THE STRANGENESS OF BEAUTY

IMAGE BY : CAREY FRUTH

I got a call from a friend yesterday to be a judge on a local beauty contest. It was a pretty last minute request and I am sure I wasn’t the first choice.

On the list of things that I dislike, beauty contests and talent shows for kids appear somewhere in the top ten. Nevertheless, coming from a dear friend on a not-so-hectic Tuesday evening, I couldn’t say no.

Moreover, when you are staring at the deep end of thirties with thirteen years of a committed relationship record, any close encounter with so many young members of the opposite sex is nothing short of a miracle.

I attended, sat with my fellow judges, ticked some boxes, looked at the competing girls, their faces, their bodies, their clothes, their catwalks, listened to them, introducing themselves, I objectified my fellow humans, wasting two hours of my life that I am never going to get back.

Driving home, I reflected on the concept of beauty, specifically, feminine beauty. Not the definition of external beauty or the sorry-excuse-of-a-concept called internal beauty.

But, what lies in beauty, its strangeness and the very idea of finding something beautiful?

Let’s just go back a bit to annihilate the inherently flawed concept of beauty contests first. Thanks to Wikipedia, now I know that the first recorded beauty contest was held in 1839 during the Eglinton Tournament, where Georgiana Seymour, Duchess of Somerset was crowned the ‘Queen of Beauty’. Yes, trust the ‘most beautiful people’ in the world who enjoy exactly five days of clear sky each year to admire their country’s natural beauty, to give the world an idea as stiff as their upper lip.

Nevertheless, the idea caught fancy of the rich, bored and pot bellied old men across the world mushrooming into a multi-billion dollar industry.

Now, thanks to this concept, the beauty industry and the tremendous pressure put on girls by popular media, the idea of female beauty has galvanised into one word, SEXY!

Beauty is also at times, defined as, what lies in the eyes of the beholder, and the beholder, more often than not is a man. As like most other skewed concepts, including but not limited to religion, politics and capitalism, the definition of beauty also has a male outlook. We have made it so acceptable that even when a woman talks about beauty with respect to another woman, she subconsciously looks for attributes desirable to a man.

So, what is beauty, if not just physical or appealing to the male eye?

Its a concoction of an idea, its somewhat arbitrary, a description which should always be accompanied with, “conditions apply”.

Beauty is inherently a quality that gives a higher value to the person who perceives it. The lazy look my dog gives, stretched out on his stomach, wagging his tail when I enter home late at night is extremely beautiful to me. The scars on my lovers’ body that only I am privy to, are innately beautiful as they give value to our relationship.

Beauty has to be eternally strange yet conventional. Talking of the physical aspects of feminine beauty, I may find a husky voice on a petite girl, green eyes with a dusky skin or just the simplicity of girl, whose face I couldn’t see, folded into the pages of a book, she was reading on a crowded train, extremely beautiful.

It doesn’t have shape, size or definition; it’s transient depending on the beholder’s environment, her mental state and her necessities.

Beauty is a shape-shifting concept, one that can’t be defined through a single narrative and definitely not through a pageant.

It is something that speaks to your imagination.

I can’t even fathom to define beauty in its all-encompassing vastness through a six hundred word article.

Sometimes, an opposing idea comes up with a better definition, like in the words of Emerson, “The secret of ugliness consists not in irregularity, but in being uninteresting.”

May be we should stop defining beauty, especially feminine beauty and definitely stop judging from across a dais, those innately beautiful people whose beauty adds value to someone’s life in more ways than we could capture on a twenty-point assessment sheet.

— Dedicated to the beauties staring from the other side of the screen.

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