noun beau·ty \ˈbyü-tē\
: the quality or aggregate of qualities in a person or thing that gives pleasure to the senses or pleasurably exalts the mind or spirit : loveliness “a woman of great physical beauty exploring the natural beauty of the island” “A thing of beauty is a joy forever …” — John Keats
: a beautiful person or thing “His new car’s a real beauty.”; especially: a beautiful woman “She was a great beauty in her day.”
: a particularly graceful, ornamental, or excellent quality “Well, at any rate, he had two great beauties—the pale flat white of his skin and his great shaggy mass of dark hair.” — Dorothy C. Fisher
Beauty is a concept both physical and metaphysical, both timeless and modern. It is the focus and drive behind advertising and society as a whole. Each of us carry our own skewed conception of what beauty is. We strive for it as we struggle with our self-image. We are both slave and seekers of beauty.
My love for lovely things started from the beginning. I collected crystal rocks and other knick knacks. We had a small “tank” (Texas slang) or stock pond with a leaning willow tree hanging over the murky water. I remember the way those pale green leaves shimmered in the sunlight and the way the yellow flowers growing on the hills reminded me of The Wizard of Oz. You remember that moment when Dorothy steps out of her sepia toned life into blazing technicolor for the first time? It’s one of the reasons Wizard of Oz is my favorite movie today. An ordinary girl escaping into that land over the rainbow is one of my oldest fantasies. It’s a theme in every story I write.
As a child I remember collecting hair ribbons and silky colorful girly things. I remember thinking ballerinas were so graceful and beautiful, I wanted to be one. I loved how Erica Kane always wore big studded jewelry on All My Children. I loved the sequined dresses that were in full swing during my childhood. I begged my mom to make me beautiful dresses too. Because I was the baby, only girl and one lucky lass, she did.
But I wasn’t worried about being beautiful until I grew older. My fellow sisters will remember that moment when someone made fun of your hair or clothes for the first time. It cuts deep as you realize something about you isn’t up to par. It makes you feel less. It makes me want to go back in time and throttle all the cruel kids who say such things to all the little girls. All the same, we develop tougher skin as we grow. That’s how we survive the dog-eat-dog world. But some of us never develop thick skin. Sometimes, our tough exterior is only paper thin.
I was secretly one of those kids. I hated the way I looked for a long time. I was the only girl with three big brothers and jumped straight from puffy bows and lace into tomboy rebellion. (Don’t you dare ask me to wear flowers or pink!) 😉 So when I got boobs early, I wore bigger shirts to hide them. I got a haircut thinking bangs would be cool. (Yeah…never a good idea with hair as thick as mine lol.) I can laugh about it in hindsight, but at the time it was embarrassing being the awkward looking girl in my group of friends. My best friends on the flipside, wore the right clothes, learned how to put on makeup and bleach & straighten their hair. They embraced their femininity and all that came with it. I’m positive they struggled just as much as I did with self-image. Still, I was on the chubby side while they seemed so much thinner. The boys we knew always flirted with them and ignored me. For a long time I pretended I didn’t care about it. I was more interested in reading books and writing science fiction stories, or binge watching my favorite 80’s action flicks. I was an artist and a bit of a weirdo embracing the weirdness. While my friends obsessed over boys, I laughed because I grew up around guys. What was the big deal? Secretly though…I crushed hard on some of the same guys they did. Did I breathe a word? Heck no. Girls can be pretty evil when it comes to fighting over boys. Also, who would wanna date me?
For a while I secretly hated myself. I thought everyone would be happier if I just checked out. I used to fantasize about their reactions if I went through with it. But the one and only time I tried to hurt myself, I couldn’t do it. My faith is the biggest reason I never took it a step too far. I was surrounded by family who loved me, led a pretty sheltered childhood and life wasn’t nearly as hard as I thought it was. But you see, when you’re that age, the world kind of is all about you and how you fit into it. Some of us fit in better than others, at least on the surface. Others struggle to be accepted, to feel beautiful. We all care. We all struggle through that period where we struggle to find the right clothes, the right look. We all crave beauty.
A few years past my “awkward phase” I grew a few inches and wasn’t quite as chubby. I slowly tried out styles and tried to not be ashamed of my bigger bust size, or my thicker hips. I didn’t quite figure out makeup or hair until I was a Junior in High School. I was still the funny friend, the quirky one and even though I didn’t feel beautiful all the time, I learned to look for it in the world around me. I learned to smile and to help others laugh and sing, to dance and hope for better things. I’m sure some people thought I was off my rocker, but I was happy.
My friends made their own choices and mistakes and experienced the worst heartache coupled with first loves. So I thought maybe it was okay I was a late bloomer. Maybe it wasn’t so bad to watch my friends date the guys I like, because the older we grew, the less appealing they became. I tended to like older men anyway as it turns out. I couldn’t imagine that one day I’d meet an old soul, just like mine, someone who makes me feel beautiful every day.
I haven’t had a rough life, compared to the suffering I’ve witnessed traveling around the world. It puts a lot in perspective, when we step out of ourselves and our little spheres of influence. The world is a darkly beautiful place with pockets of bright light shining through in imperfect smiles and wrinkled leathery faces, twisted limbs and small acts of kindness. The world is so much bigger than us and my hope and mission in life is to spread as much beauty as I can into it.
I want to use this new feature to talk about beauty in all its forms, either to share my personal experience, or the beauty I see in the world. I would love to hear from y’all about your stories and what you find beautiful today about yourself or in others. Spread the love to those around you.
Remember, sometimes there is no knight in shining armor. Sometimes you have to be your own hero.
Don’t be afraid because you aren’t alone.
And you are stronger than you know.
a few beautiful things
still more beautiful things