Tiny little beauty

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.

*  *  *

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.


Kate on January 5th 2011 in beauty, body, perfection

23 Responses to “Tiny little beauty”

  1. "From another sexy, big-nosed woman" responded on 05 Jan 2011 at 10:58 am #

    Love it!

  2. Kate responded on 05 Jan 2011 at 11:06 am #

    Love the salutation :)

  3. Emily responded on 05 Jan 2011 at 1:10 pm #

    yes! I agree :)

  4. Christin@purplebirdblog responded on 05 Jan 2011 at 1:31 pm #

    “His stiffening need”

    Thank you OH SO MUCH for that. That laugh could not have come at a better time.

  5. Diane responded on 05 Jan 2011 at 1:58 pm #

    I love you for this. Thank you.

  6. Deanna responded on 05 Jan 2011 at 2:14 pm #

    Let me say something about hair. If a woman has really bad hair, it’s hard to be beautiful no matter how thin, or how pretty her face is. It’s probably about the most important thing for a woman to have. I just saw a show on TV about how hair loss can be the most devastating thing a woman can have. If you are overweight, you can lose weight via diet, if you have bad skin there is a lot you can do, but hair…it is what it is. I think women who have gorgeous hair are the most blessed of all in the beauty dept.

  7. San D responded on 05 Jan 2011 at 2:28 pm #

    I never felt particularly “beautiful” as our society describes it. I didn’t look like anyone I knew, and I certainly didn’t look like my mother and sister who both were blue eyed blondes. I looked like my father’s side of the family, decidedly dark and ethnic. One day in 6th grade our art teacher took as all on a bicycle trip to the local park to do some sketching. While we were working she quietly took pictures of us, and the next week posted those pictures on a bulletin board in her art room. Imagine my surprise when the only one she had enlarged was one of me. For the first time in my life I saw myself as I could be seen by others, and not how I had limited myself. Sure the sad hurt eyes were still in the picture, but there was also a future young woman looking out, and I knew, even in 6th grade, I was going to be alright, that I was my own person, and that while I wasn’t going to turn into a swan, being a duck was going to be alright too.

  8. b1 responded on 05 Jan 2011 at 2:48 pm #

    @Deanna – Hair may be just hair, but there are things you can do about that too. The biggest complaint people have is when their hair is thin and limp, they don’t think there is anything that can be done about it, however that is not true. If you have thin, limp hair, start eating jello as the keratin in it goes to the areas of your body that needs keratin, like your hair and nails. Another thing is to start getting a weekly scalp massage for 30 minutes. This increases the blood flow to your hair and provides more nourishment. The thing you’d hear old timers say in old movies about brushing your hair 100 strokes before going to bed was just stimulating the scalp for blood flow.

    @SanD – I think it’s awesome that your 6th grade teacher was able to allow yourself to see what she saw. Maybe if more people did that with our young ladies today, they’d see that they’re okay too.

    Love this posting and “His stiffening need” got me to giggle too. I don’t read romance novels for the same reasons. :-)

  9. Dana Udall-Weiner responded on 05 Jan 2011 at 2:57 pm #

    I love the idea of appreciating our particular and unique beauty, even if (or especially if!) it’s different than what is socially endorsed. But I cringe at the idea of looking at our body and our features as disparate pieces–it seems like we are always encouraged to do this, to address our “flaws” and our “problem areas” and to work on improving them. I realize you’re not saying that we should evaluate ourselves in such negative terms, but for me it’s been liberating to let go of the focus on specific parts and instead think of myself as a beautiful and complete whole.

  10. Elizabeth responded on 05 Jan 2011 at 2:57 pm #

    I think everyone is beautiful in their own unique way. I think it’s important to love yourself as you are right now. If you believe you are beautiful, kind, generous and smart then that will shine through and you will be that. Sometimes the most aesthetically “beautiful” women in the room ends up being the ugliest if her personality is blah and she’s not kind hearted.

  11. alvin reiter m.D, responded on 05 Jan 2011 at 2:59 pm #

    I was a facial plastic surgeon in Beverly Hills for over 25 years and had a very sucessful practice.Inever asked any patient for a photo from a magazine,a movie or T.V. show.That is inviting dissatisfaction and is unreaslistic.In my practice i took a set of Nikons for later development and polaroids(available immediately).I had a large practice and showed photos(with permission) of similar noses of before and after so the patient can compare her photos and get an idea of what can be done with her or his nose.Even if the patient had clear nasal breathing before the surgery the nasal passages are always narrowed to some degree and nasal obstruction can occcur.An informed consent is discussed with the patient all the time.These days I would also check board certification in either facial plastic or plastic surgery.I did not charge for a cosmetic revision if the results of my first surgery are to a mutual accepted dissastisfaction and understanding.Unfortunately I was not as wise in regard to my own personal affairs inclunding the metastatic breast cancer that took my wife.These issues are discussed in my book which was just published.”Even Doctors Cry” Ask questions and seek other opinions as neccessaryCongratulation to Kate Fridkis.Great article Alvin Reiter

  12. Kate responded on 05 Jan 2011 at 4:26 pm #

    I hear you. And I was actually thinking about that a lot as I was writing this. But because we learn to take ourselves apart bit by bit, I think it might be more effective to put ourselves back together that way, too, rather than trying to see something completely different. I’m not positive. But it’s a theory.

  13. epilator reviews gal responded on 05 Jan 2011 at 5:09 pm #

    Beauty can be cruel and kind and matters more to some than others, beauty is only a slice of a persons make up but has the ability at times to make or break us.

    Great post.

  14. Dawn responded on 05 Jan 2011 at 5:10 pm #

    Kate…I only discovered you yesterday but feel as though I’ve adored you forever. You could SO be my child.

    From Dawn…who grew up far more insecure due to public school up-bringing…who writes about homeschooling and body image. Mother of Breezy (who will soon have her face taken apart and put back together again…due to childhood injury…to get rid of headaches caused by mis-alignment of facial bones, yet loves herself in spite of broken nose and facial flaws and knows that her muscular legs Kick Ass…and who has home-schooled all of her life.

    I wish I could have felt more like you and Breezy while growing up…but better late than never. I love that my life is filled with Teachers of Wisdom much younger than myself who grew up nurtured in the strength of self-acceptence rather than the torture of public-school-imposed-peer-pressure.

    Oh yeah. When I saw the picture of your face on the AOL homepage, I was first captivated by your lovliness…your beautiful eyes, your perfect, full lips, your glorious hair…and then I saw the words.

  15. Tabs responded on 05 Jan 2011 at 5:15 pm #

    “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.”


  16. Sabreena responded on 05 Jan 2011 at 5:36 pm #

    Corny and played out as it is the saying “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder” rings true. The days that I like myself and stop worrying about others are the days I am sexiest. I am the beholder and when I see my beauty no one else matters.

    I really like the idea that we tear ourselves down bit by bit and should build ourselves the same way. You won’t wake up just liking yourself but after slowly noticing your great parts you’ll start seeing a more beautiful whole.

  17. Alex responded on 05 Jan 2011 at 6:10 pm #

    I have really curly hair. My hair is so curly and thin that i looked like Diana Ross for most of my childhood. Im still a child, 17, but i have learned to appreciate it. It is what makes me, me. I like to wake up and see my crazy curls bouncing around on my head. I only found you yesterday on AOL, but already you have made a profound impact on me. Im so young and its good to have a confidence booster like you around. Thank you!!

  18. Just Josie responded on 06 Jan 2011 at 8:53 pm #

    Oh man, I freaking LOVE reading romance novels when I’m feeling down — laughter is the best medicine, amirite? One time when I was spending the weekend with my gramma Bonnie, I read one of her romance novels, and it was TOO FUNNY. Like, “Woman, you don’t know what you’re doin’ to me, you have got to stop this,” the muscle-bound rancher growled at the innocent girl-child. Suddenly, he pulled her against him to scare her; to show her all the ways in which she hardened him.” It honestly said that! I couldn’t breathe for like 15 minutes.

    Anyway, I’ve been thinking a lot about what it means to be beautiful and what it means to be sexy of late, and I’ve come to the conclusion that focusing on it at all seems to be pretty negative. I’m not saying you shouldn’t be confident and happy with yourself, and I’m not denying that that can be hard to do, it’s just that I think the more we stress beauty, even in a positive way, the more harm we’re doing. Because it just continues to put out the message that being judged solely on your appearance is acceptable, which it’s not, but that is the kind of beauty being discussed in this post, is it not? I just feel like when beauty is stressed so much, it becomes the only way people value themselves, when it should be on their talents and thinking ability, etc… Besides, I think regardless of how attractive you are on the outsid, you either become more attractive on the outside to other people or they grow to accept/appreciate your looks once they see what a good person you genuinely are — because after all, “outer ugly” is associated with “inner ugly” and laziness, meanness, etc… therefore, “inner beauty” should work the same way too, right? It just takes a little more digging and objectivity. : )

  19. Noel responded on 08 Jan 2011 at 6:19 pm #

    Kate, love the post (as always) and was particularly intrigued by the response from the plastic surgeon above. Just an idea I’m gonna throw out (feel free to throw it right back) … have you ever thought about having a current/former plastic surgeon guest post? I would be so interested to hear more from someone with that background, as Dr. Reiter’s comments about bringing in a photo of a movie star were TOTALLY different than what I expected.

  20. Gee responded on 15 Jan 2011 at 7:48 am #

    I just wish beauty didn’t automatically mean good. Then it wouldn’t matter. And objectively speaking, there’s nothing intrinsically good about beauty.

    I don’t think it needs to be about “everyone is beautiful in their own way.” I think it should be “beauty doesn’t matter.”

  21. Rebecca responded on 18 Jan 2011 at 9:02 pm #

    Oo, oo!

    My favorite is “his turgid member”.


    And I like the idea of tiny little beauties,
    very much indeed.

  22. Eat the Damn Cake » Anything but plain responded on 03 Feb 2011 at 11:32 am #

    [...] always different, quirky, and interestingly assembled. And like I mentioned before, when I talked about tiny little beauty, we, as people, are covered with interesting, identifiable beauty. We can’t even help [...]

  23. Eat the Damn Cake » no pictures, please. not when I feel so good. responded on 30 Mar 2012 at 1:00 pm #

    [...] Or maybe I’ll ask Bear to take more like this one, to keep everything in perspective: [...]