Tonight a thoughtful conversation with my husband turned out this question: If you asked a woman if she would rather her husband think she is incredibly beautiful or incredibly smart, which would she choose?
My husband said he was a bit surprised at my response. I said that I really believe, in her heart of hearts, a woman would rather be incredibly beautiful to her man. A woman wants to be desired and prized by her husband as the most beautiful woman he knows.
For beauty, I said, is the domain of women. Beauty belongs to women. Men and women can both be smart, capable, industrious, talented, clever, etc., but only women are beautiful. We just don’t go around calling men beautiful! I love and admire my husband and find him appealing, but I would never describe him as beautiful. Men are to be handsome, strong, noble, charming, warrior-protectors, but they’re not beautiful.
That is God’s chosen gift to women. I went on and said it’s surely no coincidence that God chose women to be co-creators of life with Him because new life is so beautiful! It is further proof of God’s tenderness and affection for us; evidence that we occupy an especially-honored place in His creative heart. He bestowed on His daughters the gift of beauty and equipped us to perpetuate beauty.
This is why it pains me so much to see so many women in our culture behaving so crudely. Women seem to be losing all gentility and grace, choosing instead to be crass, vulgar, immodest, coarse, and unkempt. A man behaving badly is boorish, perhaps even savage. A woman behaving badly is just plain ugly. They are profaning the glorious gift of beauty God gave them. A flower should never be covered in dung.
Recall what Archbishop Sheen said about women:
“To a great extent the level of any civilization is the level of its womanhood. When a man loves a woman, he has to become worthy of her. The higher her virtue, the more her character, the more devoted she is to truth, justice, goodness, the more a man has to aspire to be worthy of her. The history of civilization could actually be written in terms of the level of its women.”
I already know that my husband thinks I’m smart. If I thought he didn’t appreciate my intellect and abilities I never would have married him. But I can’t lie – what my feminine heart really rejoices in are those moments when he gets that look in his eye, smiles at me and says, “How did I ever get such a beautiful wife?”
This doesn’t mean a woman’s beauty is merely physical – far from it! The most outwardly gorgeous woman in the world, if her heart is cruel and vain, and her manner is vile is not beautiful. The delicate and tender characteristics of femininity are what make a woman beautiful, as well as her heart. You could say character is the stem on which beauty blooms. Yet we shouldn’t discount the value of a lovely appearance, either. There’s nothing wrong with enjoying the rose or the lily.
This is what the male-female dance is all about: the contrast between a man’s strength and a woman’s beauty. This is what we’re in terrible danger of losing forever as we try to annihilate gender differences under some delusion of “equality.” God forbid we be perfectly, equitably the same! How boring, how uninspired, how ugly that would be!
The Psalmist reminds us that beauty is fleeting, but a woman who fears the Lord shall be praised. I don’t think this contradicts what I’ve said; it reminds us that time and hardship may steal the beauty of our youth, but the love of the Lord makes a woman’s heart become ever more beautiful with time and that beauty will never be hidden and will never fade away. The beauty we should carefully cultivate is a beautiful soul, but we needn’t despise the bloom in the process.
My beloved brought our conversation to a winning conclusion by telling me I was “B-squared.” My puzzled look turned to a grin when he said, “Beautiful and brilliant.” See – I told you men are supposed to be charming!