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Beauty and the Blogger

“I’m not beautiful, and I’m okay with that.”

So spoke a blogger I read recently. Can’t find the attribution now, unfortunately. Predictably, her friends responded with, “Don’t be ridiculous. You’re beautiful.” The blogger found this annoying, because her point wasn’t to fish for compliments. She meant to emphasize that beauty was less important than the world makes it.

I sympathize with the idea, but the reaction to her statement highlights a flaw in her theory: you don’t get to decide you’re not beautiful. You may not find yourself visually appealing, and that’s your right, but everyone who meets you gets to make that decision for themselves. Chances are good that someone finds your looks appealing, whether you like it or not. As long as they keep their hands to themselves, they’re allowed to do that, without any approval from you. (Note the HANDS TO YOURSELF part. This is key.)

Comments about the value of beauty made me laugh. “Beauty is valuable in attracting a mate.” Well, yes and no. The world has defined a certain look as constituting beauty. Many people who don’t match it have succeeded in creating happy relationships. Personally, I always find a man more attractive if he can make me laugh, and I’m fairly certain his face doesn’t actually change shape in the interim. Whatever you look like, a certain number of people will find it enticing. If you’re lucky, one of them will entice you in return.

Image found on the website of the Art Institute of Chicago

Image found on the website of the Art Institute of Chicago

I understand the blogger’s point about beauty as the ideal that magazines keep trying to sell us. So done with it. It lives in a file on Photoshop and nowhere else. But with a broader, more heartfelt interpretation, I like beauty. Beautiful colors, beautiful art, beautiful furniture – these things help me to see better things in the world. Actually, when I think of beauty as a construct, I don’t think of people. I think of Monet’s Water Lilies. It’s a series of 250 paintings, but the one I’ve seen up close resides at the Art Institute of Chicago. When my brother still lived there, I made several trips to the museum, mostly just to see Water Lilies and  Sunday on La Grande Jatte by Georges Seurat. Seurat’s pointillist work intrigues me – intricate technique, an education in perspective, and I can’t stop wondering what the monkey is doing there. Does it like the suburbs? Do the dogs in the park accept it, or is there about to be a simian/canine rumble? But Monet’s work moves my heart, with its passionate brush strokes and gobs of paint. This theme graces mugs, notebooks, prints, wallpaper, mousepads and even an umbrella I had for awhile, but all of these miss the texture of the original. Monet’s hands must have been a mess after a session of creation. The man got into his colors.

True beauty doesn’t stop at the eyes. It delves into your soul, reminding you that life is worth living.

I think the problem with our modern interpretation of beauty is that we’ve cheapened it. In current parlance, beauty means, “Someone I want to sleep with.” That’s it. If things are beautiful, they’re generally items that could be useful in getting said person to sleep with you.

I don’t think my Water Lilies umbrella was going to convince any guy he should sleep with me, but it made me feel poetic, walking through the drizzle, and I found beauty in that. It made me feel like me was a pretty cool thing to be, and that is a feeling I’d like have more. If paying too much for an umbrella at the Museum Store is what it takes, so be it.

Aside of making me wonder about my personal definition of beauty, the initial blogger’s statement made me question one other thing: Do I find myself beautiful? Hm. Let me take a look at the parts and consider.

I have the arms of someone who can’t help hugging a friend when they cry.
I have the butt of a person willing to spend eight hours in the car driving up to see family and friends.
I have the legs of someone who has stumbled on her path through life. Repeatedly.
I have skin a little too thin for my own good.
I have eyes that have seen failure, ears that have heard criticism (constructive and otherwise), and lips that have eaten crow.
And I have my grandmother’s nose.

Do I think I’m beautiful?

Damn right, I do.

Kimberly misses that umbrella.

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