Saturday, April 7

So the topic this week is beauty, and after two wonderful, thought-provoking posts from Lauren and Erica, I debated a lot about what to write. For a while, I was totally sold on doing something on the science of beauty, because I'm a cognitive science person, and there's a lot to say about how humans are wired to view certain things as beautiful. And then, I thought I'd go completely the opposite direction, and blog about what society tells us is beautiful. I fully intended to link to this entry on the Go Fug Yourself website, because I think it's dead on about the mixed messages Hollywood sends out about body image. But at the end of the day, I decided I didn't want to blog about what society says is beautiful, or what our brains tell us is beautiful. I wanted to blog about what I think is beautiful, because the other definitions of beauty are out there- everywhere- and I'd much rather use this space to talk about what we think is beautiful than anything else.

So what and who do I think of when I think of beauty? I thought about this for a long time, and ultimately, I realized that one of the problems I have with "beautiful" these days, is that whenever I look at pictures of models- especially high fashion models- their faces are just completely blank. Back when I was modeling, photographers would actually try to coax this expression out of you. "Less of a smile. Give me less of a smile. No. I can still see you smiling. The edges of your mouth are still tilting up. I want soft lips. Give me soft lips, soft lips..." That carefully blank expression is hard won (especially for those of us who LIKE to smile), but when I think about what's really beautiful to me, all of the images in my mind have one thing in common: emotion.

I think my mom is beautiful. Her whole face lights up when she smiles, and whenever I look at her, I can see the way she's looked each time she's hugged me and loved me and taken care of me when I was sick.

I think people are beautiful when they're so happy they cry, even if their faces get all blotchy because of the tears.

I think babies are beautiful when they smile, even though I normally think babies are kind of weird looking.

And even though this may sound kind of weird, when I'm watching television, I'm always struck by how much more beautiful I think most characters are when they're angry or sad than when they just sort of are.

Beauty isn't cold, distant, blank, or unchanging. I guess for me, beauty isn't so much about a person's features as it is about what they do with them. So what do YOU think is beautiful?


Lauren Baratz-Logsted said...

Hmm...I think it's beautiful that I bought a copy of Golden last week and it's now in my TBR stack!

Wendy Toliver said...

Wow, what a great post, Jennifer. Beauty is such a fun topic because there are so many ways to look at it. I think for me, it's what is natural.

There's a certain writing contest where the finalists have to submit a picture of themselves, and the finalists (who are all women) have been discussing and posting their pictures for the others to see. Knowing your face is going to be blown up to some ridiculously huge size for all of your colleagues to see (read: scrutinize) is enough to make anyone neurotic. Some of the women chose to go the Glamor Shots route, while others asked their significant other to snap some photos in the backyard. I bet you can guess which photos I like best.

Sure, there's a lot less makeup and hairspray and though some still Photoshopped the pix, there's less touching up. The result is something much more natural. But moreover, I think those who had someone special snap the shots look more comfortable and happier, and perhaps more confident, (as Erica pointed out in the previous post), and these emotions bring out their inner beauty for all to see.

Kelly Parra said...

Yes, expressions and feelings can make someone beautiful! Great post, Jennifer. Maybe there is something to be said about beauty being in the eye of the beholder. :) :)