What’s the world really like?
There was always the hope that the nice kid would win through in the end; that there would be a fairy tale ending; that Cinderella would go to the ball; that the ugly duckling would turn into a beautiful swan. There was always a hope that the world might turn out as the homely girl does in The Chi Lites song:
It must have broke your poor little heart
When the boys used to say,
You looked better in the dark.
Oh, but now they’d give all they learned in school
To be somewhere in the dark with you
You know, the teacher would ask the questions
And you would always raise your hand
Oh, but somehow you never got your turn
And my eyes would fill with water, inside I’d burn
Homely girl, She was so lonely
You’re a beautiful woman oh yes lonely girl
Homely girl you used to be lonely
You’re a beautiful woman.
Passing years and a cynicism about the ways of the world slowly eroded belief in the potential ‘Homely Girl’ story. Reality was much closer to the lyrics of Janis Ian than to those of The Chi Lites:
I learned the truth at seventeen
That love was meant for beauty queens
And high school girls with clear skinned smiles
Who married young and then retired
The valentines I never knew
The Friday night charades of youth
Were spent on one more beautiful
At seventeen I learned the truth
And those of us with ravaged faces
Lacking in the social graces
Desperately remained at home
Inventing lovers on the phone
Who called to say, “come dance with me”
And murmur vague obscenities
It isn’t all it seems at seventeen . . .
To those of us who knew the pain
Of valentines that never came
And those whose names were never called
When choosing sides for basketball
It was long ago and far away
The world was younger than today
And dreams were all they gave for free
To ugly duckling girls like me
And then, on Saturday, a call came down the corridor. “Ian, look for a You Tube video of someone called Susan Boyle”.
“Just look for it, you’ll see why”.
For one person at least, the fairy tale came true. RTE reports:
Boyle said she was called names as a youngster because of her fuzzy hair and difficulties keeping up in class.
She said of the verbal bullying: “Words often hurt more than cuts and bruises and the scars are still there.”
But she added: “The ones who were mean to me then are now nice to me. I still see the kids I went to school with because we all live in the same area. They accept me now. And look at me – I’ve had the last laugh.”
A devout Catholic, Susan Boyle would know the words well; the words from the Magnificat, the Song of Mary in Saint Luke’s Gospel,
He has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts.
He has put down the mighty from their thrones,
and exalted those of low degree.
Just for once there is a Gospel-like justice in the affairs of the world. Just for once, Janis Ian turns out wrong and The Chi Lites turn out right.