In the middle of a discussion about my high school homework, my father offered what would turn out to be the most profound advice he ever gave me: “You can be beautiful, or you can be smart, but you probably won’t be both.”
At the time I thought he was just being critical of me…again. Nothing I did as a teenager seemed to please him.
And I thought he was being stupid…as usual. Mom was certainly beautiful AND smart.
And of course he was being controlling…as always. He wanted me to do my homework and I wanted to go see my friend. I had NO doubt I could finish my homework any old time.
It took me several years to figure out exactly what my father was trying to convey to me that day. There are only so many hours in the day so the time and effort we devote to one aspect of our life subtracts from all others. There is no other way to do the math. I think as I transitioned from a serious, studious child to an attractive teen my father feared that I would let my yearnings for popularity and peer approval lead me astray. And for a time I suppose he was correct. I tried to fit in with several groups, I behaved badly, I even attempted to hide some of my abilities. I fell in love, married early, and left home. Thankfully I didn’t quit school!
Dad spent my whole life encouraging me to read and learn and study the things that interested me. I stood next to him in the front seat of the car and we read billboards and signs long before I was old enough to attend school. He told me the names of things and made me count money. He took me to the zoo. He bought encyclopedias and story books. He took me to the library. He always said that my brain would take me places. And he insisted that I take my school work seriously.
Being a guy, my dad thought a lot of the things women did to be more beautiful were just a big waste of time. Oh, he admired the results, but you’d better not let him know that it took two hours to curl your hair. And money…for makeup and shampoo and perfume and two different face creams??? “Do I need to get a second job?” “Do you think money grows on trees?” He could be sarcastic AND unreasonable.
As I’ve gotten older I’ve found that women generally do fall into the two groups dad told me to choose between. I’m not talking about genes or the natural gifts God gave anyone. In terms of effort, commitment, passion, motivation, money, and especially TIME most women must and do choose between one lifestyle or the other. Neither is inherently good or bad...there are just so many hours in a day and dollars in a bank account.
I made my choice years ago. I try to conform to the basic norms of cleanliness and clothing so that I’m not odd or an embarrassment to my family, but I no longer worry about my appearance. In fact, sometimes I don’t think about it at all. Dad would be pleased to know that I as I drove down the driveway today I had to stop for a moment to recall if I had combed my hair!!