When it comes to the concept of beauty, I was raised from the neck up as a “smart symbol” and as a result, have always had a disjointed connection to my psychically as a point of entry to celebrate. Growing up, I found beauty in all forms of art including paintings, literature and music as well as through genuinely connecting with people and ideas outside of my general perspective. Beauty was always an experience, never quite a destination. I almost always found beauty particularly striking in two extremes – belly-aching laughter and painstaking vulnerability – expressions and emotions that could never be concealed behind any set of eyes. My confidence came from my intellectual awkwardness and although I had a brief moment during school days where I was teased because I was too tall, too skinny, my lips too big, my eyes too far apart, my gap in my teeth too wide, I never dutifully placed a value in those moments because I lived inside my head and subsequently fought back against my bullies with a heavy dose of humor which ended up neutralizing our relationships.
Beauty never really became a troubling concept as a female until I got older and my body presented a polarizing prism of my experiences. I will never forget being at a bar in college slightly underage with one of my friends who was of Asian decent and an older African-American man who was interested in my friend came up to us trying to strike up a conversation. My friend really didn’t pay him any attention so I was inserted in his brain as the less attractive wing girl he would try to win over in order to get into her good graces. I was in the mood for an adventure so I entertained his company for lack of better humor. He pulled me to the side and said to me, “You will never be considered as attractive as her because of your skin tone.” Naturally someone reading this would think, I hope you threw a drink at this jerk but no I didn’t, I just felt extremely sad for him as well as for the cultural trauma placed on black and brown bodies around the world living under standards of beauty that are simply not meant for us.
We’re all different for a reason and these differences should be celebrated, not homogenized. The tricky thing about beauty is though media outwardly projects physical representations of what should be considered beautiful, when you actually connect with people from every walk of life & race on a basic human level and begin to discuss what actually makes a person beautiful, the most clichéd response that naturally rolls off the tongue is, “beauty is in the eye of the beholder,” as it should be. You experience beauty when you allow yourself to feel everything – both good and bad days despite how left-of-center from the “norm” they appear to be. And if you’re ever feeling beside yourself, just imagine, it took a legacy and deep lineage to create you. The insight that runs through your veins can never be replicated and likewise, we should all strive to leave that same impact in the grace of being ourselves through as many interactions as we have in the world. So, one of my biggest lessons I always like to throw out in the curious case of beauty is: appreciate your point of difference and learn to embrace that it’s okay to not be for everyone because equally not everyone and every situation is right for you and that in itself is the beauty of allowing yourself to be seen.
Photo: Cesarin Mateo