Thursday, 2 October 2014

On Beauty Pt. One (or You're all beautiful but it doesn't matter)

In many ways, I hail Christina Aguilera as a modern day bard comparable, say, to the merchants' wife in Chaucer's Tales.

'If you wanna be with me, baybee there's a price to pay, I'm a genie in a bottle, you gotta rub me the right way.'

If you can't see the genius inherent in those lyrics, then you have never heard of the concept of relativity. Or One Direction.

No-one is perfect though. That's why my spirit animal contains a little bit of many people. A smidge of Dolly Parton. A splash of Douglas Adams. A soupcon of Cilla from the Singing Kettle. And Christina has a lot of wisdom hidden inside her assless chaps* but she can't always be right.

'You are beautiful, in every single way. Words can't bring you down'

It's a lovely, if somewhat trite statement. Words can bring me down, actually Xtina. Like the words 'Get off the roof, you are not Dick Van Dyke and this is not sodding Mary Poppins'. But my major issue with it is that it's not right. Oh, it's true, fair enough it's true. You ARE beautiful. Have you seen the way your nose wrinkles, and the curve of your neck and the graceful arch of your foot? The deep puddles of your pupils, the quirk at the side of your mouth, the shiny exuberant fluffiness of your hair? You are beautiful, it's true. But beauty is not truth. And it's not right, because you're so much more. 

Christina, you neglected to mention that it doesn't matter that you're beautiful. We all have this pressing need to appeal visually to everyone around us. And it takes up so much brain space. I recently read this list of thoughts that every 20-something girl apparently has on a daily basis. Go read if you want, though I should warn you, this list will not change your life. Although it might alert you, as it did me, that you are not a twenty-something girl. This came as something of a relief, if I'm honest, allowing me to get properly into my role as 60-something Giant Tortoise, ANYWAY, fully 11 thoughts, that's a third of the list, are dedicated to how fat she is, how many calories are in a thing, or how her hair looks. Let's imagine for a moment that this girl is some sort of technical-psychic wizard and that a goodly portion of people do think like this. People walking around with a third of their brains dedicated to how they look, And these aren't happy fuzzy thoughts either. A huge whack of them are angry, hateful thoughts. The sort of thing that we wouldn't even say to our worst enemy. Because none of us look as good as we want to. As a teenager, in fact, I systematically categorised everything that was wrong with the way I looked. At the end of the autopsy, I was left with one thing that I liked about my appearance. That would be my eyelashes. And I still coat them in mascara, because even my very favourite thing about me wasn't good enough. 

Then I realised that we don't have to live our lives in front of the mirror, or the selfie camera on our phones. We can recognize that we're beautiful, but we're actually also worth a whole lot more than what is written on our faces. That's not you in the mirror. That's a you compressed into two dimensions, with all the spices taken out. And you STILL look good, but why would you judge yourself on a dish without the seasoning?

 And just think of what we could do with all of those thirds of brains! Enough squishy grey matter to build a new Eiffel Tower! Enough neurons to light a path to the moon! Enough thoughts to light up lives and faces everywhere. 

I'll leave you with the words of Diana Vreeland, words that make my soul sing. This is what I want to say to every girl (and every boy too) that comes into this world to do the best they can. But she said it first, and she said it better, so here you go: 

"You don't owe prettiness to anyone. Not to your boyfriend/spouse/partner, not to your co-workers, especially not to random men on the street. You don't owe it to your mother, you don't owe it to your children, you don't owe it to civilization in general. Prettiness is not a rent you pay for occupying a space marked 'female'."

Hey Christina, I've got a theme for your comeback song...

*in itself irrefutable proof of wisdom. Anyone who can keep a whole persona tied together with thin bits of leather is clearly some sort of conjurer. Derren Brown eat your well-tailored suit out.

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