“Love, my mother believed, was the only specific for true beauty—an abundance of it could make a woman who was as plain as zwieback go into the streets smiling, with her head high and her shoulders back, and a dearth of it could transfigure a good and glowing aspect into one that drove the woman to lock herself away like a vampire. As for my mother, she appears in her wedding photograph to be a handsome woman, with a healthy body and a furnished mind, the type of woman who is assumed to be responsible, efficient, and kind to animals and old people; but it was my father’s adoration and then the memory of it that elevated her to a dear and perfect splendor. And she was never aware that I knew how she made sure she stayed that way.
She took for granted that intelligence was needed. She believed that a woman had to be bright enough to choose correctly and distinguish between abiding trust and transient infatuation. She believed also that a woman’s intelligence, which she called “the ability and desire to spend as much time in the world of serious ideas as in the shoe shop.” should be swirled in with her other attributes. She spoke of intelligence as heightening the impact a woman could make, the way a cook might scare vanilla batter with just enough nutmeg to make the cake memorable.
She explained that the optimal situation involves heart and mind working together, and that only a woman who is swept away could be ignorant of the way the heart was always pressing for advantages behind the mind’s back. “The soul wants to feel good all the time. Feeling good all the time is irresponsible. And someone must be hurt in order for that to happen. The heart will inevitably find you the most all-around charming man in the room, but you should never trust it to decide if he should be kept. The heart throws no fish back in the river. It doesn’t realize that there is always another one around the bend.”
-Kaye Gibbons, Divining Women