As a child, I read about geniis who would grant their masters three wishes. But I only wanted one. Beauty, I would whisper, give me beauty.
I’ve always been afraid of – and fascinated by – ‘glossy girls’. Proper ladies, who don’t smell of soup. Women, not wannabes. The kind who weep delicate pear-shaped tears, instead of honking great rivulets of snotty mascara. Who drive men to distraction and lesser mortals to sugar. Confident and poised, with shiny, swingy hair and matching underwear.
My friend (who’s also a great people-watcher), recently observed the glossy phenomenon on a bus. She was sitting quietly behind an older man, a teenage boy and a group of middle-aged ladies. Just as they were about to pull away, three stunning girls boarded – precipitating a tsunami of furtive observation.
The teenage boy flushed deep pink and stole secret glances in their direction. The ladies stiffened, then looked pointedly out the window. The older man made no effort to disguise his fascination and gawped like a dog caught in headlights. The bus stopped again and a small, plain girl got on. She fumbled with her change and stumbled to her seat. After tucking her bags away, she looked around the bus and caught sight of the girls. For a moment, she stared, until they looked in her direction, when she quickly looked away. She ran her fingers through her hair, glanced at the boy and then down at her feet. She remained that way for the rest of the journey, as if deep in some private debate.
Last night I lit some candles and placed them by the window. Within seconds there were a flurry of soft bodies battering against the glass.
Beauty you see is a dangerous thing. A beacon that sets strangers alight – with envy and with lust. A weapon that can slay the one wielding it. A promise that will never deliver.
I never met the genii. But I think it’s just as well.