"The notion that such persons are gay of heart and carefree is curiously untrue. They lead, as a matter of fact, an existence of jumpiness and apprehension. They sit on the edge of the chair of Literature. In the house of Life they have the feeling that they have never taken off their overcoats."
- James Thurber, My Life and Hard Times

Monday, May 2, 2016

A thing of beauty is a joy forever... in the eyes of the beholder

Last year, I participated in August McLaughlin's "Beauty of a Woman Blogfest." There are two categories to this cyber-festival, beauty in general and the beauty of sexuality. Last year, I was in the mood to go big or go home, so I wrote a piece that took TMI to new levels, all about sexuality and growing older.

This year, I thought I'd take it easy on myself and just talk about beauty in general. As it turns out, that's harder to discuss than sexuality, at least for me. What is beauty, and do I ever feel like I achieve it?

I have a confession to make: I am a nerd. A geek. A no-frills, non-prissy, jeans-and-tees gal. Oh, I began life in lace and ruffles. Mom wanted a girlie-girl who flounced about in ribbons and organza. God knows she tried.

Of course I was cranky - what kind of cowgirl wears a skirt?

But by 3rd grade, I knew I felt more comfy in a plain wool skirt and a sweater. When jeans came into fashion, I had found my style. Jeans and a sweater, or a tunic, or a silk shirt, or a tee. Dress them up with heels or down with tennies. The thing about them is, I didn't even have to check myself in the mirror. I felt good. Did I feel beautiful? 

Here's the thing about beauty: I'm in my 60s and still not sure what it means, or why it's important. The definition of beauty is a combination of qualities, such as shape, color, or form, that pleases the aesthetic senses, especially the sight. As a former engineer, my first question is: define "pleases". 

I was a pre-teen when the Beatles hit America. Here they are, in all their glorious youth:

Who did I like? This guy.

I've never been attracted to pretty boys. Tom Cruise? No. George Clooney? Not for me, thanks. Chris Hemsworth? Seems like a nice guy, but I'll pass. Give me Ringo over Paul, Spock over Kirk, McGee over DiNozzo. The combination of qualities that pleases my aesthetic senses is obviously not on the same page as the rest of the world.

Actually, I've always had a crush on Ducky, even when he was a Man From U.N.C.L.E.

I can't be the only one... can I?

Recently, I attended a horse show in Las Vegas. It was a huge show, over 700 exhibitors, and there are probably a dozen reasons why my horse and I should never have gotten to participate, beginning with the fact that he broke his leg as a 4-year-old and every day that he is healthy is a blessing. 

While at the show, I bought an outfit to wear for the competition. There are more expensive outfits, but this one felt like it cost an arm and a leg. My trainer took a picture of me before we faced the judges.

What I see when I look at that picture is an old gal who could lose a few pounds. What my trainer said to me was, "You look so beautiful." Did I feel beautiful at that moment? I felt good. I felt happy. Beauty was not on my list of needs. 

I wish I had some kind of wisdom to impart about beauty and what it means to be beautiful. Don't misunderstand. Just because I'm a geeky girl doesn't mean that I don't enhance my eyes with a little makeup, or wear a little bling from time to time. None of it makes me look in a mirror and say, "You look beautiful."

All I want to see when I look in the mirror is someone who feels happy. Maybe that's the quality that pleases my senses.


August McLaughlin said...

I *adore* the honesty in this post, Gayle - it's so very thought-provoking. How interesting that discussing beauty ended up being more challenging for you than entering the sexuality category.

So many of us have complex relationships with "beauty," and I definitely relate. Happiness is the BEST beautifier, IMO, and such a brilliant goal. Thanks so much for participating in the fest!

Aurora Jean Alexander said...

This is such a great, an honest and in many ways a "happy" post. For many people, and I purposely use the word "people", not "women", happiness might be the key to beauty, right? At least when I feel happy, I more likely have a chance to feel beautiful!
And besides, Gayle: Di Nozzo? Yes! George Clooney? Chris Hemsworth? Hell, YEAH!! Mick Jagger and the Beatles? No-no-no... (And of course my secret ideal - he's more the "Cowboy" than the "Business man"... LOL)
And you DO look beautiful on your horse!! VERY nice!

Anonymous said...

I like *your* definition of beauty: being happy and feeling comfortable. Those metrics are really so much more useful than some societal determination of what looks good and what doesn't.

Jennifer Silva Redmond said...

No surprise to me that you were a Ringo girl, too. We have so many of the same likes and passions. I agree that happiness is beautiful, or, perhaps, beauty comes from happiness. And I love seeing your happiness—-though knowing that your life is complicated and sometimes difficult, too, somehow encourages me. Maybe I'm just a bit jealous...After all, you are living my "horse and writer" life!

LynNerdKelley said...

I really enjoyed your post, Gayle. You look wonderful in the pic on your horse. You're way too hard on yourself. I'm so sorry your horse broke his leg. Glad he's still with you. I love the pic of you as a girl in your cowgirl gear and the caption you added.

I consider myself a dork and a goofball, so nerds rock in my book. Cheers!

Unknown said...

Beauty is subjective isn't it? I know what I feel has more bearing on my life then how I look. Whether we're feeling happy, content, beautiful, or whatever else, that is definitely a worthy goal!

Patricia said...

What a lovely, personal, candid post, Gayle! You've made such a valid point. If a person doesn't feel happy with him or herself, then what really is beauty all about. It comes from within and you've made that beautifully clear!

Jennifer said...

I think 'happy" defines beauty! Someone can have classic bone structure, but steely eyes or an intense frown destroy any sense of aesthetic beauty, not to mention the beauty that shines. When you're happy, it shows from within - your eyes sparkle, your smile is infectious, and you radiate joy. And if that's not beauty, I don't know what is!

Kassandra Lamb said...

Awesome post! I can so related. At 63, I'm much more into happy than beautiful. And I too always went for the more average looking sidekick--definitely Spock over Kirk any day of the week.

Green Dragon said...

Wonderful personal post, thank you for sharing that with us all!

KM Huber said...

I'm right there with the rest of your readers: that feeling from within that says, "Oh, yeah." In that moment, all is in balance, me from within and the world from without. That's my happy, anyway. As another sexagenarian, your post brought back some incredible years. I, too, went for Ringo as well as Ilya (Ducky) in the Man from U. N. C. L. E. Those were my beauties. Fun post, Gayle. And I agree with everyone else, you really do look beautiful sitting astride that horse.

Anonymous said...

I absolutely believe comfort and "geek-chic" are beautiful. Me? I'm most comfortable in jeans, tshirts (or jerseys) and flip flops. Do I know how to glam it up? Sure... But, like you, I'm a more what-you-see-is-what-you get sans make up kind of girl, and I love the skin I'm in. Love your post!

Anonymous said...

I truly believe that beauty emanates from inside you, and if you are happy and comfortable within your own skin, then you are most likely beautiful!

Unknown said...

Gayle, I believe in self as expert! You truly know as do all of us (if we stop to long enough to listen to our inner wisdom) what's beautiful. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. I wish that we all welcome and know our true beauty!

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