Pretty Is As Pretty Does

June 12, 2022

I’ve been wondering lately, why some creatures (great/small) elicit “aawwws!” and others “eewwws!!” I mean, except for their coloring and that adorable stripe, what is the diff between chipmunk and field mouse? But the one we enjoy, and the other we hire people to eradicate. Sans the fluffy tail, squirrel and rat are indistinguishable, no? A lovely mourning dove perched upon a branch in our maple tree vs. a tough and dirty city pigeon, strutting the mean streets? They honestly look alike. But we are hard-wired to tell the difference, and to label the one as lovely and the other as yucky.

I’m not an insect fan. At all. But, even as I shriek and flail away at stink bugs and hornets and mosquitos, I love the ladybug, for example. Is it all just perception born of cultural bias? I mean, I cannot imagine being thrilled when a beetle without that red-with-black-polka-dot coloring, lands on my arm. But should Miss Ladybird perch upon me, I am utterly delighted.  Go figure.

I’m also crazy about fireflies. And butterflies. But not emphatically NOT house flies. And while I set traps to capture those disgusting pantry moths before they burrow into the whole wheat flour, the appearance of a huge green luna moth on the screen of a bedroom window yesterday was cause for celebration and photo snapping. Is it their rarity? Their hue? I have no idea, but we were all not spooked, but rather charmed.

There are (often changing) standards of outer beauty in the human world, of course, and I’ve spent a lifetime trying vainly to attain them. If only I could have lived in the Victorian era, when long, perfectly toned legs were not an attractiveness requirement! Indeed, legs of any description were completely hidden away beneath voluminous skirts, including at the beach. Ah, those were the days! Back when women couldn’t vote or own property in their own name or…never mind.

What if our fickle and shifting ratings system extended to the animal and plant kingdoms? What if, for example, wolf spiders became all the rage next week, while people shrieked at and stomped on small, winsome grasshoppers? Can you imagine tulips and daffodils suddenly becoming eyesores, as folks lovingly cultivated lawns full of gout weed instead? But no, in the natural world our attitudes are fairly consistent and fad-free. Pretty is hummingbirds and roses, not cockroaches and kudzu, and that has been true for millennia.

But here's what has also ever been true: some of the most physically stunning specimens of the human variety have the ugliest personalities. And vice versa. My Grandma Berrigan would say, “Pretty is as pretty does” when reflecting on the nasty behavior of a beautiful looking person. So it behooves me to look beneath the surface (my surface too), and not worry so much about outward appearances.

I may have no control over the length of my legs, but the extent of my compassion? That I can, and should, do something about.


    I am an author (of five books, numerous plays, poetry and freelance articles,) a retired director (of Spiritual Formation at a Lutheran church,) and a producer (of five kids).

    I write about my hectic, funny, perfectly imperfect life.

    Please visit my website: or email me at



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