Saturday, July 21, 2012

A Better Age of Daughters

My heart was warmed recently by a surprise invitation to a gathering of young ladies I used to teach. These young ladies are now in their thirties, and still as pretty as I remember them. Yes, I said this, even though in today's climate saying that your students are pretty immediately makes people want to call the police.

The thing is that I was brought up to be honest especially in the matter of compliments, whether accepting or offering. You could stretch irony, sarcasm, self-deprecation and suchlike only so far, because it was understood that humility was right but that pretence was not. And so if you said someone was clever, you had better have meant it; and if someone said you were a well-behaved young man, you said, "At the moment."

I remember the moment of crystal clarity when I realised I was not particularly good-looking but also not particularly ugly. I sought comfort in the phrase 'pleasantly ugly'. 'Somewhat uninteresting' was my second choice.

The other thing is that my paternal grandfather in particular encouraged us to see the good in people. That extended to trying to see people in the best light not only metaphorically but aesthetically. You looked them over until you could capture the best memory of them — something which modern digital photography tends to obviate by saturation bombing.

And so, yes, the students I remember were pretty. All of them. In different ways. And they have grown up well, and I am happy for them and the surprise invitation I received.

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