How can I not be familiar with beauty? For most of the women, beauty has been a word intertwined with our identity since the moment we come out to this world. We hear people point to us, “she is so cute.” As a woman progresses, the society anchors a more stringent cross, “She is so hot – and so smart.”
For me, this word has been my daydream and nightmare. When I was younger, my mother repeatedly told me that I am ugly. She might have been a classic Tiger Mum, aware of the fact to not inflate her daughter’s arrogance and over-reliability on the beauty. For rather a long time during my adolescent year, I wasn’t feeling the best in myself for this reason – I have extended limbs and darker skin tone, in many ways different from the pale Chinese beauty standard in the Dream of the Red Chamber. Only until I passed the age of 17, 18, I began combing my own beauty in my own wild way.
However, beauty does not come easy. In between the year I became an adult and now, there are vast landscapes cross Eurasian, Oceania, and American continents. There are projects, both failed and succeeded. When I was 18, 19, I could loiter in night clubs in Paris and let my beauty drive me, for the darkest of dark night, for the wild romances that often stem from easy flings. Now, arguably I may not let my face be the bait, but wait for the people that understand beauty is not a first impression, but a 3D structure.
Last year, I enrolled myself into a French class in New York City weekly. During the class, I was the only young student, with all other students aged 50 or above. They would talk topics that I not yet know, as of being mother and father, grandmother and grandfather. They also go back to the beauty standard of eras ago, when Brigitte Bardot reined. I saw the faces of my classmates, wrinkly, but fine. At an age of 50 and above, the New Yorkers are more likely to see the better and worse of the world; yet they still chose to spend time to learn a new language at this age after all the chores in life. How cute is it? I also began understanding the beauty that exist beyond the glossy images of fashion magazines that featured the 20 something.
In that period, I began meeting more friends besides my normal circle of my age. I befriended people that are double of my age, triple, or even quadruple. As I met one friend, whose age might quadruple mine. Upon our first time sledding into the coffee table, he mentioned about a mutual friend of us, “Jimmy is fantastic. It is great to see all of his hobbies and his achievement with instruments. We are both passionate about life. The only difference is that he is still early in his life game, while I am on my way out.”
I was shocked at his candidness of his situation. I looked at his smiling face, said, “Hmm, yeah.”
You may resonate with me. In life, how many times your friends and family have complimented people that are on their way out using “You look great. I’m sure you’ll recover soon.” Or ladies complimenting elder ladies using “You look amazing like you are 18-year-old.” Is it necessary to put up a lie and pretend beauty stays forever at the age of 18, but not in evolution?
In the period of Instagram, the biggest thing I understood is that mortality does not restrain our wildest dream, just as the pop culture ruled real world should not be just about staying young and beautiful forever. While being young is certainly beautiful, but beauty is a wine that comes with more stories and colours. Beauty is difference, not an Instagram post. The advert of cameras captured many beautiful images and bodies, so it would make us feel that beauty is evanescent at a moment. However, beauty is permanent, for it is constantly evolving, beyond an age group.
Style icon Brigitte Bardot has told us this story with her life. In her best time, she proved that being sexy and beautiful can be a power to achieve social prominence and accumulate social capital. She might not have been a divine like Monroe, because we also see her physical beauty fades, relentlessly, when she ages.
Yet I only say this is a shallow although sad interpretation. Maybe her best acting age has been aggrandised by commercial means, yet her beauty is always and will always be there. The worst thing our society can do is to continue feeding the beauty standards at a person’s 20-something age, yet ignore all the other possibilities. It isn’t that an aged body is not beautiful, but our standard of beauty too single-dimensional.
Going back to the French class I mentioned, we read a touching book about the life of Madame Zola, the wife of novelist Emile Zola. At the age of 50, Zola had an affair with a young woman for a year before his wife figures it out. The moment she found it out, she was devastated. She wrote “When you are young, you have all the power in this world; but as you are in your 50s, the once inconvincible power has been drained.” Madame Zola has been one of the cutest women with inner energy in the history; her strength is probably way more inspiriting than Insta models. The former is evolutionary, the latter is static.
It wasn’t that youth gave us power; at the era when technology enables the longevity of many things, it is also time to give beauty the definition that lasts.
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