This year I am taking part in August McLaughlin‘s Beauty of A Woman BlogFest. She will list links to all of the blogs participating in the fest on her blog. Stop by for fun, inspiration, laughs and more. You may also win one of two $50 gift cards, so go on over—after you’ve read this post.
Among her topics, August suggested the most beautiful woman you’ve ever met. I met that woman, whom I will call Kathryn, when I was a sophomore in college, at a small women’s college in the South. I had gone to college a year early, and felt a bit like a misfit, so when I noticed Kathryn sitting alone in the dining hall, I asked if I could sit with her. When Kathryn looked up at me, I realized in part why others were avoiding her. Her face was oddly misshapen, with a very small jaw, and her hands were knotted as though arthritic. Although several women stared covertly at her, no one was obvious, and all were well-mannered enough not to say anything mean to her. However, it was clear from the space everyone left around her that they were uncomfortable. While I noticed this difference about Kathryn, I am drawn to people’s eyes. Her eyes were clear and beautiful. My mother always said the eyes were windows to the soul, and that old canard was true in Kathryn’s case. There were depths of pain and wisdom in them, but her wit and kindness also shone through them, pure and blue as the sky after a snowstorm.
Kathryn smiled and invited me to sit at the table. I learned that she was several years younger than most freshman, which created a further bond between us. Intelligent and quick-witted, she seemed to ignore the combined avoidances and sideways glances of the women around us. We found several areas of common interest and similar backgrounds during that meal and many others that followed. We came to be friends, although several of my other friends continued to avoid her. There was always a space around her, a sort of benign neglect zone that moved with her. Despite this reaction, Kathryn never felt anyone was unkind, saying she realized how different she looked and it was normal for people to shy away from her.
After a few weeks, she told me that she suffered from Progeria, which is a rare, rapid-aging disease. Most people with the disease do not live beyond their teens, which is why she had gone to college early. When I replied that I couldn’t imagine bothering with college in her case, she shrugged and said she had nothing better to do. In the time I knew her, she never complained about her pain, never felt sorry for herself, never felt slighted.
Instead of feeling sorry for herself, Kathryn concentrated on doing whatever she could for her small group of friends. At the end of that year, an acquaintance asked me in private how I could stand to look at her. I was stunned, because I had truly forgotten Kathryn didn’t look like the rest of the freshmen. I saw Kathryn, not what her disease had done to her. She was the kindest soul I ever met, and a far better person than I could ever be. She taught me volumes about self-confidence, acceptance, and striving for one’s goals. She was hands down the most beautiful woman I have ever met.