It is a pleasure to welcome author February Grace to my blog this week for a guest post. I greatly admire her as a person and as a writer (see past blog entry here). Her newest novel, UPON A TIME, debuts this month.
And her perspective, now more than ever, is a meaningful one for all of us. Read her post below:
It has bothered me for a very long time that the ‘good’ in people is represented by beauty in most fairy tales and indeed, overall in our culture.
Anyone who is less than perfect or dare I say it, less than gorgeous, is usually portrayed in these stories as being on the wrong side of the fight.
If you’d believe these tales, most disfigured people turn evil and murderous.
Born without perfect looks? Forget it, you’re doomed to evil, or at least to suffering from day one. You will be branded a ‘monster’ (I’m thinking about Quasimodo here…) or worse. Tortured, bullied, humiliated.
It’s a tired old myth that has stayed with me, leading me to ask myself a question not too long ago: what if Prince Charming’s looks were no longer flawless? Would his betrothed (you know, the girl from the ball who lost her shoe) still look at him the same way? How would he cope with the changes in his appearance, himself?
We all know that the Beast was cursed with a change in his appearance because his heart was unkind; but what if a kind-hearted person was suddenly disfigured through no fault of his own?
It happens in the real world, every day.
Thinking back over the past five years, I was struck by how the world began to treat me when my appearance changed from an illness that could have killed me, and resulted in nine surgeries that altered the shape of my face.
Add to that the enormous, “disfiguring” (the doctors’ words, not mine) aphakia glasses I have to wear to see at all since losing the lenses in my eyes to a rare genetic disorder, and it has been an education, to say the least, about how humans treat each other based upon appearance. Not that I ever considered myself to be the prettiest girl in a room, but I could get by as ‘normal’ looking. Now, I cannot.
People stare. Adults, children; all ages, shapes, and sizes of people stare at me. Do they think I don’t notice? I often find myself thinking those who stare the longest have the most to lose if they ever face situations like I did, because their looks are all they value.
I don’t think about the changes in my appearance most of the time, but I got to thinking about the issue of “beauty = good, not beautiful = evil” again when I was considering writing a fairy tale retelling.
I thought so much about the brave, wounded warriors who have come home in recent years; many of them never to walk or talk or move or think or be or look the way they were, again. Still, they are loved by their families, as they are, because their hearts are beautiful, and that shines through.
I saw a lot of men (and I know there are many women out there as well) in Disney World on my last few trips there who bear the obvious scars of war; and every time I wished I could just hug them and thank them for all they’d given up. I’d see a loving woman pushing their wheelchair, or walking hand in hand with them as they ambled along on artificial legs and I was humbled by their grace. I was always moved to tears.
This is real beauty: the courage and strength of the soul. Our faces, our bodies, should not be the measure we are judged by.
So I set out to write a tale with characters less than perfect by not only fairy tale standards, but by our modern-day view as well. My heroine, Charlotte, (not ‘Cinderella’) is a girl of normal, healthy size, not stick skinny as most fairy tale heroines are depicted in films. Both leading male characters in the book have physical challenges and changes thrust upon them, and how they handle them, as human beings and as men rising above these challenges to lead, is a story I believe is worth telling.
It’s a story the world needs to hear, because we are still judging people by entirely the wrong things. Pick up any fashion magazine and that becomes clear. Worse, we are judging them by what the people in the images look like after being manipulated by computers into something no one—not even the models themselves— can be in reality.
It’s time to send a new message to our youth and to society in general: that life makes no guarantees as far as physical beauty goes, and even those born with it can have it stolen away in a split second, by incident or accident. If nothing else, age changes us all.
Look inside the soul and see what a person really is; judge their worth to fall in love with, to call a friend, or their fitness to rise from the ashes of their darkest hours to lead by the strength of their will; not the appearance or completeness of their physical bodies.
We all need to take a good long look in the mirror, and believe there is so much more to being beautiful, and good at heart, than what we see reflected there.
February Grace has been called a ‘constellation’ of medical disorders by her many, many doctors. Gratitude for what remains is the path she tries to walk each day.
She has had several poems, short stories, flash pieces, and even a painting or two published in various literary magazines and anthologies. She has had three novels published, to date, by Booktrope.
Her newest novel, the fairy tale reimagining UPON A TIME, will make its debut on Wattpad this December; find her there under the username FebruaryGrace.
You can find out more about her at www.februarywriter.blogspot.com and connect with her on Twitter @FebruaryGrace.
Thank you so much, bru. Onward!