Monday, 11 July 2011

What Is Beauty?

I’ve subscribed to Cosmopolitan since I was 16. Throughout the years, we’ve evolved together, nurturing a similar ‘you go, girl’ style mentality when it comes to love, careers, sex and fashion. Cosmo broadly reflects my personality. I was never cool enough for Vogue, or vacuous enough for [*insert your generic monthly glossy here*], or quite sensible and brooding enough for Psychologies. But I am fun-loving, and vivacious and, to quote my Body Gossip co-Captain Ruth ‘formidable’.

Over the years, Cosmo has provided me with valuable life advice. Probably the choicest nugget of wisdom was “remember your eyebrows are sisters, not twins” (which saved me from the misery and shame of plucking my brows into obscurity trying to match them exactly). I also distinctly remember inviting a red faced and flustered male university lecturer I quite fancied to stroke my fake fur bolero (not a euphemism), which I’d worn to class aged 18 after Cosmo instructed me that men are suckers for tactile fabrics.

The article which will always stay with me, though, was one which I read aged 21. It said that women can always be categorized in one of three ways – pretty, sexy and beautiful.

I immediately allied myself in the sexy camp. With my Amazonian frame, red hair, ridiculous bosom and mixed race heritage, I’ve never been quite conventional, dainty and symmetrical enough to be ‘pretty’ and ‘beautiful’ I’d always assumed was something to be reserved for the Kate Mosses of this World. I therefore reasoned that I must be sexy by default.

Recently, though, I thought about this in more depth. Pretty is easy enough to identify (Gwenyth Paltrow, Thandie Newton, Katherine Heigl). Sexy is also glaringly obvious (Angelina Jolie, Katy Perry, Beyonce). Yet all of the women I’ve just named are also indisputably beautiful. Well, I say indisputably, if the old adage ‘beauty is in the eye of the beholder’ is to be believed, then even that’s not a foregone conclusion.

This led me to further musing about the nature of beauty and how very complex it is. Paradigms of beauty are constantly changing, hence the journey from Marylin Monroe to Size 0. Yet the fact that Marylin Monroe still remains an icon of eternal beauty proves that some beauty paradigms are timeless. Then there’s the veritable myriad which is inner beauty. And I don’t mean this in some kitsch, new age philosophy style way either. When someone has inner beauty you can literally see it in their face. They might not be conventionally attractive but they just look lovely in a way that’s impossible to define and yet totally apparent to everyone that encounters them.

I started to think about my closest female friends:

Belma – 6 foot tall. Size 10-12. Annoyingly model-like physique. High cheekbones. Big Green eyes. Glossy hair she attributes to a love of raw foods (she genuinely loves raw food. It doesn’t make her gag or anything). Looks good in anything from skinny jeans to maxi dresses.

But here is the thing about Belma. She’s undoubtedly classically beautiful. But she’s most beautiful when she laughs. Real, teeth and gums bared, head-thrown-back, no control over her limb-muscles cackling.

Ruth (co-Captain of Body Gossip) – Slender, pale, elfin, cropped hair, funky. Sort of woman that can throw on a man’s shirt and pull it off with utter aplomb. Rarely seen in skirts, never seen in heels.

Now, here’s the thing about Ruth – She shouldn’t be attractive. Everything about the modern beauty paradigm (long hair, fake bosoms, tan, short skirt, sky high heels) tells us that she shouldn’t. But she bloody is. She’s beautiful. And not just because she’s a legend – It’s not even a personality thing. She just works it with her unique, funky self (and I’ve seen men reduced to quivering wrecks as a result thereof).

Karla (my Radio Wife) – Statuesque, almost regal. Black. Muscular without having to try. Amazing legs, epic arse. Unique style (once she wore black and white brogues with pop-socks, a corduroy knee length skirt and a velvet jacket. On me this would like idiotic. On her it looked magnificent).

Again, Karla’s definitely beautiful. She’s the sort of girl who has the confidence to wear odd earrings (one stud one dangly sometimes). She’s also got a marvellously expressive face (for someone with no wrinkles at all) – being able to convey derision, delight, contempt, boredom or joy with the single flick of an eyebrow or the merest of movements in her large, sparkling eyes.

So, here’s what I conclude. Some women are pretty. Some women are sexy. But (sorry Cosmo) they’re all beautiful, and they’re beautiful for the reasons they least expect.

1 comment:

  1. I also identify different beauties..
    You articulated yourself so well here.
    But I see a distinct difference between; beautiful, sexy, pretty, attractive.

    I have no bloody idea where I am, I certainly do not "do" sexy very well, especially when the person behind the camera says, try to be sexy and I just start laughing!!
    But we are all one of them and we are all each beautiful in our own unique and wonderful ways.
    And that is what beauty is.
    It is the uniqueness of the individual.