Monday, December 17, 2007

a reverse fairytale

Once upon a time there were twin sisters.

One, like all the best fairy-tale princesses (she, however, was only an aspiring princess) had curly blonde hair, pink cheeks and rose-bud lips, as blithe and bonny as a May day. Her name, somewhat predictably, was May. Her sister had straight hair of an indeterminate shade of mousy brown, a sharp nose, a single long hairy eyebrow, and a worried forehead. Her name, perhaps also somewhat predictably, was Mabel.

(At this point we pause to apologise to southern hemisphere readers - that's most of you - but "November day" didn't sound quite right. Also to anyone called Mabel, it's really a lovely name, but I had to choose something, and Mabel echoed May nicely. May and Mabel. Notice that? And I actually like brown hair, the mousier the better. I mean it. My own hair is a particularly fetching shade of mouse. And while I don't have a sharp nose, a single hairy eyebrow, or curly blonde hair, I like lots of people who do.)

When they were 5, May could often be seen skipping gaily through fields of daisies, dangling a basket of blooms over one arm, avoiding wolves because they might dirty her frock; or charming wealthy bachelor uncles with a simpering smile and a shake of her well-brushed curls. Mabel was generally to be found with a stubborn expression, her head buried in a book; or with scratched limbs and twig-filled hair, her overall-clad legs dangling from a tree branch.

At the age of 15, May spent hours each morning applying quality beauty products to her flawless skin, was always fetchingly attired in a full-skirted dress, and was frequently surrounded by a bevy of the local lads. Mabel's face was a patchwork of acne, her forehead bruised from frequent contact with posts while reading and walking simultaneously, and her (admittedly rather lovely) eyes hidden behind thick black-rimmed glasses. The local lads tended to avoid her.

When they were 20, May received countless proposals from all the princes of neighbouring lands, but refused every one, for she really loved only herself. She eventually condescended to bestow her hand on a ridiculously wealthy film star with the distinction of royalty. Mabel received a single wedding proposal from a local farming lad, of no great handsomeness or charm, who was able to see past her unbrushed hair and off-putting expression. She accepted him (as in all the best fairytales) because she perceived his faithful and loving heart.

At 35, May had preserved her looks through the cunning use of certain horrendously expensive beauty treatments, her flat stomach with the help of a personal trainer, and her serene expression (frown lines are so unappealing) by employing a live-in nanny to raise her spoiled daughter. She was beginning to worry about the appearance of faint lines around her constantly pursed lips. Mabel had 6 (or was it 8) children, and the kind of stomach you get after 6 (or was it 8) children, also flabby arms and some grey hairs, and a rather hoarse voice after years of shouting to get her children's attention. She did have some rather fetching laugh-lines, although she never could see it.

By 50 May still looked 35, for at that point she had begun a series of facelifts, collagen and botox injections which, while they left her face looking rather frozen, at least preserved it from wrinkles of any kind. She could generally be found surreptitiously admiring her appearance in the nearest shiny surface. Mabel was a grandmother, her once mousy brown hair a rather dull grey, and her lap spread into the kind of lap so inviting to grandchildren; but her wrinkled face had a happy and well-loved expression gained through years of affectionate embraces. She was often seen carrying a basket of home-baked goodies to anyone in the village who was sick or housebound.

By 70, May no longer looked 35, but a rather stretched-looking 50, with a severe expression permanently fixed on her face from a lifetime of looking down her nose at those less blessed by nature than herself. People tended to avoid her, for they disliked her constant whinging about the attention she deserved and no longer received. Mabel was cared for by her 25 doting grandchildren, her face such a mass of wrinkles that it had crumpled like soft crepe paper. Oddly enough, people called her beautiful, attracted to the serenity and tenderness of her expression.

Only one of them lived happily ever after.

Which, as Aesop would say, is not to say that you shouldn't get beauty treatments, just don't expect them to give you beauty of any real or lasting kind.


Rachach said...

That's a great story Jean. In many ways it is like my own two grandmothers. I certainly aspire to be like my grandmother who wasn't the prettiest, but who certainly had lasting priorities.

Kirsten said...

Thanks for that Jean - it was great! I was begining to feel sad as I love beauty I'm very glad you put that bit at the end:) Kirst

Anonymous said...

So what are you saying? That I shouldn't worry about the way my body looks after 6 or 8 kids? I plan to have heaps and heaps of grandchildren and make them all wonderful fluffy teddy bears and plates of cupcakes and write picture books dedicated to them. I hope my sons go along with this plan.....


Jean Williams said...

Dear anonymous, my very dear friend, I am trying my hardest not to worry about my body after 4, which is an uphill battle (or should I say a downhill battle, given the direction my body is moving in?) So if you manage not to worry after 6 or 8, well done, tell me how! I am glad to hear you have such a bucolic future planned for yourself and your 50 grandchildren, hopefully your sons (and their wives) will cheerfully oblige.

Kirsten, don't feel bad about the beauty products, nothing wrong with them, like all pleasures, as long as they don't become an idol! So enjoy and thank God for his good gifts.

And Rach, if your grandmas are still around, I hope they never read this blog!!! Or they will be eternally wondering which grandma they are...