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The little metal shed at the corner near the office sells candy,  soft drinks, and magazines, with the magazines—mostly People and its peers—on a shelf sticking out from the corner of the shed so that the passersby notice them. I pick up something about popular culture from scanning the covers as I walk by. (One thing I’ve learned is that you’re supposed to pay attention to people who have no other claim on your attention but that they’re on magazine covers.)

One thing I’ve noticed is how often some young woman is declared “sexy” or even something like “the sexiest woman alive.” It’s a comparative I don’t know how any one would measure. All the magazines’ definition of the word seems to be is “a pretty young woman, either well known or famous (famous is better), wearing skimpy clothes.”

“Sexiest woman alive” is a distinction of sorts but not a very useful one. The sexiest woman alive now isn’t going to be called that in five years, or maybe ten if she wins the title early. There are other distinctions more useful and longer-lasting. Beauty, for one, partly because it does not depend upon genetic accidents, plastic surgery, personal trainers, and youth. As Emily Stimpson writes in What Makes a Body Beautiful:

We may not think we’re beautiful. We may look at the women and men gracing the pages of Glamour or Men’s Fitness and think we don’t measure up because our hair isn’t as thick or our abs as tight or skin as firm. We may not like what we see in the mirror: the wrinkles, the scars and stretch marks, the cellulite or gray hairs, the nose or eyes or lips that don’t resemble the models in the magazines.

But the people we love don’t see what we see.

They don’t see a collection of body parts; they see us. They see our love for them. They see sacrifices made and patience exercised. They see how many times we’ve forgiven them, listened to them, and encouraged them. They see our honesty, integrity, fidelity, and devotion. They also see our intelligence, humor, wit, and creativity—all gifts from God and all ways we image God.

Of course the guy with little hair and what hair he has is white would say that, you may be thinking. And there may be something to that. This may be one of those (many) cases where age brings insight. But there are many young women who are beautiful but not sexy who need to know they’re beautiful and that beauty beats sexy any day. Because these horrible magazines tell them otherwise.

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