Just Plain Foolish

Just a chance for an old-fashioned, simple storyteller to say what needs to be said.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Beauty and Truth

Just recently, I've been confronted with our society's ideas on beauty. Now, normally, I try to avoid them, because the sameness of it all just depresses me. It's like the way the green areas around my home are being replaced bit by bit with houses that all look the same. Even the residents can't necessarily tell you the difference between their house and the one 2 houses down. ("Um, take a left on Brookedale - but not Brookevale, that's too early - and a right on Brookemere, and then our house is the third brick one. We'll hang out a Halloween flag so you can find it. Look for the lime green flag with the bats..) They all seem to be done in the same tones of grey, beige, and off-white. Blah.

There seems to be no room for wildness, for difference, no room for something beautiful. I mean, just imagine a beautiful Victorian or Edwardian house - doesn't even have to be a big one. I once lived in a smallish house that had 1 bedroom, a small library, an eat-in kitchen and a living room. And a set of very steep and narrow stairs connecting the library and bedroom to the kitchen and living room. The bathroom was on what obviously used to be the back porch. I lived there with 2 other women - one in the library, and one in the living room. And yet, for all the crowdedness of it, the house was beautiful - a little porch out front where we sat when the weather was remotely reasonable for that, a small yard filled with roses, and a gabled roof with gingerbread. The next house down looked completely different, and the one down from that. And their lawns were different, too.

We've bought into this myth that there is only one kind of "nice" to be looking, and even worse, it's the same style being sold all over the country. It's a complete denial: of the stark simplicity and beauty of a New England saltbox, of the lush beauty of roses climbing a wrap around porch, of the quirky beauty of a little house with gazing balls and ceramic animals out front.

Even worse, we turn this single standard thing on our fellow human beings. As though we can't even see the individual beauty we are surrounded with. As though we don't see the beauty of a smile we judge to be less than "perfect". The teeth haven't been bleached to impossible whiteness, or one tooth is tilted, or the face it is in is full, or wrinked, or scarred, or...

I like to draw and to paint, and when I write, or draw, or paint, my heart has to be involved. It's only when I look with both my heart and my eyes that I see something worth drawing, worth painting, worth writing about. And when I've asked someone to model for me, only to get the answer, "No, I'm ugly.", it hurts. It's as though the person is denying that I have seen their beauty at all. My heart aches for them, that they can't see the beauty I'm seeing, and they won't even let me show them what I see. It's like someone looking at the Mona Lisa and saying... "Geez, that's a stupid looking smile." or looking at a Reubens or Titian and talking about how a low carb diet would have done wonders... Because you just know when someone believes that, they've been told it over and over again.

I wish I could somehow convince people to unchain themselves from this oppressive single standard and see the wild beauty around them: the individual and opulant beauty that surrounds us.

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Blogger Little Black Car said...

Working on it, although I find I'm far more forgiving of physical imperfections in everyone else than I am in myself. What looks individualistic on somebody else always seems to be a critical flaw on me. I'm not sure how to get past that.

6/08/2007 2:25 PM  
Blogger Rae Trigg said...

I highly reccommend the book "The Obesity Myth" by Paul Campos - the author is a lawyer and he talks about why our society only sees skinny-as-an-adolescent-boy women as "beautiful" and why the anti-fat nonsense keeps going, and going, and going ...

6/08/2007 6:11 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I second what Canine Diamond said. I'm wrestling with that sort of thing too, especially as I resume gym-going -- I won't be sad if the number on the scale or the clothing tag drops, but I'd rather focus on the Amazonian feeling completing a workout gives me, and the added strength I feel. Tricky to do.

Living in a planned community means EVERY building looks the same. (Or every other building, I should say. Some are a light creamy tannish color and some are a faintly greenish-grey.) Heck, just the other day I nearly pulled into the wrong driveway, and it's been a month since we moved in. *sigh*

The Beloved has very crooked teeth, and has had them most of his life ... his smile is one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen.

6/08/2007 10:22 PM  
Blogger the laughing gypsy said...

Ah, Plain Fool, but you do open the door to wild beauty! In your photos of a single magnolia blossom, petals tossed ascew by rain. With your words recreating scenes and the more elusive beauty of conversation, of thought. Through your being, as you live pureply yourself. Truly, what can we do to evoke real change other than reflect it in ourselves, and recognize it and nurture it in others?

6/09/2007 8:53 AM  
Blogger Plain Foolish said...

What caused me to lose my temper a little bit was editing a huge document primarily concerned with whether railings in a community that has both white and beige fences should match the trim on one part of the identical houses or another part. One resident even said that he couldn't tell the differences between the types of houses involved, which I completely believe. I miss living in a neighborhood where none of the houses match and none of the yards do either.

Then, just as I was getting ready to settle in to some good Molly Ivins essays (I got two of her books secondhand recently, and am enjoying her ascerbic style mightily), I came across one in which she talks about what the woman at the spa said to her about her looks - trying to be complementary, but...

Thanks, everybody.

6/09/2007 1:34 PM  
Blogger Little Black Car said...

Molly Ivins rules. The world is a poorer (and less funny) place for her loss.

6/10/2007 12:55 PM  
Blogger Plain Foolish said...

Oh, amen!

6/11/2007 7:10 AM  

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