So, Candia McWilliam is receiving tons of brilliant reviews for her memoir out recently, and it really does sound very good. She’s a great writer and anyone speaking candidly about life and its problems without mawkishness or ‘poor me’ gets my vote. BUT could all the reviewers, interviewers (and perhaps McWilliam herself, don’t know, haven’t read it yet) stop saying she’s ‘lost her looks’?! She hasn’t. She’s simply aged 20-odd years, put on some weight, and now has grey hair. That is NOT losing one’s looks. That’s age, pure and simple – and wonderful. From the pics I’ve seen she still has great cheekbones, good skin (of course, putting on weight will do that – hurrah!) It certainly seems from the youthful pics that she had it all going for her – height, slimness, long blonde hair, yadda yadda, and apparently she also had charm and grace – all good – but slim and blonde do not a great person make and looks are about so much more than the surface. We all know that, right?
It’s totally understandable, given what she’s been through : a condition causing (in some cases temporary) blindness, parental loss, divorce etc, that McWilliam feels scarred by these things. Of course, illness and loss and grief scars us all. But it hardly behoves (I can’t believe I just wrote that phrase, but it’s the only one that’ll do) journalists interviewing her to go on about how she’s ‘lost her looks’ when she patently hasn’t been scarred by acid, had a chunk gouged out of her face in response to skin cancer, or any of the other things that really mean ‘losing looks’ (and even then, people often find a way to live with the most painful physical scarring).
Grey hair is grey hair, you can embrace it or dye it. Weight is weight, you can embrace it or lose it. These things ARE mutable and they are as much about attitude as they are about actuality. I wish McWilliam success with this book, it sounds great. But far more than that, I wish all who have been writing about her a wider, deeper, and more generous understanding of what ‘looks’ really are, because there’s very little that’s more beautiful than a fully grown, fully aware woman who lives in and with her years and welcomes them for the great gains in knowledge and understanding and compassion they have given her.
(And with that, I wish my Mrs – lovelier now than twenty years ago when we first met – the happiest of birthdays.)