Beauty: Misunderstood

Sometimes it’s nice to be comfortably in the age of adults. Sometimes it’s enough to forget some teenage year struggles and social awkwardness. I think as much as I might have struggled at that time, I also had fun with it. I found reasonable ways to push the perimeters and made my life a questioning statement about the “set rules” of life. …of the good life of good Christian living.

One of my strange joys of my teenage years was to hunt through thrift stores to find odd & old patterns on shirts and dresses that seemingly no one else would want and attempt to wear them. Sorry I didn’t take the time to find these old pictures for today, but I can say that there was plenty of things which my mom said looked like the 1960s that were my favorite.

Confession: At that time this had less to do with my actual love of the retro style and more to do with buffeting the system, even though it was a very tiny protest at that.

Now I’ll also say that the retro style is an acquired taste that really grows on you (in my opinion), and I don’t doubt that I generally love it more today than I did back then. Although I am particular about which retro-styles I like. However, I bring it up not to discuss styles, but actually to talk a little about beauty.

In my teenage years, I had read the saying “Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder” and another one that says, “Beauty is more than skin deep”   and it’s these kinds of things make me wonder what could be done to test and/or prove this.

For most of my young life I was told that I was pretty or cute or beautiful as a baby and toddler, and I enjoyed the pure attention and admiration. But I remember I wasn’t more than 3rd or 4th grade before these kinds of saying become tainted. Suddenly it wasn’t just a compliment on its own, but now it was a sort of testing of waters. Now when it was said it had something to do with “boyfriends” or “fighting off the boys” or if it was a boy of similar age it was expected that I might compliment him back. But What for?  I didn’t understand this change. Neither did I enjoy this change, because it seemed to make “beauty” ugly and cheap. Now I had to be guarded against even compliments, which were once good things.

What kind of beauty is it that allows one person to look at another person as a object to use for their own gratification? How is that even considered connected to beauty at all? My conclusion was this had nothing to do with me or my beauty, but the distorted vices of the hearts of those who would pay such nullifying compliments. But yet the guardedness and insecurity of such changes would stick with me a long time into my future.

So low and behold, as my teenage years rolled around, I was ready to put to the test these ideas of what was beauty, and how far could someone claim something to be beautiful before it was ugly or undesirable …or just too strange. And thus began my adventures in my own clothing styles.
Imagine a reasonably smart, good humored, young girl wearing multi-colored paisley shirts, embroidered jeans, modesty-conscious, crazy fun hair styles, and not too particularly concerned with any one’s great opinion or stares.  …then we’re getting closer to what I might have been during that time.

Yet not matter how ugly my shirt or crazy retro my dresses or odd my hair might be, I still had compliments …less, yes, but still compliments. I did notice people were general less bold now. Something about my new fashion sense made people a little more aloof, which I was totally ok with, and those who did still mention it just labeled it as my particular style or me being me. But in the end, it’s just clothes and external expressions. How many people noticed my heart? Or my struggles? Or my joy? Or how many noticed when I was usually quiet? Probably less than a few.

That thing which we call beauty, isn’t usually about beauty at all. External changes in clothes, hair, makeup, accessories, or lack there of  in any of these, isn’t really the display of more or less beauty. Maybe it cries out for more or less attention or expression of some happening internally, but not so much beauty.

Most of the time during my teenage years, I wouldn’t actually have thought myself beautiful. People say there’s a lot of conflicting messages in the media and in children’s toys & dolls and role models, but I’m not sure those are things to blame. Some where, at very young age, we have the wrong idea of what beauty is and where we see it. I’d heard beauty is more than skin deep and that beauty is in the eyes of the beholder, but what was the likelihood of discovering such truths in our modern day life?

I think at some point I must have discovered something about beauty which wasn’t so much told to me or explained out loud. At some point I realized what we look like doesn’t have a lot to do with beauty. What we look like has a lot to do with self-image. Beauty, however, is seen when we notice the details of someone’s character or heart or beliefs, or in showing respect to other living beings. Sometimes beauty is discovered when we take on the ugly and learn what it is to be little more lowly but still have joy and pride in life.

I remember looking at a picture of my mom, who rarely truly considers herself beauty, and in this one photo I was looking at she had wrinkles and her glasses weren’t not exactly straight and she had a meek smile. As I consider the photo, I remember thinking how beautiful she was. I thought about how she might look at the imperfections in the photo and not think too much of it, but I remember also being captured with how beautiful she really, really did look. Wrinkles are bound to come. Glasses sometimes don’t sit straight. Smiles sometimes get captured in that halfway position when a photo is taken. …but so what? Certainly such tiny things don’t define beauty.
What my mom may not notice is that she has a perfect diamond shape face that allows her to look great in almost any type of glasses, beautiful innocent brown eyes, thick full rich hair, and Love in heart that is always conveyed no matter what kind of smile. She’s beautiful.

It took me a while to understand beauty for myself, and it’s taken me a little bit beyond that to understand that many people don’t even consider what words actually mean. Often we have our associations with this word or that word, and that’s it. There’s no more defining or consideration or thought. …and that’s a shame.  There’s many consideration-worthy things in this life. There’s many joys to be found, and lessons to be learned. There’s healing to be obtained.
And for me, I know I am here today, so I might as well do something with myself, besides just nodding my head at others opinions. I have some time and I’m still breathing, so maybe I could try something more adventurous. Maybe a long the way I’ll discover things that well help this world make a little more sense to me …or even help someone else.

Today beauty. Tomorrow…?

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