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The Definition of Beauty

A few weeks ago I awoke feeling really good. As I throw the covers off me I spring out of bed saying aloud “it’s a GREAT DAY.” Chance looked at me with one eyebrow raised and let out a “huff” as he shifted on his side of the bed. His annoyance at my vocalization of happiness at 6 AM made me smile as I skipped off to make myself a cup of espresso (like I need caffeine at this point) to jumpstart my morning routine. Showered and teeth brushed I saunter into my closet and looked for something to match my “peppy” feeling. As I sang a few verses from “Favorite Things” Chance started to howl which was my cue to sing lower before I get a call from the front desk complaining about the cacophony coming from my apartment at 6:30 AM. So, I sang albeit off key “when the dog bites and the bee stings, when I’m feeling sad, I simply remember my favorite things and I don’t feel so bad” as I picked through a sea of dark colored dresses (a clear indication that I’m a New Yorker). I stopped when my hands came across a yellow sleeveless eyelet drop waist dress with a coral belt. I smiled as I pulled it from the rack and made a beeline to the nude platform pumps sitting on the shelf near the back. It definitely was going to be a great day. As I hurried back to the bathroom to curl my hair and put on “my face” I stopped and looked at myself in the mirror and said “love starts with me..and I love the person looking back at me.” Giggling I picked up the curling iron and got to work on taming the shrew atop my head.

Chance was now wide awake because of the commotion being made as I packed my bag. The challenges with being stylish and carrying a mini office always collide when stuffing a laptop and office accessories into a bag clearly not meant for hauling anything bigger than a compact and a smartphone.

So, after working up a small sweat getting everything I needed into my “bag,” I fan myself as I feed Chance and rinse out my coffee mug. Before tucking Chance back into bed I double check to make sure that I have everything to conquer my day. With Chance now tucked into bed (with pillows and all) I grab my office-in-a-bag and head for the subway. It’s always a good day when you have your cute swagger on, it’s not raining and you’re not sweating within 60 seconds of leaving your apartment. Singing, to myself, I made it to the subway station in good time.

As I happily make my decent down the subway stairs the sign flashes that an express train is 1 minute away. SWEET! I swipe my MetroCard and get myself into prime pole position on the platform. Train arrives and it’s not packed. When the train stops the doors open right in front of me. NICE!  I enter the train without incident – meaning no shoving or being run over by unwieldy operators of baby carriages and suitcases and low and behold there are seats. Ok, this is like the trifecta of train riding goodness. I make a mental note to myself to play Lotto.

Still feeling good and now quite relieved, I make my way to an open seat that is clean and not situated near a smelly, unstable person. Hey, I’m not trying to be mean or anything but subway riding is an adventure because you never know what you are going to walk into. A homeless person who has made the subway car their home. The unstable man who proceeds to bath with a bottle of Dr. Pepper. Yes I’ve seen that. A woman who sneezes and then proceeds to scream at the top of her lungs and pound her head. OK, I digress. Settling back into the seat, I take a deep breath and look around the train. It’s the normal AM work/going to school crowd. My glance moves from faces to what people are reading and my mood changes. I notice that most men are reading The Financial Times or New York Times while women are reading gossip magazines with over photo-shopped women on the covers. A woman wearing an ill-fitting but “in” suit is devouring People Magazine which has “crowned” Gwyneth Paltrow the world’s most beautiful woman.

Really…in the world? I’m not going to say that she’s not an attractive woman. Clearly she is. But this just rubs me the wrong way because she doesn’t look like a woman who “represents” world beauty. What I mean is she was crowned by a magazine that perpetuates the vacuousness of Hollywood. The superficial, the self-promoting, the self-loathing. The ugliness of what happens when some form of talent (baseless, good or bad), fame and low self-esteem come crashing together.  As I look at the woman who is intensely reading her People Magazine I see someone who is misguided about style and desperately trying to match what’s inside the pages. She believes by wearing ill-fitting styles for her body type and make-up which doesn’t complement her bone structure or facial features will make her fit into mainstream’s definition of beauty. It’s not hard to see why women and young girls have a hard time loving themselves for who they are when they fail at recreating the unrealistic definition of beauty as outlined in gossip and fashion magazines promoted by mass media.

Women today regardless of color have a hard time “matching up” to what mainstream media deems beautiful. Essence Magazine dedicated an entire issue to women’s body image and being healthy at any size. Within there was a survey conducted of 2,500 African American women which found that only 25% “love who and what they see when they look in mirror.” How sad is that? We, as a people, must move past the physicality of the definition of beauty or what advertisers and mainstream media deem beautiful. Healthy human beings are those who love themselves for who they are not what they look like. Beauty is not a look it’s a feeling. It’s inspiring. It’s empowering. A beautiful being is ageless and sexless. Nelson Mandela is a beautiful person, so is Mother Theresa. Personally, I think my dog is beautiful. Why? Because beauty is not the color of someone’s eyes, the length of their legs, texture of their hair, size of their breasts or curve of their hips. A beautiful being is one who thinks in a way that makes the world a better place just for them being in it. A beautiful being is one who emanates a glow when they see someone they love or talks about something they are passionate about. A beautiful being is one who has the uncanny ability to make another being feel better even when they are not. A beautiful being is not based on something as temporary and subjective as looks. The most beautiful being radiates beauty outward in the form of a smile, a shoulder, active listening, a hug or a tail wag.

As I sit on the train looking at the woman sitting across from me, a tear comes to my eye because I see a beautiful woman hidden under all of the misguidedness of style. Again, I glance at the cover where Gwyneth Paltrow is named the world’s most beautiful woman and shake my head in disgust. Is she? No, at least not by my definition of beauty. She’s probably a good human being who has beautiful attributes but she is not one I would want young women across the world to idolize and view as a role model of beautiful. My hope is that women of all ages focus on what true beauty is and it has absolutely nothing to do with being the right size or having the best hair or flawless skin. As the subway car approaches my stop I look back at the woman reading the magazine hoping to catch her attention enough to give her a smile to let her know that I think she is beautiful and the beauty she desperately seeks is already there. The beauty she’s looking for won’t be found in the pages of the magazine she probably has a subscription to; it comes deep from her soul and radiates outward starting with person looking back at her in the mirror

1 Comment to The Definition of Beauty

  1. Jeff

    This is a great perspective on an important issue. It’s hard to stay focused on yourself and confident in how you’re living your life when the mainstream media holds up absurd ideals. Your “believe in yourself” message is reassuring and well put!

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