June 19, 2008

No return to beauty

I have seen bella figura in many guises. I have lived in Milan, the country’s business capital in Lombardy; in Bologna, the large regional capital of Emilia-Romagna; and in Treviso, a small provincial capital 12 miles from Venice. Right now I live in Busto Arsizio, Varese, Italy, a small city of about 100,000 some 20 miles north of Milan. It is a quintessential provincial city of Northern Italy.

Nevertheless, for me the onus of bella figura is a good reason NOT to do something. This obsession is all about appearance, surface, superficiality -- what other people think about you, not so much what you think about yourself. It’s a small town mentality blown up to country-wide proportions. In the U.S., maybe Hollywood and the fashion and cosmetics industries are obsessed with superficial externalities, but I am not.

Besides, I don't have the vanity pretensions of many women who started out as great beauties. I was never drop-dead gorgeous so I had no urge to return to something that never existed. My hair is a chemically-assisted brown, my eyes are brown, my figure could charitably be described as average, and I am short by current standards. I don’t want to resurrect a make-believe past, or attract younger men, or do as Pamela Harriman did when she pulled her face together so she could get herself a third husband (it worked for her, though).