Beauty is not superficial

There was a girl in my class at school. Nice to talk to. Easy to get along with. She wasn’t good-looking, not by my reckoning but I couldn’t help feeling drawn to her. Her personality. Her intellect. Her kindness.

There was another girl in that class. In fact there were many but in contrast to the above-mentioned specimen, one in particular was strikingly beautiful. We didn’t get along. At times, let’s call her “the second girl”, was moody. Angry. Her grades were low. She wasn’t kind, based on our interactions.

Was one girl better than the other?

I’ve made this example unfair on the face of it. One girl had several desirable qualities and the other had one. Even so, making such a cutting judgement would be unnecessarily narrow-minded. To understand why, consider the fact that there never has been and probably never will be just one person on the planet.

It’s an unavoidable truth that some people possess certain characteristics while other people possess others. That means there’s no sense in judging people as though some are to be excluded, avoided or aren’t worth emulating. Everyone has something to offer. We’re all cogs in the machine, it’s just that each cog is different.

What about when it comes to choosing a partner? If I, in my adolescence, had been a darn sight more eligible and confident and had been fortunate enough to receive the admiration of both girls, I ask you: who is to say whom I should have picked?

What if I already had a crowd of intelligent friends and a large, close-knit family of generous, caring relatives, all of whom were as ugly as a horse’s ass? The captivating, delightful features of the fairer girl might have complimented me superbly, especially if I were tolerant and could handle her personality, or maybe if I were moody myself and felt at home having arguments every week.

There’s a problem endemic to the way conventional wisdom is sometimes interpreted where beauty is concerned. The belief that it’s only skin-deep. That all that glitters is not gold. That a book should never be judged by its cover. These are wise sayings, if taken with a pinch of salt. The danger is when they are taken as an extreme, literal definition of the hierarchical order of what is important in life. When beauty is somehow seen as a lesser quality. What utter rubbish.

There is no hierarchy. There doesn’t have to be. Some people are so intelligent that they become doctors. They help us live longer. Some people are so kind that they become care workers. They also help us live longer. Some people appreciate beauty so much that they pursue it professionally, creating wonderful films, music, poetry and paintings. They help us want to live longer.

Describing beauty as skin deep is an overly-simplistic view of the human body. The building blocks of Angelina Jolie’s lips reside deep within the same DNA as the hereditary elements of her IQ and kindness.

A person might, if faced with such a dilemma, prefer to spend their time with a kind or intelligent person rather than with a beautiful person but the expression of that preference doesn’t require a judgemental attitude toward others who choose differently.

Beauty need not be degraded or undervalued simply because it is effortless. If effortless joy were intrinsically inferior then we would all spend less time in the sun, demanding only to bask in the artificial glow of dynamo powered sunbeds. Far-fetched though it seems, the image illustrates all too well the dystopian nature of a world where beauty is treated as a secondary characteristic.

The Oxford Dictionaries define beauty as “A combination of qualities, such as shape, colour, or form, that pleases the aesthetic senses, especially the sight”. Nowhere here does it say that beauty is only on the outside, only a runner-up in the genetic lottery. Beauty is not only anything. It is simply a wonderful part of life.