Words by Frou Williams.
Beauty is defined as a combination of qualities, such as shape, colour, or form that pleases the aesthetic senses, especially the sight.
So what makes us beautiful?
And why do we spend so much time of our goddamn lives striving for an ideology of what society deems ‘beautiful’ and not what we in our hearts and in our minds believe to be beautiful?
We tweeze, we pluck, we colour, we straighten, we curl. We sit, we squat, we run, we hurl. We ditch, we dive, we fast, we cut. Not only that, we wax, we shave and there’s always a but. We stare in the mirror for far too long, wishing and scrutinising ourselves over and over again, ‘but’ I could have…(delete as appropriate) longer legs, a smaller nose, bigger lips, thinner legs, more toned arms…the list goes on.
We inject chemicals into our bodies, we take diet pills to make us slimmer, we skip meals, we essentially abuse our bodies in order to attain the most sought after of accolades, which stands proudly there in shining, dazzling lights, ever so slightly out of reach but we continually perpetuate and reinforce the sheer strength of this word or trait and what it means to be ‘beautiful’.
And for what? Does it bring us happiness?
In whatever form you may look at it, be it aesthetically, inner beauty, beauty through art, through food or perhaps beauty merely in the mundane, this notion of beauty has gotten me thinking or should I say slightly curious. Can beauty be universal? And if beauty is truly in the eye of the beholder then why are we so judgemental and brutal to ourselves and one another in the pursuit of an entirely subjective goal?
The saying ‘beauty is in the eye of the beholder’ first appeared around 3rd century BC. Now call me crazy but if the concept of beauty and what it holds bares true, since we’ve been running around this little place we call earth then perhaps there’s something beautifully unifying in how our ancestors may have felt and how indeed our own children and their children’s children may go on to feel. The question is to which degree does this vary from culture to culture? And to what extreme do different cultures and people take their level of pursuit for that all singing, all dancing beauty?
Now you could consider me a girly girl, I love make up and getting dolled up for drinks or a nice dinner with friends as much as the next girl, as you’ll see from numerous pics I’ve posted (I’m sure). I’ve been wearing make-up and obsessing about my looks, weight and general image since the age of about 12. In fact I could probably pinpoint to the very moment where things changed. Going from an all girls school where the only thing on my mind was hockey and netball to starting at a comprehensive where the girls at school were rocking these things called bras. I remember the very day that my mum told me it was time for me to get my own, so she marched me to the nearest Marks & Spencer’s and I was fitted in what can only be described as a napkin. I cried. Literally balled my eyes out.
What was I crying for? My youth? Crying for my barbies that yes I was still playing with and crying because I intrinsically knew that nothing would be the same again. I was no longer a girl. Yes, I got all that from an over shoulder boulder holder. And with that ping of the old bra strap from the boys at said comprehensive, well you knew that if you weren’t on the receiving end of that ‘snap’ you might as well call it quits, your life was over, it was time to move to a cave, admit you were deeply uncool and would probably never have a boyfriend. That, of course, was not the case at all, but to my 12 year old self seemed like a huge freaking deal. The bra, and in particular my napkin bra, was the enemy. This was war. Years of push up bras and chicken fillets ensued.
But who was I really at war with? Myself of course. We waste our time and energy wishing that we could look like the girl (or guy) we saw walking down the street, on the tv, in the gym, or on that youtube video. We live in a permanent state of the grass is greener anywhere but here and convince ourselves that if only we could be the size of the girl on the front of the magazine or have her hair/ her eyes/ her make up/ her nails (you name it, we want it) that we’ll be happy or perhaps more guys and girls will like us. That we’ll fit in. We’ll belong. Is that really what we lament and punish ourselves for, to fit in?
One thing is for certain, we are not alone in our pursuit of this damn universal beauty.
The desire to feel beautiful and to follow trends is nothing new, it’s been going on for centuries. Just take a look at the acceptance of tans as one example. From Queen Elizabeth I’s dedication to being pale right through to women of the 1920s, if you had any sign of a tan then you were considered common, working class and belonged in a field. Nowadays it’s not uncommon to hear women complaining they feel pasty and frumpy without a tan. Even in cloud cuckoo celeb land there are but a few who are brazen enough to hail the pale complexion.
Or let’s look at how Tudor women used to pluck or shave their hairline because having a high forehead was meant to be a sign of intelligence or wisdom. It sounds crazy doesn’t it that someone might make themselves appear to be bald just to look intelligent but let me ask you this, is it any crazier than having silicone implants put in your chest to make you appear more voluptuous?
Beauty trends will always come and go, some more permanent than others so you really have to be sure that you’ve truly thought through any procedure or treatment you are undertaking. I know how I felt in my 19 year old skin to how I feel today at 30 is wildly different and whilst hindsight is a wonderful thing, sometimes it’s just nice to know that you’re not alone in having insecurities or even fat days. Hell, I’m sure even Kate Moss has fat days!
What’s important and surely what should matter most is if you like you. Not the guy you’re snapchatting, not your friends who are all 5ft1 and size 0 while you’re 5ft9 and your mum is still giving you your brothers hand me downs (it happened) but if you can look in the mirror and be happy with what you see and know that we are all together in being imperfectly human then there’s something quite magical about that.