This is a two part series on Beauty.
I tell my children they’re beautiful all the time. And they are.
To define beauty–especially your children’s beauty–is like asking what color the sky is. Is it blue. Of course. Are my children beautiful? Of course.
But beauty, according to brain study, is more than just about what we see or feel, it’s about how our brain transmits waves our senses.
So if beauty–or our sense of beauty–is such a hard-wired, individual experience, then how do we explain beauty to our children? How do we encourage beauty and a sense of originality as a form of beauty? How do we send the message to our children that they are beautiful even if they might not feel beautiful? Or even if they don’t look perfect the way they see girls and women in the magazines? Of course, we can send our daughters to Rookie Magazine where the only adornment girls wear are rainbow smiley face stickers on their faces. (Now, that would be my choice of a perfect role model role model.)
According to a recent study, if you have low-self esteem–you’re not going to think you’re beautiful compared to your friend no matter how many times your mother says, “You’re gorgeous!” For what it’s worth, I never believed my mother when she told me. “You’re my mother–you’re supposed to say that!”
It doesn’t help that our daughters are exposed to heavily photoshopped images. Have you tried Madonna’s photoshopped daycream? It’s the secret to all of our beauty woes. Though my true feeling is that Madonna, and any other woman, is entitled to her version of how she chooses her face to look–i.e., fillers, fine, get the fillers–because I don’t have a problem with anyone fighting the aging process.
The shaky territory of aging vs. beauty becomes most dangerous when a gorgeous girl like Lindsay Lohan opts for fillers at the age of 25. She “bought” the photoshop cream. The self-esteem is too low on Lindsay’s radar that she can’t go back. She wants more, more, more–and this journey will never be fulfilled.
Laurie Abraham writes about this same struggle in her essay, “Life, Death and Beauty,” wondering what the message her regular dance with Botox sends to her daughters. In the end, she sees it as an ambiguous quest that we wrestle with–that the aging process is simply a normal part of our vain existence that we’ll forever live with.
“Being able to tolerate warring parts of oneself is better than striving for absolute purity of mind and deed. Also: That looking good can bring enjoyment and excitement to your days–and nights–but it also may feel too necessary, like a mandate or a question of survival.”
In the end, I agree with Abraham, and Madonna, who says this without realizing that she’s saying it: Growing old can be terrifying. Would I like the photoshop cream to hide the lines between my brows? Yes, but it doesn’t mean that it gives me any less self worth. This is the constant balance of beauty.