What Is Beauty?

In case you’re wondering, this is not a review of the movie Collateral Beauty, starring Will Smith, nor a review of Beauty and the Beast, starring Emma Watson. Neither was the catalyst for this post, though each has beauty in the title. I’ll tell you what was in a minute. (Oddly enough, I mused about this subject four years ago. You can find that post here.)

   

I sat down with Lippy Lulu, Beauty Guru, to ask her opinion on the question, “What is beauty?” Before you ask, I didn’t give her that name. You can thank Moose Toys for that. She came with tiny lipsticks, a makeup case with brushes, and an eyeshadow array.

    

“Are you asking for a makeover?” she asked, as she reached for her makeup kit.

“Um no. Just want to know what you thought of beauty. What is beauty?”

She didn’t have an answer. And I shouldn’t have expected one from someone who makes her home on my desk.

In a BBC.com article, “The Myth of Universal Beauty,” author David Robson posted the question, “Do standards of beauty change over time?”

At first, I thought about writing a post about his findings, which you can discover for yourself if you click here. But I soon discovered that I wasn’t so much interested in the prevailing standards of beauty as I was in wanting to feel secure within myself if I don’t fit those standards. So, only one statement in the article really resonated with me:

The deeper you look, the harder it is to define beauty.

Ain’t that the truth?

The catalyst for today’s post was my discovery that an acquaintance (let’s call her Sue; not her real name though) was soon to undergo a double mastectomy because of breast cancer. This happened in the same week that a friend (I’ll call her Amy; not her real name either) had a biopsy. I mentioned that in my last post.

Throughout our lives, starting in childhood (Lippy Lulu is a child’s toy after all), we see various images or hear opinions about beauty, particularly what’s beautiful about a woman. Makeup ads advise women to accent their best features through various products. But when you’re a woman faced with the loss of something that is a fundamental part of being a woman, you can’t help pondering the whole subjective notion of beauty and why a paradigm shift might be needed.

When faced with the prospect of having a mastectomy like Sue, Amy asked her husband how he would feel if she had to face that loss. He said, “I’ll take you as you are, no matter what.”

Now, that’s beauty.

Robson, David. “The Myth of Universal Beauty.” BBC Future/BBC News. BBC, 23 June 2015. Web. 07 May 2017.

Collateral Beauty poster from blackfilm.com. Beauty and the Beast poster from impawards.com. Other photos by L. Marie. Lippy Lulu Shopkins™ Shoppie doll by Moose Toys.

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32 thoughts on “What Is Beauty?

  1. Sometimes I wonder if we try to hard to define beauty. It’s different for everyone, so you’ll always get a different answer. Although, it is true that beauty is a business, especially in our culture. We have signs everywhere telling us how to become more attractive or simply stave off the ‘horrible’ effects of aging. It’s definitely aimed more at women, but guys have their anti-graying, anti-balding, get some muscles, etc. stuff out there.

  2. I always think it’s quite sad the drive we seem to have, especially when we’re young, to chase some image of physical beauty, both in ourselves and in potential partners. Because none of us are going to go on looking quite that beautiful for ever, so if that’s all we love or are loved for, then Houston, we have a problem! Witness all the rich middle aged men constantly trading their ageing spouses in for new Barbie models. I think your friend’s husband has it right – a person’s beauty has nothing to do with their body…

    • You are so right, FF! I’ve seen that too often, even in poor dudes who trade spouses in for younger models. And some women do the same. As if the clock will stop for us just because we’ve dumped someone our age. 😦

  3. Amy is a lucky woman to have such a loving husband. I’ve always thought of beauty as what’s within a person, not the outer shell. Some of the most beautiful people are downright ugly.

  4. I tried to touch on the concept of beauty in my last WiP because the boyfriend wasn’t handsome in a traditional sense. He had acne which got worse when he was under stress. But the beta readers all said to take that out or downplay it and I did. There are occasional references as my protagonist realizes that beauty is what’s inside (and the dear boy really is under a lot of stress).

    • Did your beta readers give a reason for their feedback? Were they afraid readers would be turned off? I have a character who is not traditionally handsome. I didn’t want him to be. I don’t think every guy has to be. I love the theme of inner beauty.

  5. Such a huge topic…but I’ll posit, just because a person is perceived of as ‘ugly’ in whatever stereotypical context society deems (old and wrinkled, fat and sloppy, pimply, mishapen head, etc) doesn’t necessarily mean they have cultivated a ‘beautiful’ inner spirit. Just as ‘beautiful’ people can be ‘ugly’ inside, so ‘ugly’ humans can also be ‘ugly’ inside.

    And of course there’s always the fact that qualities of ‘beauty’ change in different times and cultures. An easy one to reference is that of the large & bold type of ladies depicted in many a (Baroque era) Rubens painting – a coveted ‘look’ for the day (with clothes on, tho!!!) But for the 21st century American female????

    And as for your friend’s hubby – I’d say he’s a keeper…

    • Very true, Laura. Rubenesque was the style of beauty back in the day. Also, looking at actresses in films from the 30s and 40s, you see a difference. And how true. Bitterness of spirit can taint a person. I’ve been down that road, and have been truly ugly on the inside.

      Yes, Amy’s husband is. I’m glad to know them both. 🙂

  6. As often happens when reading your words, I am giggling at your interactions with Lippy Lulu :), then, reacting more soberly at Amy’s husband’s beautiful response.
    I’m currently dealing with two loved ones who are experiencing quite different, disfiguring, threatening medical challenges. Both are beautiful right down to their souls. My heart sings when I hear someone say to either of them, you look beautiful/handsome. It honors these brave souls, and it also says a lot of those who say them.

    • Will add my prayers for your loved ones, Penny. Life can be so difficult sometimes. I’m grateful for the affirmation they have received from others.

      When I was a kid, I only knew one person who had had breast cancer. Now I know too many people who have had it or other forms of cancer. 😦

      I’m glad I could add a few giggles to your day. 🙂

  7. As John Keats said: “Beauty is truth, truth beauty,—that is all
    Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.”

    I don’t know exactly what he means, but beauty and truth are both huge concepts–like love and God. And in reference to a woman’s beauty, it reminds us that authentic beauty is best. Beauty without plastic surgery or excessive makeup. Looking one’s age is truth. And when one loses a breast in service of life and health, that is also the truth of that woman’s life.

    Reading your post made me think that our goal should be to expand our concept of beauty and our appreciation of it. Women’s magazines often do the opposite. They narrow our vision to the point that only the MOST beautiful is acceptable.

    This weekend I stopped into the Disney Store with my grand nephew. The “Beauty” doll for Beauty and the Beast was disappointingly unattractive. Oh, well!

    • Amen to that, Nicki! We definitely need expansion. It starts with knowing what’s true about ourselves, particularly our attitudes.

      Magazine covers are so airbrushed, the people on them often look fake.

  8. This is a question that we need to reflect on from time to time.

    No doubt that we are affected by externals and subconsciously swayed by what our society defines as beauty, which changes from season to season, but this is what the human heart craves for: “He said, “I’ll take you as you are, no matter what.” Unconditional love and acceptance. We spend most of our lives looking for it in the wrong places: magazines and people like Lippy Lulu. 🙂

    Godspeed to your friends in this difficult time.

    • Thank you, Timi.
      Unconditional love is definitely what we crave. You’re so right. We look in all the wrong places. Sadly, I have done this for many years.
      Thank you for stopping by! Glad to see you too!

  9. I just stumbled onto your blog and found this post. I had to schedule surgery today to remove a lump in my breast. It’s benign – thank God – but the doctor told me the surgery will leave a pretty big scar and because of the removed tissue I’ll have a sunken in breast. I almost cried because I felt like it would make my body ugly. Thanks for reminding me that that’s not what’s important. I’m lucky to have a husband who loves me no matter what, too. ❤

    • I’m glad it’s benign, Hailey. A friend of mine is going through that too. I’m grateful you have a husband who loves you as you are. Thoughts and prayers are with you in the coming days.

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