He has also decided he wants at least four children.  The need for any kind of seductiveness on my part is quite redundant... 

But I want to be yummy!  This is the curse. If I could just say it was society's pressures, a feature of a male-dominated, sex-obsessed society, I could bravely resist.  I could demonstrate my disgust by staying fat and happy my whole life long, never washing my hair more than once a week and giving up any interest in clothes, make up or furtive glances at Denise Van Outen's post-baby exercise routine in the Dentist's copy of Hello magazine.

Surely an interest in appearance is essentially fleshly and therefore evil?  Surely I should cleanse myself of the desire to be beautiful, and content myself with cleverness (a much more objective criterion)?

Mary, thankfully, is not described in terms of how quickly she re-gained her pre-baby shapeliness. And Jesus, it is specifically stated, 'had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him'.  However, David was 'ruddy' (and could kill lions and bears), and Saul was 'a head taller than all others' (by which measure we would presumably elect Peter Crouch Prime Minister). 

'Charm is deceptive' says Proverbs 31, 'and beauty is fleeting' (oh it is, it is) 'but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.' Which is why clever, beautiful girls need you to know that they bake fantastic quiche and can recite the whole of Psalm 119 off by heart.

Jude Simpson