Beauty is something made up of several components, and it can be truthfully said that someone is beautiful when they qualify on only one level. Because of these several components, we fight about what beauty is instead of being honest.
Beauty, on the physical level, consists of health, youth, fertility and wealth. If you see a young, healthy woman who has had money all her life, chances are that she’s beautiful. Good bone structure is helpful, of course.
Fertility and health means that she has a good hip to waist ratio, shiny hair, clear skin, bright eyes, energy. Youth is likely to impart a flat tummy, firm breasts, and impacts the brightness of the eyes, hair, skin, teeth. Yes, young people – you are beautiful.
Wealth means that she’s had good nutrition her whole life, so again skin, hair, teeth, eyes – they’re in good condition. It means that she’s been well-educated and has been offered opportunities to learn charm and grace and poise. It means that her teeth are straight (braces) and she’s been shoved into some sort of athletic pursuit (soccer to ballet – classes aren’t free), so her muscles are taut. Wealth gives her clothes in good repair, and insulates her from many of life’s unpleasantnesses.
Can we be honest, amongst ourselves? This is *desirable*. If you have a daughter, this is what you want for her. If you’re looking for a mate, all these things signal the very best genetic potential for your children… which is why this combination is attractive. And who doesn’t find wealth attractive? Let’s be real.
And this list is what older women try to hold onto. Skin and hair and teeth and eyes – they fade with age. We put in highlights or dye over our grey, we exfoliate and dust ourselves with brighteners. We stick our teeth in trays of bleach. The key to understanding what we’re doing and why we’re doing it – and what we can reasonably expect as a result – forms the line between maintenance and insanity. (Those lip injections fool no one – you don’t have lips as full as you did when you were 20, they’ve just moved your inner lip outside. And it’s not shaped like a real lip. Botox… well, there are few who can do it, but more who over do it and make them look like a chariacture of themselves, like they’re wearing a mask – see type 2 beauty).
And while this sort of beauty is how we judge Miss America, there is another sort of beauty entirely. That beauty is the beauty of a lovely soul. When you see an elderly lady exuding kindness, you exclaim, “How beautiful!” and it doesn’t occur to you to take into account her wrinkles or grey hair.
There is the beauty of energy and exuberance and courage and joie de vivre. When you see someone whose health (either genetically or situationally) is poor, and yet they persevere and bring brightness to the world, you call them beautiful.
This is the beauty that we all possess, and the beauty I want to encourage you to share with the world. This is why you need to know yourself, to reveal yourself, to inhabit your own skin.
The lack of this animation, this self, is why corpses don’t look like the people they used to be. That’s why we must be careful, when pursuing physical signs of beauty, not to allow ourselves to become masked. Scrub your face and put on a little foundation if you need it. Don’t freeze your face with chemicals and hide your light under pancake makeup. Laugh! Play! Smile!
Our looks don’t stay the same forever. But in exchange for the bloom of youth, a woman’s face becomes the face that she deserves, showing forth her character more clearly with every passing year. Embrace the part of the path you are on right now, looking neither before nor behind. Beauty is a many-splendored thing.