Friday, April 30, 2010

Beauty is a Battlefield

Recently, I began digging up some of my better older blog posts and publishing them on DivineCaroline. The best-received one, called "I was Never Ugly" was picked up for their front page for about a week, and talks about how, after looking through photos of myself as a kid and teenager, I realized that the belief I had always had that I was ugly was never true.

I just read this blog post on a photographer who is focusing his efforts (ha!) on highlighting peoples' differences in an attempt to point out the inherent beauty in those differences. I applaude this project and others like them that points out the Big Media Lie that we all must look like Barbie and Ken Zombies in order to be considered beautfiul.

Think about it: Do you know anyone who doesn't flinch when they see a photo of themselves?

Returning from a wonderful beach vacation a couple of days ago, I had the experience of viewing about twenty photos of myself in a swimsuit, taken while I was cavorting on the beach. My companion, a former photojournalist, was simply having too much fun to put the camera down, so I got to see myself in all sorts of ways that would make most women squirm, cry, or hide their heads under a blanket. And I was tempted, believe me. I had to keep asking him "Do I really look that chunky?" and he kept reassuring me of that old cliche that the camera puts on 20 lbs. I don't know if that's strictly true, but I choose to believe him because the alternative is that I need to do something about my diet (gasp!)

I saw myself in mid-stumble, sunburned, with a huge zit coming out on one side of my face; saw myself with flabby thighs and chicken wings, a really weird sunburn line on my back, and with my lips pursed in that way that I do that really doesn't look good, with one tooth sort of halfway poking out from behind one lip. I saw my craggy face from years of acne, my belly from enjoying cheese and cocktails too much (especially on vacation!), and with my eyes squinting in the sun.

But I also saw my huge laugh and my wide eyes that matched the color of the sea, I saw myself embodying true pleasure and enjoyment in the ocean, laughing as I danced with the waves, saw myself searching for shells like a little girl, saw myself playful, carefree, and sun-, wind- and ocean-blown.

In my earlier blog post I talked about rewriting my inner belief that I've always carried with me, that I'm ugly, and thus unloveable. As I continue to struggle with that old belief along with others about being too weird and insane (fed to me by too many self-help books and a culture and boyfriends who gave me the message that deeply felt emotions and having emotional needs are a sign of instability), I realize that it's not that one or the other story is true. It's that they all are. We are all ugly. And unbelievably gorgeous. We're all unstable and messed up. And wonderfully loving, sane, balanced, and good.

Maybe part of the struggle that so many of us experience is in this idea that we should NEVER be less attractive than at other times. That we should NEVER make mistakes, stumble, get upset, or make demands. Perhaps the problematic belief is that we are not allowed to be imperfect. But perhaps the imperfection IS the beauty.


Athena Grace said...

Here, here! I'll drink to all of it! Thank you for courageously sharing yourself. You certainly speak for me... and I'd venture a few other women out there... Keep it comin' sistah!

Dan said...

This goes for men and woman alike. Great introspective comments. You are REAL and keep it that way. Welcome home M.

Honey B said...


Who is that hottie on the beach? I see your soul maturing, and I am so happy for you. You are beautiful, even when you're not feeling it, shining and beaming to all of us out here reading you.

Be the love that you are


Honey B said...

Great, my muse hacked my Blogger account ;-P