Picture of a marble top bathroom counter with two mirrors

Beautiful women have some surprising complaints.

Beauty is damned useful.

It’s also, apparently, a burden.

And like being famous, being beautiful is more complicated than it looks.

For the record, I’m not speaking from experience. I’m getting the inside dope on the privileges – and the price – of staggering beauty from two staggering beauties. Evidently, despite its many benefits, beauty takes a surprising toll. As Lord Chesterfield famously remarked: Women’s beauty, like men’s wit, is generally fatal to the owner.

Women’s beauty, like men’s wit, is generally fatal to the owner.

What prompted this contemplation on the subject of beauty was an offhand comment.  A local legend had remarked that she wouldn’t wish beauty on anyone. She stated that her life improved considerably as her looks had dimmed.  Being beautiful, she said, was like being on display in a museum that never closed. It was exhausting.

Yes yes; adieu and farewell to all that ….  My ass! Beauty is one of the biggest economic drivers in the economy, I spluttered. It’s a crock, she exclaimed. She insisted that her experience was shared by other Great Beauties. I happened to have known a fair number of women who have parlayed uncommon good looks into considerable commercial success.  Models, Playmates, actresses, and even a Bond Girl … a sorry lot? I wouldn’t have thought so but then again, I’d never asked. So I asked the two GBs what they thought of their confederate’s remarks. I promised that I wouldn’t use their names so let’s call one The Brunette, the other, The Blond. Champing at the bit, they were,  to speak their truths.

Truth be told, these women are freaks of nature. With catwalk proportions, sheaves of lustrous hair as well as a constellation of arresting features, they’ve had a lifelong capacity to reduce men to puddles of testosterone and to rile their less fortunate sisters. These impalas of elegance are saddled with a congenital aptitude to make gear from the Gap look like gear from Gucci. At this point in their lives, they’ve logged decades as The Most Beautiful Woman in the Room. Better than most, they understand the currency – and the trajectory – of beauty. And boy, were they happy I’d asked!

I’d expected the predictable tales of beauty’s bounty: waived traffic tickets, backstage passes, champagne delivered from the gentleman at yonder table. It’s a universal truth that beauty cuts to the head of the line. What I hadn’t expected was the seamy underbelly of being drop-dead gorgeous. 

What I hadn’t expected was the seamy underbelly of being drop-dead gorgeous.

The blond had an axe to grind.  “You know what really ticks me off?  When I hear people commenting on whether my kids got my looks, or not.  Do they think I’m competing against my daughter in some sort of beauty pageant?! Do they think I’d love my kids more or less according to someone’s idea of attractiveness?  It’s not some big dog show; this is my family!”

The Brunette wanted to talk about whispers.  “People are always measuring me against either my younger self or their expectation of me: ‘Ohhhh, she’s not ageing well. Tsk. Ohhhh, she used to be so much prettier. Tsk. Or the people who go, ‘Her?! You call that hot?! She’s so not hot.’ It’s like I ripped them off, somehow.  Like I promised them something then didn’t deliver.  And they feel like they have the right to complain!” 

The other chimed in with: “My favourites are the ones who guess about what you have and haven’t had ‘done’. Take me, for example; apparently, I’m 25 per cent Botox, 35 per cent filler, and 40 per cent spackle!”

They both acknowledged that they are sexually suspect. The unfounded urban legend is that neither of them can be trusted around someone’s husband. The truth, they stated, is the opposite: It’s the husbands who shouldn’t be trusted. They spoke of a weird sociological tick that made men take a run at them. Their beauty represented some knee jerk, biological challenge that men just had to answer.

So, these harsh judgments are the tariff on beauty?  A little innuendo, a bit of conjecture and supposition, albeit mean-spirited?  What about the glorious upside of immense beauty where the world drops to one knee to do your bidding?

In the moment that I ask, a complicit glance passes between the two women.

Oh, it has its benefits, all right. With that, began a litany of largesse: single-handedly keeping florists in business; job interviews that hinge on the interviewer’s infatuation; special attention in restaurants and hotels; and oh, the gifts!  They quickly learned, however, to decline gifts due to the tangle of strings attached. Adopting and maintaining a defensive posture becomes wearying second nature in the same way that a prize fighter has to be on guard for drunks in the bar who want to take a run at the camp.

They agreed with Katharine Hepburn’s observation that plain women know more about men than beautiful ones do. Men were rendered imbecilic around beautiful women,  turning themselves inside out to win favour. This charade wasn’t long-lived: the cure for beauty was matrimony. The husbands of GBs, they said, were the least likely to be faithful.  Those husbands were trophy hunters. Beauty was no guarantee of fidelity.

Their beauty represented some knee jerk , biological challenge, that men just had to answer.

Notions of beauty, they said, were getting more and more absurd. The contemporary expression of beauty is a rigorous – and costly – thing. Eyelash extension, gel nails; spray-on tans, tooth whitening, coloured prescription contacts: These are the non-invasive options. Injections, augmentations and anesthetized procedures: These are the big guns. Factor in uncomfortable clothing that keep no secrets, plus punishing shoes of comedic proportion along with slavish devotion to the gym; contemporary Western beauty isn’t so different from the burka we deem repressive and restrictive. 

Despite these beauty bugbears, most of us would happily trade places with a Great Beauty  Life, we believe, would be significantly better with beauty as our super power.  We’ve been weighing the pros and cons of appearances for eons. It was Virgil who said we ought not put too much trust in beauty.

The Blond and The Brunette agree.