As a young a woman, I thought of beauty in black and white terms – you either had it or you didn’t.
I thought having beauty was everything.
Stealing reflections of myself in every mirror that I passed, I could never decide if I was beautiful.
I’m pretty, I’m not, I’m pretty, I’m not.
It always depended on one foolish thing.
He loves me, he loves me not, he loves me…
Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder, they say, but I put too much stake in the beholder’s opinion.
If I could go back in time, I’d slap my younger self with perspective.
Your pale skin will soon be trendy(ish).
Those boobs may not get bigger, but one day, they’ll make liquid gold for your baby.
You may not have the fullest hair but you can throw away your mousse once you have said baby, cause your hair will never leave a messy bun.
It would have been hard to convince me though.
As an adolescent, I lifted up my black shirts in every bathroom stall to make sure that my stomach was still flat. I was sure that appearance determined ability to be loved, and that being loved decided self-worth.
Then I went to college and studied expressive art. And my definition of beauty began to slowly change.
Packed into black box theaters smelling of sweat and youth, buzzing with creativity and passion, I watched my peers onstage act and sing their way to the truth, telling stories that called for change, that transformed the past and future, and permeated the present with raw beauty.
Sitting in a circle with my classmates clad it black in a dimly lit room in the Flower District, I read and listened to verses of Shakespeare, and was transported to another time. I was amused and moved by vivid characters, rich plots, and important ideas brought to life by magical poetry and prose that sounded just like music.
Sprawled out beneath the starless black sky, on the roof of the tiny fifth-story walkup I shared with my best friends, we gazed out at the skyline and at the busy avenue below brimming with people of all walks of life, not quite believing that this was our life. We contained our excitement with cheap wine and puffed our angst into the night, plumes of smoke rising in the chilly air. New York City was unlike anything we had ever seen, heard, tasted, touched, or smelled. Especially smelled. If you’ve ever walked down the streets on a hot, muggy trash day after a drizzling night, you’ll know exactly what I mean. I miss it more than I can say.
Beauty was not just black and white it seemed – but every shade of gray, and what you least expected.
Beauty could be ugly. Beauty was created. Beauty was everything, just not in the way I thought.
Somewhere along the way, I stopped caring if I was beautiful. I began trying to make beauty instead. Writing is where I found my voice, and it felt nothing like looking in a mirror, but finally being able to see and be seen.
The first time someone told me that something I wrote was “beautiful”, it felt like I was flying, because I had sensed it, too. Beauty is a feeling you can’t know until you land there. It seems to be everywhere, just waiting to be realized.
Finding it requires moving vulnerably inward and bravely outside of yourself. Opening your heart and eyes so wide that you’re scared of what you’ll see.
Beauty is about empathy. And being gentle with ourselves and generous with others and genuine in our expression; I think that’s the real key to unlocking self-worth.
As my son grows, I try to resist the urge to comment so much on his looks (which is difficult, of course, because this child is darn cute). But I know it’s more important to focus on what he can control – what he does, what he makes, how he makes others feel.
That was a beautiful swing of the bat, Cody, and a beautiful finger-painting you’ve crafted. What a beautiful time we are having together making this beautiful mess.