The Beauty of the Known
It has always seemed to me that people I care about are more attractive to me than strangers.
Looking for confirmation of this, I found a couple of interesting videos. One was titled “How to Make People Think You’re More Attractive Than You Really Are.” Leaving aside the issue of how one assesses one’s own looks, I was interested to find that instead of talking about plastic surgery or makeup, it recommends such things as standing up straight, making eye contact, and smiling.
It seems that the idea of a known person appearing more attractive applies even to oneself, as the video below shows. Four ordinary women received professional makeovers and posed for modeling shoots. You may be surprised to learn that they preferred their pre-makeover selves, replete with curves, freckles, and less-than-perfect hair. One reason? They didn’t recognize their made-over selves.
The Beauty of Surrender
My non-writing work as a birth doula affords me the great privilege of being with women at their most vulnerable: when they are giving birth. Very little about how women look when they give birth matches our cultural norms of beauty. While a few women (usually those who opt for pain medication) may be able to carry on with the application of lipstick and maintenance of their coiffure, for the vast majority of women, the process of giving birth is one of complete surrender.
Birth is an utterly physical act that, paradoxically, causes women to become completely unaware of their physical selves. My doula partner jokes that women “lose one item of clothing for every centimeter of dilation” until, by the time they give birth, they are usually completely naked.
I find this surrender and vulnerability unspeakably beautiful. Unless you are a mystic or a religious devotee, it’s the closest you can get, while alive, to the divine. And it has nothing to do with flat bellies, perfect cheekbones, or lush tresses. You can see some photos here of women giving birth (G-rated), courtesy of Babble.com.
The Beauty of Being
Sometimes, when I finish yoga class and lie like a corpse on my mat, I’m able to completely lose awareness of my body. I literally cannot feel where I leave off and the floor begins. I see colors behind my eyelids but they are not my colors; some larger Eye sees them. I hear the sounds of the room, but I am not hearing them; some larger Ear hears them. I live for these moments, because in them I no longer feel separate. I feel part of something larger, something far more significant than the particularities of my physical body and even of my mind.
This is true beauty: a connection to the universe that transcends the physical, emotional, and intellectual limitations of humanity.
P.S. Redefining Beauty
I added this section because I recently read a wonderful blog post by my good friend Jennifer Browdy de Hernandez. In it, she talks about a new short film, “Selfie,” in which teenage girls—through a guided process of taking and displaying selfies—come to see new possibilities for how to define beauty. You can watch the 3-minute version below.