What Makes a Woman Memorable?

By Mercurio, Malana | The World and I, March 2007 | Go to article overview
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What Makes a Woman Memorable?

Mercurio, Malana, The World and I

"I did but see her passing by, And yet I love her--till I die."

-- Anonymous

These haunting words could have been addressed to the beloved Beatrice by the love-stricken poet Dante, so prophetic, so fitting did they become in his lifetime. Since the beginning of time there seemed to have been women like Beatrice. Women whose charm and grace make them live forever in the heart of those who knew them.

An inclination to place beauty foremost, above all other attributes, is not easily overcome. For it is part of the romanticism of men to expect all women to be beautiful. Beauty as the preeminent choice, however, is misleading. Even as an ideal, it changes readily from country to country, from period to period and from decade to decade. When unattended by other qualities, it is a vastly overrated commodity. For beauty is a fragile chameleon flower; of itself, and over time, weathers poorly.

No doubt, harmony of features is essential to beauty. But it is only the starting point. I recall one urbane instructor commenting that potential models frequently walked into his office who, by every standard of measurement, should have been gorgeous but were a total disaster. They walked without grace. They spoke neither musically nor naturally but with a shrill tone. Their minds were shallow.

Beauty, if unattended by other qualities, sustains no interest. When beauty has only regularity of feature to recommend it, when it expresses neither delight nor compassion, when it has the chill of marble without the warmth of flesh, when it expresses neither joy nor animation, beauty becomes not only a disappointment but a bore.

What makes a woman haunt the minds of men, what makes a woman live in the hearts of men, is something more substantial. And, fundamentally, that something is character heightened with personality, enhanced with charm.

Charm is the best of beauticians. Dramatist Sir James Barrie defined charm as a sort of bloom on a woman, adding, "If you have it, you don't need to have anything else--and if you don't have it, it doesn't much matter whatever else you have." Charm, however, will not be turned on and off like a faucet. For charm is neither a sudden gush of sweetness nor the flowery, unctuous rhetoric of the imposter. An enduring charm has both a magical and delightful quality that uplifts and fascinates. Charm is woven into the fabric of the personality like some exquisite golden thread: it glows brightly; it wears well.

Indeed, a charm that endures puts people at ease by putting their interests first and expresses, without self-consciousness, a hospitable mind, a warm heart. For charm has an endearing quality which conquers by its selflessness, its graciousness, its spirituality.

With advancing years, we perceive that charm, fundamentally character itself, is the ultimate bestower of attraction. Seneca, the Roman philosopher and productive writer, wrote that the property of a generous and noble mind is to aid and do good to others. "No one," advised Jacquin Miller, "but yourself can make your life beautiful, no one can be pure, honorable and loving for you." We should strive to deepen life. A girl may have lovely features before she is twenty-six, but she usually hasn't lived enough to have much depth of feeling in her face. A mellowing maturity comes with advancing years. For "time is the chrysalis of eternity." The incomparable German poet, dramatist and philosopher Johann Goethe professed that character, though developed in the give and take of the public arena, is mellowed in solitude. When left alone the superior woman is endlessly able to amuse and interest herself out of her personal stock of meditations, ideas, memories and philosophy.

A deepening of thought is the special virtue of solitude. With practice, the capacity to think increases over time. We should daydream. We should meditate. We should pray often. Reach for those elusive but luminous places in your life where, for the most part, you sojourn as an alien.

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What Makes a Woman Memorable?


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