Sunday, May 27, 2012

True Elegance

My Fair Lady
     I was voted “Most Sophisticated” by my classmates in ninth grade. My handful of friends, the ones who really knew me, all laughed and began calling me Sophie. I was just pleased anyone had noticed me at all. I knew sophisticated was something good, but I had to look it up in the dictionary when I got home. None of the definitions even remotely fit me; apparently my classmates didn’t know what it meant either. We weren’t sophisticated enough. Still, I was flattered because I had formed my own idea of what it meant. In some inexplicable way I was cool, not popular—I was never that—but cool enough to garner a few votes from my peers for a meaningless title that made the rest of them look at me differently. To a shy, lower middle-class, skinny, flat-chested girl in her early teens that felt pretty good. In truth, I was just quiet, smart and tidy.

     What I wanted to be, what I still want to be is elegant. Refinement is lovely and something that can be learned—look at Eliza Doolittle in My Fair Lady—but what I am talking about has nothing to do with training, environment, beauty, fashion or the size of one’s pocketbook. It is innate and ageless. When I see a woman with that natural elegance I can’t help staring. It’s something in the way she holds her head, moves her hands, inhabits the space she is in—it is ethereal, poetic…rare.

    At an evening lawn concert in the park several summers ago I was watching a sixtyish woman sitting on a nearby picnic blanket. Her manner and movements mesmerized me. My friend, Pam, was sitting next to me. “Are you looking at that woman?” she asked.

     “I want to be like her when I get to that age…” I said wistfully.

     “I was thinking the same thing,” Pam replied.

My Fair Lady
     I smiled, discovering something kindred about my already dear friend. The woman we were watching was not particularly young looking or handsome, but she possessed that inherent grace I so admire. It was a pleasure just to watch her put her picnic things away in the hamper. “You're closer to that than I will ever be,” I said sincerely to my friend. I think I sighed. Pam is a humble woman, so she responded with skepticism.

     In my senior year of High School I was voted “Most Polite”.  Twelfth graders are more informed than ninth graders; by then, no one made the mistake of thinking I was sophisticated. I am glad people think I’m courteous though, that one I can live up to. That one comes from a deeply held conviction to be kind to others, especially in the face of churlishness, and while I readily admit it needs refining in me, kindness is true elegance.


  1. You are polite and refined enough to omit the fact that you were nominated and elected by your high school class as their Daffodil Princess of the year. That is a high award for the high schools in our part of the state. And a very beautiful princess you were.Even better, bride to your Prince,your husband.In real life, a much better story, a much better life.In all the ways that matter, you truly do have a "happily ever after", because of Him!(BTW, I always thought you looked like the picture of Sleeping Beauty in the fairy tales,and your husband, the Prince).

    1. Oh my, Katherine, you make me blush. Literally. At least I don't think that's a hot flash. Dear girl, your kind words befuddle me (which isn't hard to do) and leave me speechless (which is extraordinary, as you well know).