What is beauty? I have an image in mind, of a perfectly aligned, aesthetically pleasing face – the nose is small, mouth is generous, and eyes big (and very likely blue). Just seeing the face brings a certain happiness, the way a flower does, or a sunset.

I used to wonder when I saw a beautiful person, what does that FEEL like? To look in a mirror and see perfection, or near-perfection. to see a proportioned nose, radiant skin – to know, “I am beautiful”? My life, I knew, would be okay if I was beautiful.

Bo Derek, when asked, said that it was strange – she didn’t seem to feel as though her “beauty”, which she described as being basically a lucky  mix of the “right” features, was really something of which to be proud. She had no control over her looks, so took no credit.

Of course, as I’ve aged, beauty has taken on new definition, new meaning. While I can still appreciate the aesthetics, I can also see beauty where once  would have seen nothing close to it. A crooked smile, a slightly bent nose, unevenly spaced eyes, no longer preclude beauty. It has surpassed my early definitions and come to mean what is perhaps closer to the truth – beauty has little to do with a specific “look”.

A very dear friend once called me beautiful: It was probably a response to a FB picture, and the word struck me at once.

“Me, beautiful?” It didn’t even sit right, on my mind or tongue. I simply couldn’t look in the mirror and see beauty. It was me, Paula. I am not beautiful, my features don’t line up. And yet, she kept saying it, over and over. Even when a picture seemed horribly revealing of my worst attributes, she seemed to see something else. And, trusting her judgment on so much, I had to take a second look. Was i missing something? There were moments in front of the mirror. I’d talk to myself in there, to her, and the strangest thing happened. Not every time, but every once in a while, I’d look and see beauty. I don’t know if i was channeling my friend, or what, but it suddenly made sense. Paula and beautiful in the same sentence was not crazy.

I believe that, perhaps, some of us are more attuned to seeing beauty. That is, recognizing it beyond the surface and within, rather than without. Things change when we see beauty in action, and not just on the page or in the mirror. There is the beauty of struggle, the awesomeness of people fighting against odds to succeed, or to love. The beauty of innocence, of animals and babies with only the purest of intentions and behavior. The beauty of kindness, of sacrifice. The mother who throws herself in harm’s way to save her child, the firefighter who risks life and limb to save the unnamed person at the top of a burning house. The beauty of people uniting for a common cause, of friendship and growth.

I told my friend that she is a beauty-maker. it is a rare gift, I think – to actually cause things around you to gain beauty by your simple presence and love.

In a perfect world, we would never judge or compare beauty, but celebrate it in its millions of forms. we’d recognize it in a blade of grass, or a book, or in our sister. We’d love that it always looks different, and we’d forget what that thing was that we used to call beautiful. if there is a place beyond this one, our eyes are different, and we are all able to see, like my friend so often does, the beauty beyond what we have been trained to notice. We will be surrounded by beauty and we will know it.


About Paula

I am a brilliant writer with the thoughts of a genius, the habits of a sloth, and the perseverance of an ant. View all posts by Paula

One response to “Beauty

  • daisylee

    “the beauty beyond what we have been trained to notice”. YES! This is key! For some, our tastes in beauty slowly evolve, peak and crest,then trough again to notice where the real beauty lies. Before we know it, we are finding beauty again in the things we used to have and know. We are temporarily distracted by the inconveniences in life that take away from our time to gasp in the moment of sheer beauty. If we ever stop and listen to the response to ” Hi, how are you?”, we may just learn how beautiful someone could be.

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