Beauty Is in the Eye of the — Ah, Shut Up!

I have a daughter. When she was born, I wanted her to have a more profound understanding of true beauty. I didn’t want her to be obsessed about her looks. I was going to train her to prioritize kindness and gentleness of spirit. To be the right kind of beautiful, she only needed to be healthy and clean; wear presentable clothes; and think lovely thoughts. I didn’t want her to value herself based on how pretty other people think she is. Physical attraction is culture-based anyway. Often enough, I see foreigners who are smitten by the exotic looks of natives who are not particularly considered attractive by local standards. As the cliché goes, beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

Lofty ideals, right? Yeah, it has been an uphill battle, not altogether helped by the fact that we’re surrounded by people who have dissimilar values. It’s not like I’m a complete ascetic, but I do draw the line at taking hours every day simply to look good and spending a small fortune to stay fashionable. Don’t get me wrong. I know that there are people who live for beauty and fashion, and I’m not about to judge them. I’m not one to force my own ideals on other people. Live and let live and all that schmazz. I just hope that they’re as tolerant of people who are not as particular about their appearance.

This is something that has been a point of debate between my sister and myself for some time now, usually while watching makeover shows, which she loves and I dislike. I simply find disturbing changing somebody’s style because it doesn’t fit with the general idea of “acceptable.” For instance, people who subscribe to the Goth look have the requisite tastes and personalities that go with that choice, so it doesn’t make sense to alter their appearance. If somebody loves loud colors, why must they be forced to wear clothing and accessories in less “tacky” shades? My sister argues that their oddball appearance gives them a harder time to assimilate. Uh, not everybody has the goal of assimilation, thank you very much. She further argues that these quirky characters perceived to be in dire need of a makeover sometime lose their jobs or fail to be taken seriously because of their looks. It’s frustrating, but she has a point. Such is the world.

I’m still not convinced that everybody should fall in with the dictates of fashion. People should be free to express their personality through their appearance. Fortunately, not everyone is beauty- and fashion-obsessed. In fact, I personally am more impressed by the natural beauty that is evident despite an unmade-up face and plainly clothed body.

At the same time, I do realize that it pays to know how to enhance your look with the trimmings of makeup and clothes, but since these are not my usual interests, I’m really fortunate to have a sister whom I can treat as my personal stylist. When she’s not around, I consult the blogged wisdom of the Beauty Banker for guidance and inspiration.

As for my daughter, I wouldn’t really mind if she becomes more interested in beauty and fashion than I am, as long as it remains a healthy interest and she realizes that looks aren’t everything.