This has been a hot topic as of late.
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.
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."
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.
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