The life of a woman is one of comparison -- constant and critical comparison. We look at other women on the subway, the street, across the bar, wherever, and we wish we could look like her, have her hair, her lips, her legs. We wish we had her symmetrical face, or just those arms, slender and long. We wish we looked like her because our life would be different, better, if we looked like her.
We stare across magazine covers, bus station ads, shampoo commercials, forced to believe that these women, these media-bred creations with flawless skin, hair and abnormally white teeth are the definition of beauty, and everyone else is just inadequate. And why shouldn’t we feel this way?
You can’t watch a Lay’s chip commercial without some 5’10” Russian supermodel on the screen brush a greasy potato chip across her pouted lips. You can’t take a subway ride without being forced to stare into the emerald green eyes of some airbrushed blonde bombshell sporting Warby Parker sunglasses.
Then there’s the Internet, the vast portal of hundreds of thousands of women sliding across the pages, haunting you in the corners and the pop-up ads. You take a trip to CVS and close your eyes as you pass through the makeup aisle, where millions of perfect faces with big lips and supple skin stare down at your greasy hair and unchiseled cheek bones.
We’re forced to atone for our looks and bow to the ones with the most facial symmetry. We’re forced to attend beach parties, dreading the moment we have to take off our cover ups. Our value has been degraded to one simple measure: our looks. That’s all that life’s about, isn’t it? Your looks and using those looks to get a man.
But what are looks? What is beautiful, exactly? What is this thing we’re all killing ourselves over achieving?
First, it’s blonde hair and blue eyes. Then, it’s large pouty lips and dark undertones. Next, it’s about the curves, and women with the large hips and bigger chests. Then suddenly you’re flipping through a magazine at the doctor's office and it’s gap teeth and freckles. By the time you’ve gotten home, it’s pale skin and long, thick, black hair.
Society has a habit of changing its mind, of becoming restless with the old and obsessed with the new. It looks at women as trends and facets to be exploited, discrediting their beauty the second a new, unique look comes along. They pinpoint traits that are desirable and flaws that should be hidden with wrinkle creams and tanning lotions.
I must ask, why are we giving in? Why are we letting everyone else decide for us what beautiful is? Why are we letting the magazines, the fashion editors, the advertisers and movie producers decide what’s desirable and fascinating?
If we’ve learned anything from the constant change of looks, fads and models, it’s that beauty is impossible to categorize and preferences are unique to the individual. These traits, attributes and quirks are elevated to new standards arbitrarily by the magazines when all they are fads, like gapped teeth and long torsos. Big lips were once a model’s biggest flaw, when society deemed small lips beautiful, and flat-chested girls were once crying in the corner before Kate Moss made them cool. We are constantly changing our minds about what’s hot and sexy because there is no single facet of beauty.
Beauty is in the details, in the flaws, in the presence of the woman. Beauty is the unique traits that make you jealous of her. Beauty is in her curly hair and her fine, thin strands. Beauty is in her small chest and her large one. Beauty is in the way she walks kind of bow-legged and the way she keeps her hair parted to the side. Beauty is her big eyes with her long lashes and her long, cat-like stares. Beauty is in her style and the way she holds herself. Beauty is her wild hair and thick thighs.
There is no definition of beauty because there is no single defining quality. There are a million things about a woman that are beautiful and each one is as unique and desirable as the next. Every woman is the epitome of beauty in her own right. Every woman has the capacity to be the prettiest girl in the room and hold the awe and admiration of a man. Because, while you’re constantly comparing yourself to the girl on the train, wishing you had her hair or her legs, she’s wishing she looked like you.