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Beauty: Do We Get too Specific About What It Means to be 'Beautiful?'

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Sometimes I think we get too specific about beauty. We think we know exactly what it's made of.

I can look at my face in the mirror and describe to you at great length exactly what would have to change in order for me to be gorgeous. I am mathematical in my precision. The same with my body. A couple inches added to the length of my calves, a tightening of the skin on my back, a slight adjustment to the shape of my breasts. I am surgical in my attention.

And then I remember that once, I didn't think of beauty as a string of measurements and numbers and proportions. I didn't have to think of it, really, because it was obvious that I was it. I'm turning twenty-six tomorrow, and before I go any farther, I want to pause and remind myself of another side of beauty.

Here are some reasons why I was a gorgeous little girl:

I was smart. I could figure things out.

I had brown hair, which I thought was the best color.

I had beautiful things. Like an old wedding dress that a tiny great aunt had once worn and a veil that an aunt had worn. I rocked that outfit. I was a princess in it -- and not necessarily a bride. I had dresses covered in flowers. I had shirts with trains. I had a dinosaur costume.

I looked different from my friends. Which was important, because I could distinguish my beauty.

I had a bump on my nose, which was striking. I thought that queens had bumps on their noses.

I did not look like people on TV or in movies -- which I thought meant I was prettier.

I was talented.

I was a fast runner. My new Reebok sneakers were puffy and bouncy and perfect. I felt, briefly, like I was flying.

My parents told me I was beautiful. Once we were at a Passover seder at my Grandma and Pop-Pop's and my dad said to his brother, "Isn't she beautiful?" and he looked at me and got a little teary. My mom was always telling me I was beautiful. She always said I looked good in everything I put on.

I was great at drawing, and I could draw myself -- with lots of brown hair and green eyes.

I had green eyes. I made a chart of eye colors and the different magic powers they should come with. Brown/green meant forest magic. Even though I'd made it up, I wasn't sure what it meant, but it was my favorite.

I was adventurous. Beauty felt tied to adventure in my mind. Beauty was all about being interesting and strong-minded and good at following streams and bushwhacking paths through fields. I followed the stream all the way through the forest and out the other side, where it ran into a road. I was disappointed, but at least I knew where it went.

Boys thought I was pretty. I knew, because the boy next door told me I looked pretty in my blue bathing suit. And then he asked me to be his girlfriend, and I said, "No way, I already have a boyfriend," even though I was ten and I definitely didn't. I was proud of myself for lying because it felt bold and I knew I wasn't ready to have a boyfriend. But I was also sure that when I was ready, boys would line up. I mean, why not?

I liked myself.

I was likable.

I was me.

I'm still me. I'm brown-haired and adventurous. I still like dinosaurs. There's a chance I'm still gorgeous. Maybe we all are.

Can you remember what made you awesome as a kid? Come tell me about it on Eat the Damn Cake! I'd love to know.