What I Think of Beauty

Brigitte Bardot in her youth
Brigitte Bardot today

 When I see a woman in her early 20s there's a running thought: You're beautiful; your skin bounces back; your weight resists a Big Mac; your hair grows fast and luscious. I'm not envious, but I'm 10 years out of that period in my life. And I wish I could give her a little lived-in advice: Things change, so don't count on your looks.

As many advances as there are in the beauty industry, the reality is none of them will truly stop time. When I was 24, I got into the best shape of my life. Just as I was savoring all the male attention suddenly thrown at me, something humbling happened. One night I yawned and dislocated my jaw. This led to a four year orthodontic journey in which I lived with a visibly crooked jaw. I had to slowly come to terms that my face had gone a few degrees against the definition of beauty as symmetry.

Our physicality is vulnerable to time, accidents, and countless things beyond on our control. As much as I love beauty products, makeup, and the transformative power of it all, this thought always resides in the back of my mind and keeps me a compassionate person with a sense of humor and self-reflection.

I've lived through all sorts of beauty assessments: All the way through high school, my dark and exotic looks were perceived as ugly to my largely white classmates. I was told this relentlessly. The boys who did like me were too embarrassed to out themselves to their friends. After high school, a few contacted me and told me after-the-fact.

In college and in the years that followed, I grew into my looks more and was in an environment where difference was embraced, not shunned. Suddenly, my looks were largely reviewed positively. Once, a man stopped me on the street and said, "You're the most beautiful girl I've seen today." I joked back, "It's only morning."

One very popular beauty magazine rhapsodizes on living actresses deemed as great beauties of their era. The catch? They only show photos of the actresses in their youth, even though a current photo is entirely possible. This perpetuates the idea that we're only valuable and worth a tribute when we're young and beautiful.

There are perceptions that one who's into makeup and beauty products doesn't understand the deeper meaning of things like character, personality, etc. The two aren't mutually exclusive. Embrace what makes you feel good about yourself. Just keep that enjoyment in check and know there is so much more to you.


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