My boy's existence proves something I have always suspected: when you are good looking, life treats you very differently

23rd June 2006 at 01:00
I realised early on that there was something special about my elder son. He was the kind of baby that people stopped to stare at in the checkout queue in Tesco. I remember when we took him on his first holiday, striding down Fifth Avenue with him in his buggy and being aware that people were looking. I presumed that I was having a particularly fabulous Sex and the City fashion moment, but realised quickly that it was my little boy who was getting the admiring glances. Finally, a lady stopped me and said, "Ma'am, you have a truly adorable little boy".

Because the thing about my child is that, at the age of 20 months, he is quite simply jaw-droppingly handsome. This is not just a proud mother talking. Obviously every woman thinks her son is the apex of masculine beauty, but my little boy is bona fide eye candy. He has been asked to be a child model. He can make the most surly old man in the Post Office smile and chuck him under the chin. People wave to him as he is sitting in his car seat. Other children offer him sweets or licks of their lolly in the park. Mums will run over to lift him off the climbing frame, even if I am standing next to him. He even has a magical way with animals. I have absolutely no idea how my husband and I - two short, dark, Jewishly-average looking people - managed to create this tall, Aryan vision of perfection. I can only imagine he is a throwback to some illicit encounter with a Cossack in our families' past lives in the Pale of Settlement.

What I do know, however, is that his existence proves something I have always suspected: when you are good looking, life treats you very differently. Nowhere was this uncomfortable truth made clearer to me than during my schooldays. Whatever the high-minded ethos of my all-girls school, it wasn't your brains, or your character, or even your sporting prowess that got you loved by teachers and students alike: it was your looks. For me, this posed a bit of a problem. Never greatly gifted in the looks department, I was the living embodiment of the phrase "she's got a great personality". My teenage years represented a particular low point in my struggles with the mirror; with my bottle-thick glasses, railway-track braces and acne-prone skin, I was like the girl in all those teen movies who undergoes the magical transformation from ugly duckling into swan - except that my Trinny and Susannah moment never came. The pretty girls were popular, envied, feted and got all the good parts in the school play. In one production of Daisy Pulls it Off I had the starring role as "girl number 13 in the hot water bottle fight". That should give you some idea of where I was in the pecking order.

Dragged to beauticians, given make-up books every birthday and sitting through endless Colour Me Beautiful sessions (don't even ask) I knew that I was loved, and knew that I was lucky, but I always felt like a particular failure when it came to my appearance. I often wonder whether, as a teacher, I am more inclined to favour the students who look good. I like to think not, but I do know that a winning smile and a winning way are more likely to impress me last period on a Friday afternoon than a sullen dose of adolescent attitude.

Presuming that my little boy maintains his angelic countenance, it's reassuring to know he'll never need to feel that he doesn't make the grade.

Unfairly or not, good things will come to him simply through a fortuitous blend of luck and genes. I suppose I need to make sure that behind that little face there's a little person who's worth getting to know for his own sake.

Gemma Warren is head of inclusion at a London secondary school. Email:

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