Easy Beauty


Easy Beauty

By Chloé Cooper Jones

I am in a bar in Brooklyn listening to two men, my friends, discuss whether or not my life was worth living.

This memoir begins in Italy, Chloé Cooper Jones is running away from life, spending an afternoon in Florence following a beautiful man around the Galleria Borghese, she is reimagining a scene remembered from her own childhood where her father followed a woman around a department store, captivated by her beauty.

“I wiped the window to see him, out on the street, racing away. This man, handsome as a movie star, kissing me in the moonlight? I don’t think so. I was no Mary Astor, I was no Bacall, there was no one like me in the movies, no educative model, no narrative that included a body like mine in a grand romance. Didn’t I know I was for conflicted men only, the ugly and desperate? I did know.”

People can say things and never think of them again, to never again think of the time they smilingly told a friend at school that to even entertain the idea of going to the school dance with someone like them would be unthinkable, but these ‘throwaway’ comments said and then forgotten by the sayer almost instantly, can shade a person’s entire life. To meet someone and for a scene to unfold out of a storybook, of dreamy Tuesday afternoon dates and moonlight kisses, suddenly, EVERYTHING is beautiful. I was reminded of a line from the poem, ‘So Much Happiness’ by Naomi Shihab Nye, she talks of the feeling of abject happiness where everything is beautiful and you love, ‘even the floor which needs to be swept.’ It’s hard to exist in such beauty when you have an internalised Greek chorus telling you that you are not enough, so you shatter the illusion and break your own heart.

Years later Chloé meets Andrew, the man she will eventually marry, a man who refuses to not see her exactly as she is and who loves her almost instantly. Their love is not a fairytale love but one that is marked by it’s honesty, it is often a difficult thing to let yourself be loved but to quote another poem, this time; Admontions to a Special Person by Anne Sexton, ‘To love another is something like prayer and can’t be planned, you just fall into its arms because your belief undoes your disbelief.’

From Roman sculptures to a Beyoncé concert, from a tennis tournament to the Cambodian Killing Fields, Jones interrogates the myths of beauty with spiky intelligence, aesthetic philosophy, love and humor, inviting us to find a new way of seeing.”

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