CHRIST IN WINTER: Reflections on Faith & Life for the Years of Winter -- THE GIFT OF BEAUTY-Audrey Hepburn
As I walked on a recent morning, I noticed a parked car with a license plate number that started with the letters URE. That made me remember Marian Ure. If we are supposed to remember people for being pretty, Marian would be at the top of my list. But I hadn’t thought of her for a long time. Because she was only pretty.
That wasn’t really her fault. She tried to be more than pretty. She came all the way from California to Chicago, to work for the summer in a settlement house in the gritty Pilsen neighborhood, along with a bunch of other college students. She had been there only a couple of days when her boyfriend, Paul, came after her. She was the flame, he the moth. Those of us who knew her for a short time that summer, before Paul persuaded her to return to California with him, remember her as pretty, but that’s all.
Recently, on Facebook, someone posted a picture of Audrey Hepburn. They pointed out that her father was a Nazi sympathizer who left his family, that she almost starved to death as a child during WWII, that she performed as a ballerina to raise money for the Dutch Resistance, that she was a special ambassador for UNICEF on behalf of starving children, that she received the Medal of Freedom, but that “SHE IS ONLY REMEMBERED FOR BEING PRETTY!”
I’m sure the person who posted that meant it to be… what? Laudatory? Complimentary? Appreciative of Audrey? But it is not those things, because it is disrespectful, that’s what it is, not only of those of us who remember Audrey for much more than being pretty, but of Audrey herself. Actually, the post was not about the beauty of Audrey but about the anger of the person who did the posting, which makes it even more disrespectful, using Audrey’s beauty as a cudgel rather than accepting her beauty as a gift.
It’s disrespectful to say we remember her only because she was pretty because Audrey was an excellent actress, even though her original goal was to be a dancer. She is one of only 12 people who won Academy, Tony, Grammy, and Emmy awards. Anyone who remembers her as pretty knows she was pretty because they saw her act. We would never have seen her, known her as pretty, just as you never saw Marian Ure to note her prettiness, except that Audrey’s acting skills put her into the public eye.
I remember Audrey as a fellow colon cancer patient. We were diagnosed and went through treatments at the same time. I grieved her passing in 1992 not as a pretty face, but as a fellow sufferer. I suspect all of us who were cancer patients at that time remember her that way. Pretty, yes, but much more than pretty—a fellow traveler on the cancer journey.
Don’t disparage and disrespect Audrey Hepburn for being remembered because she was pretty. Physical beauty like hers is a gift, and it was a gateway to the beauty of her other gifts as well.
BTW, if you want to remember me for being pretty, I’m okay with that.
John Robert McFarland
“Of two devils, choose the prettier.”