Saturday, April 4, 2009

On Beauty


I've been collecting beautiful images of women for a while now. I don't know why exactly. I just enjoy beauty. I think we all do. I am speaking here of the skin-deep sort that our mothers often assured us would fade. Who doesn't love to look at something beautiful? Someone beautiful?

I do enjoy beauty, very much. But. In my mind and with my heart, I believe that there is more to beauty than a pretty face. There is style, confidence, that certain something - joie de vivre.

I remember the summer I right before I turned 16. We were at camp and there was a guy named John who was adored by all: adults, teenagers, boys, men, children, and women. Oh, yes. The women surely loved him. He and I were sort of together - really just trying to decide if we would be better as friends or more. He was the kind of guy who loved people. He never met a stranger and always made you smile. I remember that he flirted with a very plain girl and I asked him about it. I told him that he could have his pick of girls, why flirt with a plain one? He looked at my quietly for a long time and then he said something I've never forgotten. He said, "Oh, Relyn. Everyone woman is beautiful. Every woman. You just have to know how to look for it."

John was right. He was. But, there's more. There is also the way that a person's beauty grows the more you know them, the more you love them. I've always called it the ET Syndrome.


Do you remember the first time you watched the movie? The first glimpse of ET was very nearly horrifying. Even if he wasn't scary, he was certainly ugly. Do you remember the end of the movie? Remember how adorable he was? How cute? Do you remember talking to people who hadn't seen the movie and indignantly asserting that Yes, ET was adorable. No, he was not ugly. Remember? The ET Syndrome. That little extra-terrestrial became cute because we got to know him, his personality, his voice, his great big heart.

Imagine a world where we all lived by the ET Syndrome. Think how much happier your high school years would have been if you had chosen your crushes based on character rather than height or a smile. Just think how much happier you would have been to have been judged the same way. By how you made someone feel instead of how you looked. Would it have made a difference?

Don't get me wrong, I love beauty. One of life's greatest gifts is an appreciation for beauty. In flowers and sunsets. In food and interiors. In faces and bodies. And I don't think that personal beauty is shallow. I don't believe that a love of beauty is a bad thing. Just that we should begin to live with a new standard. That we should begin to teach our children by example that spirit is more valuable than skinny. That character counts more than calories. That generosity makes for a better life than great genes. That if you know how to look for it, every woman is beautiful.

Just think how amazing our world would be if we celebrated heart, mind, spirit, compassion, enthusiasm, joy... the who of someone instead of the bone structure. Imagine how much happier our children, our teenagers, our marriages would be if we honestly measured beauty in character, in passion, in intelligence, in spirit, in generosity.

Karen Radkai's photograph, A Single Bloom can be purchased here.

33 comments:

Jessica said...

I love the ET theory-it's so true. I wish I knew how much I would come to appreciate "real" beauty- spirit and happiness over "cover" beauty - when I was in high school. I would have been a much happier girl!

Char said...

I very much agree with the E.T. and whatever the reverse is...I also believe that a pretty person can become ugly if they are ugly inside.

Johanna said...

Very thought provoking. But it's not so much that we are drawn to beautiful things and value the beauty, it's that often we limit ourselves to loving just the beauty to the exclusion of everything else.

Wendy said...

Wow, your friend John sounds so enlightened for someone that age!

boylerpf said...

Not only for women, this prevails for we women looking at men. You know the old saying, "Beauty is in the eye of the beholder". I think we all perceive beauty in a different way. A Stepford Wife society would prevail otherwise! Great post.

Colleen said...

I love that -- ET syndrome.
:-)
And it is so true how the people in my life that I have come to know so deeply and intimately have become more and more beautiful to me as the years have passed, as I have come to know their inner beauty.

dutchbaby said...

Hey, how did you get that picture of me with the hat and the red carnation? All kidding aside, this is another fantastic post. John sounds like a great guy!

Suvarna said...

Ah, beautiful post Relyn, I couldn't agree more, just imagine the possibilities!

SE'LAH... said...

I can imagine with Relyn...

Wonderful post. I love the ET Syndrome concept.

Cheers to you!

Joanne said...

What a wonderful thought-provoking post. Yes, we are drawn to beauty, and it's nice to think that part of that draw, that magnetism, is the inner soul, the character behind the face, that shines a light on the beauty itself.

Jeanne said...

Love all you share
Love you

Beautiful and elegant women always remind me of my late beloved Mom
She had that Audrey Hephurn Grace Kelly class and elegance and charm.
Love you

Kirsten said...

Yeah,whatever happened to John?! ;)
Love your phrases: 'Character counts more than calories'; 'Spirit is more valuable than skinny'.
And what a great post! As usual, your beauty shines through!

beth said...

pretty is as pretty does and the same goes for ugly !!!

I have known some pretties in my life, but what is a pretty outside if the inside is all gunked up ?

and if the outside is just ordinary...most often the inside is EXTRAORDIANRY....

LOVED THIS POST !!!

Dorit said...

Thanks for this post. I think I needed it today.

Miko's Girl said...

My first thought was who did your friend John marry?

How timely your posts are ...this week, I went to the celeb look-a-like web-site only to discover that my strongest celebrity look-a-like was a man. I tried a few more times until I got Carrie Underwood! Who knew?

I hope to look for the beauty beneath...At 43, I'm starting to see some of the signs of age (not too many, I think I'm aging well) but it does remind me how temporal surface beauty is and how eternal character can be. Here's to a beautiful character!!!

deandean said...

As I've read the comments above,I sense familiarity among you and your friends and I feel like an intruder..(this is my first time visiting your blog..) but I have to comment on your post.

Your thoughts on beauty is true and if I might add, so beautifully written.

Jaime said...

What a beautiful post coming from someone so very very beautiful. So good to be here again, reading and soaking in the wisdom that you pour out of your soul. You write straight from the soul Relyn. I just adore you...and your ET theory too. :)

xoxoxo

Marilyn Miller said...

Relyn,
Thanks so much for your lovely comments on Delights of the Heart. I loved your description of ET and beauty. That is so true, when I first saw ET I thought he was so scary and ugly. At the end of the movie I thought ET was loveable and beautiful. Beautiful thoughts.

bermudabluez said...

This is a beautiful and very inspiring post! Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us...

moonshin said...

Hear! hear!
couldn't agree more, Relyn.

Thank you for the beautiful post =)

honestly, when people asked me about my ideal kind of guy...i have trouble answering them straight-forwardly. because you see, i don't have any. besides being more knowledgeable than me and funny, i've got nothing. as long i love him, to me, he is the handsomest guy on the planet.

wow...i can't believe i've just published all of that....

sallymandy said...

Really nice summation of the different "kinds" of beauty. I love that your friends John had that insight at such a young age. What a wonderful way to look at it! Thank you...

Ragamuffin Gal said...

I have spent far too long of a time away from your blog and how I have missed your inspiring beautiful words dear friend! I adore this post ~ so well written, put together, and thought provoking! Have a Fabulous week ~ my fabulous friend! Love, Katie

maddie said...

such a beautiful, wise,
gift for the sixteen year old
girl ~

the gift of true beauty

:)

Cam@Journey Wildly said...

Real beauty shines through any exterior.

I think every young woman needs to have a John in her life.

Patti said...

Hi Relyn- About History of Love...funny you should bring that up. I started it with your recommendation and all. I read about 1/2 of it and that was when I started the Jodi Picoult, so I put it aside and didn't get back to it. I told Laura I would pass it on to her and had it with the things I gave her Sat. (we got together to shop and lunch!)but Fri. I picked it up again and thought..."There had to be a reason Relyn recommended it" so I started to thumb through the ending and...it totally picqued my interest again and I will continue to read it- so that's the story of History of Love (round 2). ALso- please send me your home address so I can pass on something to you that you will enjoy!!! Take care~ Patti

Jan said...

Relyn,
What a thoughtful post. I, too, adore images of women--all ages, all sizes, walks of life. I am stunned by our innate beauty which comes through in so many ways. Even in wrinkles, or stooped shoulders, or sagging breasts. I concur. How wonderful our world would be if we celebrated the beauty of resilience, compassion, and integrity. I love that word...

Yoli said...

Relyn I also collect images of beauty and I know what you are talking about. Beauty on the surface is easy to immediately identify but beauty also lies in the most obscure of places, if you only look with new eyes.

Derrick said...

Hi Relyn,

This is very true but we have to begin somewhere and most of the time that is with the physical beauty. That first glimpse of a person gives us an immediate response. To get to know the inner beauty of someone, we need a little time. When we watch ET, we get that time but out in the street you may only get a few seconds. What we need to do is educate ourselves to be willing to take the extra time and override that initial reaction.

Joan said...

Dearest Relyn~
Have you any idea of how TRULY beautiful you are? From my very first visit, the beauty of your heart, and mind, and spirit danced across the page and proclaimed how beautiful we are, and how beautiful this life is... especially the tiny moments you remind me of that turn into lasting memories.
Some days my visit feels quite sacred, and it always feels divine.
Thank you for all of the beauty that you share... especially the beauty that is *You.
xoxoxo

paris parfait said...

Your friend was very wise at a young age. Lovely post, Relyn.

heartshapedmorning said...

what a lovely meditation on beauty. i love that you recognize the allure of external beauty but then take it further. i too am an admirer of typical women's beauty--as evidenced by my love of fashion, magazines, cheesy TV--but it doesn't depress me or make me feel ugly, because i think my beauty (though it is surely not the type to be put in a magazine) is just as valuable. it's possible to recognize all kinds of beauty without subscribing to the beauty hierarchy so many in the mainstream would have us believe. thank you for this. and for your extremely sweet comment. it made me happy.
xx
chloe

jfrancis said...

Beauty comes with force
pries the heart open,
looks around
then departs,
taking what she wants.

Kathy said...

Beautiful post!

Oldies, but Goodies