First of all, I had no idea my piece about nose jobs was going to be on the front page of AOL yesterday. People started texting me, and I didn’t believe them at first. Thank you to everyone who wrote me an email after reading the article! My nose is taking over the world.
“Beauty” is a powerful word. It suggests something selective, exclusive. Something in limited supply. It’s timeless, classic, and eternally cool. Beautiful. Most of us are careful not to accidentally apply it to ourselves. We think we don’t deserve it. Most of us are normal people, after all. We have attractive moments, of course, and certain successful features. But it takes more than that.
The heroine of the romance novel never has gorgeous hair but also prominent acne. Beauty is supposed to come as a complete package. She has masses of honey colored curls and spotless, taut skin. And in addition to that she has giant, frightened-yet-defiant violet eyes ringed with lashes the size of feather dusters, perky breasts that heave temptingly on command, lavish pink lips, and a pert afterthought of a nose. Her ears are probably adorable, too. Her ankles are slender. You could go up and down that girl’s body with a tape measure, and not one bit of her would be out of proportion. Which is why she’s fictional. And one reason why I don’t read romance novels (another reason has to do with the sex scenes, which make me laugh outloud and then start muttering irritably to myself, “Seriously? Are you kidding me? That’s supposed to be hot? ‘His stiffening need’?”).
Sometimes I see women whose features all work together expertly, effortlessly. And we’re trained to feel sort of sorry for the girl who gets described only as having “nice hair.” It sounds a little like “good personality.” You say it, and then there’s this empty space afterward, that should be filled with all the other things that are nice about her, but isn’t.
Nice hair is awesome. It’s easy to forget that.
And I hope there isn’t anyone in the world who can’t identify one nice/beautiful/fascinating feature on their body. I know all of mine by heart. Sometimes the ones I don’t like abruptly defect and turn up on the attractive side. My legs are unreliable. They go back and forth. Some days they’re not long enough. Some days they’re perfect.
But it doesn’t matter. I mean, even though I know exactly what’s working, the problem is always that it’s not ALL working. Because we learn that beauty is the whole package. Beauty is a room with a perpetually freshly vacuumed rug and all of the furniture exactly in place. It can look a little unlivable.
So I say, “Well, my mouth is pretty, but it’s canceled out by my nose. My eyes have potential, but they aren’t large enough. My hair would look better if my face was rounder, even though my hair is alright. My arms should be thinner to go with my breasts, and my butt sticks out a lot, which is good except for my legs.” If I say it aloud, it sounds a little like some sort of complicated mathematical formula. The fact that I understand exactly what the equations signify must mean that I am very, very smart. Or maybe I’ve just been studying this particular formula much too intently for much too long.
We learn that beauty is all about relationships. The way parts interact. It’s like a conversation between features that’s conducted entirely in quiet, articulate sentences that never miss a beat and never even imply anything offensive.
My hair is constantly swearing at me. My shoulders are grumpy and rude. My chin sulks and then changes its mind and transforms into a confident charmer.
My reflection in the mirror is always a surprise. Randomly, almost everything coordinates and I am incredibly sexy for a few minutes. I think, “Wait– why doesn’t the formula work when I apply it here? It usually works…Didn’t someone prove it indisputably at Princeton University a few years back?”
But for all the times the formula works, and I allow every awkward bit of myself to negate every lovely part, I want to remind myself to say these three words:
Tiny little beauty
It’s real. I am not unattractive because my proportions don’t all play together like sweetest of best kindergarten friends. I’m beautiful because there is beauty all over my body. I am not unattractive because everything about my appearance isn’t naturally neat. I am beautiful because I am messy.
It’s time to stop thinking about beauty as a choir singing in flawless harmony, and start allowing solos. If your hair is nice, you’re beautiful. If your eyes are nice, you’re beautiful. If your legs are nice a lot of the time, you’re beautiful. If you like something about the way you look, then why not call it beautiful?
Enough with beauty being exclusive. It isn’t, really. We find each other gorgeous all the time, even when we’re not supposed to. We fall in love with people who don’t fit the images we’re given to measure them against. We think they’re perfect anyway. We look at our friends and think, “Wow. She’s stunning,” even when they look absolutely nothing like the women we watch in movies. We look in the mirror and catch ourselves thinking forbidden, arrogant, rebellious things about how good we look, even though we know everything that doesn’t work about every part of our appearances.
So when we quickly start to think immediately after that, “No, no. But my hair doesn’t work with my forehead which doesn’t go with my cheeks–” we need to stop and instead think, “Tiny little beauty.” It’s everywhere. And when you put it all together, it ends up being pretty big.
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Un-roast: Today I love the way my hair looks in a ponytail. It’s spunky.
Note: For an older post about how beauty can be a war with real casualties, click here.
Cake is My Daily’s blog of the week! Read about it!
Post on Un-schooled about homeschool dating.