Friday, November 5, 2010

On "Real Beauty"

Real Beauty.

This has been a hot topic as of late.

Real Beauty.

What does that even mean?

Real. Fake. What is beautiful? What isn't?

Bah! Bah to all of it!

There was that Marie Claire article earlier this month making fun of "fatties" kissing on television. That article made me sick, frankly. Sick. I don't think I should have to explain why.

Then a blogger that I very much look up to and love and who writes about loving your differences wrote a new blog just the other day. I agree with most of what she said.

That there's something to the idea that beauty is subjective. Real beauty, in my opinion, is in knowing someone. There's something to that. I have a hard time finding someone attractive until I know them. Until I can decide if I also like them.

That it's a good thing that we're all different. Beauty is found in uniqueness. I believe that. Homogeny is boring.

But this wonderful blogger said something I disagreed with and I don't think she meant to make this conclusion, but she did. She said that beauty is often in your power to stir someone's soul, to incite love. Romantic love.

This is a lovely sentiment. Poetic even. But I can't think beauty can be measured by the ability to incite someone else to love you.

Someone may recognize your unique attributes and that becomes part of that package that is love. I think, anyway.

But goodness, no one has ever loved me romantically. I'm vain enough to realize that I must still possess beauty despite my inability to stir someone's soul.

Then another blogger, one I don't read, but whose latest post was linked by a friend, discussed how women don't think they're beautiful and how it's really the fault of men. He went into a loooong discussion of this and I won't address each point. Some points I agreed with. Others not.

Mostly I don't think it's that simple. I don't think we can pin down one reason or group of people to blame for the lack of self esteem in women. Or men for that matter. Objectification of plastic standards is only one symptom of a much more complicated illness, this lack of belief in our own beauty. Or the beauty of those real people who stand before us.

I have loved deeply and saw absolute beauty in individuals whom my friends did not find attractive and who probably doubted their own attractiveness themselves. Because not only is beauty subjective, but often you need to know someone at their core, to know all of them to see their beauty. They are beautiful for every piece together.

I have felt exquisite and gorgeous and an absolute delight. I have also felt ugly and unattractive and gross. Because it's not about a fundamental belief about myself as being beautiful or ugly; it's a daily process of life and experience and emotion and hormones and pheromones, etc etc etc.

Real Beauty.

There are days I feel beautiful in my sweats with my hair piled on my head. And there are days when I feel beautiful in a delicious dress and my hair just perfect and my makeup just so. Both of those images are me. Both are beautiful in different ways. And both can be ugly in different ways. I guess it depends who's looking, but if it's just me looking, who else is to judge but me?

Some days I want to feel beautiful to attract a romantic partner. But some days I just want to feel good about myself. Want to pamper and remember the decadent things I like about myself. And some days I just want other women to appreciate my beauty in a completely platonic way.

Case in point: There was a point in my life when I was going to fashion school and working in lingerie. I did not meet men, not straight men anyway. But I still dressed nicely for work. Still worked together fun outfits for school. Because beauty is not always about sex.

Real Beauty. Most of what we think about beauty is presentation. 

The idea of presentational beauty is not anything new. As I was getting into my Audrey Hepburn/Holly Golightly costume last weekend, I thought about the women who dressed like that on a daily basis. As I worked my hair into a simple updo that took me four tries, I thought of the women who could do that in a couple of minutes. As I applied my makeup and fake eyelashes (I'm nothing if not authentic), I thought of how many women in the last century didn't make breakfast before putting on their faces.

Changing trends of ideal beauty are nothing new either. In fact, that's the oldest story in history. At least we don't bind feet or wear corsets any longer. And since even just the sixties? Our standards of presentation have dropped dramatically. You can thank first gen hippes and the grunge movement for that. By the time my mother was in high school, she was using barrel rollers and wearing nylons on a daily basis. When I was in high school? It was a good day if I did my hair at all and wore shoes other than flip flops.

And yet? Doesn't it seem as if that ideal of beauty has become more and more unattainable? More and more unreal?

What is real anyway? Is my friend who had her breast reduction to improve her quality of life any less real? Is the mother who gets a tummy tuck because she just can't get rid of that extra skin any less real? Am I less real with makeup? With my hair done? It's all superficial. But when did superficial become a bad word? Who is to judge? 

Am I less beautiful because I have never been loved? I don't think so. If I had a dollar for every old lady who asked me why I was still single when I'm "so pretty!" As if there must be something else about me that's faulty. Because all men want is a pretty face. "Should be enough."

Bah!

I support the idea that we have to untrain our brains to stop seeing the plastic, airbrushed women towering over our lives as real. Steve Martin in Shopgirl wrote something to the effect of: I feel badly for men who grow up in Los Angeles thinking that breasts should look like cantaloupes.

But we can't just blame Hollywood either. Or the fashion industry. Or advertisers. They do their part and it's a large ass part. But we participate in it. All of us. Men and woman. We're all guilty of the perpetuation that perfection and beauty can somehow be equated and we can't be beautiful if perfection isn't achieved.

The perfect woman is a myth. A bald faced lie. And so is the fairy tale prince.

How do we let go of these notions? I don't know. But we have to try. Don't we?

Just expose our real selves and look for the beauty there, both superficially and to the very cores of our being. Hold that beauty in our hands, at the ready, for the moments we'll need it. And for the moments we need to be reminded of it.

But most of all, we need to forget about our beauty, once we find it and nurture it. Tuck it aside. You won't need it anymore.

Because life is not about beauty. I don't think it is. I don't. I think it's about this myriad diverse game of living and learning and experience and connection. Beauty is just one tiny piece of all that.

29 comments mean you love me:

Riley said...Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

Beauty may only be one part of the "myriad diverse game of living and learning and experience and connection," but someone who is able to live with that kind of honesty and courage is indeed beautiful all the time. Great post. Thanks for sharing.

Coco said...Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

Sometimes the most beautiful people are the ones who don't even know it.

andygirl said...Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

Riley- very wise! thank you!

Coco- I so agree!

Dawn said...Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

Wow. What a great piece of writing.

This must explain why the people I love become more beautiful to me every single day.

andygirl said...Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

thanks, hon! that's how it should be. :)

alonewithcats said...Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

I think you're beautiful because you write awesome posts like this one.

And you're pretty, too.

andygirl said...Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

awwww thanks, honey! *muah*

idiotprovider said...Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

The most perfect things in life are "flawed". Princes exist, and so don't goddesses.

I fully expect you not to be who you are, so feel free to let me down in that respect :)

Your writing is the most agreeable thing I've seen all year, outside your neck.

Thank You.

andygirl said...Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

:)

Roger said...Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

Sometimes when you read a post you want to say something just as touching and profound to show how much you loved it. I won't try to be witty or funny, I will just say thank you. I thoroughly enjoy your words and feel them in my heart.

Nush said...Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

If beauty was the same for all, then our world would be a pretty bland place to be in.

Someone can be stunning to look at but if that person is someone you can't connect with or even like, then the beauty is very much diminished. The same can be said of the opposite... someone you feel a connection to, love or even just really like as a friend can be the most beautiful person in the world.

I believe there is beauty in our world but it is never constant and always fleeting but it is what makes life special at times.

OK, I will stop babbling now. :)

andygirl said...Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

Roger- thank you so much.

Nush- thank you for babbling. I agree completely. :)

Simone Says... said...Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

pretty is as pretty does...

andygirl said...Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

indeed.

kris said...Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

Every single time I read a post in which someone purports to talk about beauty I get annoyed.

Every single time.

Until now.

This post just speaks to me.

So much of what people talk about when they speak of beauty is physical presentational beauty. So annoying. So very very annoying.

And when people move beyond physical appearances, they say something stupid like, "Beauty lies in one's ability to inspire love in another." So annoying. So very very annoying.

That last thing you said?

"Just expose our real selves and look for the beauty there, both superficially and to the very cores of our being. Hold that beauty in our hands, at the ready, for the moments we'll need it. And for the moments we need to be reminded of it."

Geez, that has made me cry.

Because then you said to forget about it and move on. That life is not about beauty.

Seriously.

You got this post all right.

Thank you.

andygirl said...Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

oh Kris, that was the nicest comment! I'm all warm and fuzzy her over it. thank you! much love to you.

meredith said...Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

yes.

andygirl said...Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

Mer, I love it when you tell me yes.

Kim said...Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

My oldest is only 7, but already this crap is starting. So seriously, I am bookmarking this for when then times and I can simplify it for her. Because despite the best upbringing about 'beauty isn't enough' and 'you are beautiful' I never felt enough or beautiful. So much so that I had my nose fixed. I felt better, but it didn't fix the inside. It didn't get me the 'prince.' I did't find my 'prince' until I found MY beauty. Which had nothing to do with the shape of my nose.

andygirl said...Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

Kim, your story is just right. that's how it is, isn't it? life waits for us to figure it out.

Sheena Simpson said...Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

Oh they did not dis my Mike and Molly!!!

Loved your post. Absolutely fantastic. And I agree whole heartedly with just about everything you said. Actually I can't think of one point I didn't agree with.

Thank you Kris once again.

andygirl said...Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

thanks so much, Sheena!! Kris is the shit. welcome and thanks for reading.

Renee said...Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

Good post!
Many points to ponder, the subjectiveness of beauty.

It would be interesting to know how the blind person describes beauty. Or even the hearing impaired.
What qualifies as beauty to special needs children?

These thoughts popped in as I was reading.

Blame Kris. She sent me here. ;)
.

andygirl said...Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

Renee- all excellent points! I agree. maybe it's more emotive to some, is my gut reaction.

thanks for the comment and welcome!

A Mountain Momma said...Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

Great post, I love the Youtube poetry slam video, Will I Be, Will I Be, Will I Be... Amazing.
Beauty carries far too weight in our society, studies show it even colours personality judgments of those people have never even spoken to. Pretty people are nice, right??

andygirl said...Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

thank you!

I totally concur. but it's a rare person that isn't nice that I find pretty. those people get ugly pretty fast.

but you know that girl? the one who is super kind and sweet and smart and has no idea how gorgeous she is? *swoon*

The Empress said...Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

Absolutely. Why does being loved, or inciting love, have to be part of the equation.

This video rocks. I had seen it earlier this week, I adore it.

Thank you

andygirl said...Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

exactly!

:D thank YOU!

Jackie T said...Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

I'm glad you re-posted this in a newer post, as I meant to read it but was busy when it came out.
(I'm busy now, but much more content with procrastinating)
I've thought a lot about this, less theoretically and more in my own life. I have such low self confidence (and it totally doesn't help that compliments make me Super self-conscious) that I try to work this two-fold. One is sort of unraveling the reasons I've become this way. Two is working on doing things that build my self confidence.
For example, remembering my mom's constant dieting (including a week of cabbage water and toast), or how my sister and I decided that we would not eat anything (liquid calories were okay) for a week when we were in junior high, are examples of how this shit started out early for me. Even now some days, when I get super self conscious, I consider not eating dinner for a month and seeing if it makes a difference (I wish I was kidding).
I like doing activities that remind me constantly what a bad ass I am. This includes school/careering (which is what I'm procrastinating currently), being creative (art in all forms), embracing people who bring out the best in me and pushing myself physically, but that's just me.
Anyways, I think beauty is a combination of accepting who you are and having confidence in who you are. Others may admire your beauty, and I think that relations with people help to foster an understanding of who one is as well as confidence in one's self, but I don't think beauty is secondary to being romantically loved (or loving).

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