Pretty is what pretty knows

My daughter tells me she is too pretty to learn.

She is pretty. I won’t take that away from her. In my life, I have felt ugly far more often than I have felt pretty, and that’s a particularly painful way to spend childhood and adolescence. But too pretty to learn? That’s an awful attitude to have before school even properly starts.

I know that learning is tough for her. I probably didn’t help matters when I blew up at that statement; I know she hates to disappoint me. But I consider myself an intellectual; for her to dismiss knowledge out of hand stung, to be frank. And I wanted to be absolutely clear that I will not for one second allow her to think that being pretty is more important than being knowledgeable.

Look, I’ve heard that line myself. When I was in my late teens and early twenties, I heard it a lot. “You’re too pretty to be sad.” Like how I looked had a damn thing to do with the work crisis before me. “You’re too pretty to cry.” When I had a perfectly legitimate reason to be crying. I railed against “pretty.” Pretty never fixes anything.

And, well, if all goes well, 20 turns 42. Nobody calls me pretty anymore. Which is fine. Because pretty doesn’t pay the electric bill or clean the garbage disposal. Pretty doesn’t schlep my kids to and from schools and parks and doctors’ offices. Pretty doesn’t buy groceries, or cook dinner, or edit 20-page manuscripts by non-native English speakers while nursing a sick toddler. Pretty is for gardens, and shoes, and paintings. I’d rather be smart than pretty any day.

Nobody’s calling me smart, either, as I sit here in my eighth month of unemployment. But they’re more apt to call me smart than pretty.

I want my daughter to like how she looks. But I don’t want her to put too much stock in how she looks. Because she is smart. And because knowledge is far more useful than beauty. Lasts a lot longer, too.

I have a lot of knowledge. It’s one of my favorite possessions. And I want so desperately to share it with her. I just need to figure out how to get her interested in learning it.


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