Beauty terrifies me. I think it terrifies almost everyone, especially women. Sometimes we forget about beauty, but it's this murky undercurrent in many of our lives. The undercurrent rises at certain points in life. For example, when we become moms to little girls, we can't help at some point to think, "Oh shit...that beauty thing...I hope it doesn't fuck her up like it did me." I'm going to share with you my thoughts on beauty, why it terrifies me, how I am doing my best to unravel the beauty knot for my little girl, and why I joined the revolution started by Holly Fulger who is better known as The Hollywood Beauty Detective.
Beauty frightens me because it is subjective, but we live in a society that tries hard to make it objective. Beauty is subjective in that it's an opinion. Society tries to make it objective, a fact. Yes, mass media and advertisers are to blame for some of this, but they are not the only ones. We do it too. It's our human nature to try to turn subjective things into objective ones.
The ocean is beautiful. This is not a fact. It's an opinion. The ocean just is.
That Victoria Secret supermodel is beautiful. This is not a fact. It's an opinion. The Victoria Secret supermodel just is.
Advertisers and marketers, and the companies behind them, like to be the spokespeople for beauty, but we individual humans like to be too. Unfortunately this can cause a fucked up mess in society as we inadvertently create standards, benchmarks and blueprints for what beautiful is. No harm no foul when we try to set the standard for beauty when it comes to things, like the ocean. The ocean doesn't care what we believe about it. It just is. The real harm is when we set the standard for human beings.
Since society is so insistent on creating a standard of what beautiful is, it's important that we empower the right people with that privilege. That's why I'm so excited about the work of Holly Fulger, The Hollywood Beauty Detective.
My beauty issues started when I was around 15 years old, because this is about the time when middle school became high school and kids and friendships became exclusionary rather than inclusionary. The so called popular kids interestingly looked very much like the TV ads we would see in between The Brady Bunch and The Facts of Life. They were the kids wearing make-up and dressed in Benetton. They were the kids who looked like the people on TV; tall, skinny, long hair, perfect white teeth. They were the beautiful ones. Everyone else slowly became excluded, forming their own little rat packs based on common interests like band, sports and drama club, since they couldn't hang their hats on beauty.
I was a short, chubby kid through middle school. By high school, I was a diet obsessed, exercise fanatic who fought constantly with my mother about food. I was no longer the kid that would devour munchkins on Sunday mornings while watching cartoons, but had become the teenager who would put one munchkin in my mouth, chew it and spit it out so I wouldn't gain an ounce, heaven forbid. My mom would make home-cooked meals every night and we'd fight because I didn't want to eat because I didn't want to be fat, because fat was ugly and ugly meant non-acceptance at school. Sometimes I'd win these fights, and sometimes I'd lose. Since losing was unacceptable, I became best friends with Jane Fonda. Literally, I'd work out 2 or 3 times a day so that if my mom made me eat, I'd burn the calories. I would weigh myself constantly and if I went above 105 pounds, I'd simply stop eating. I'd go an entire day with just eating a bagel to humor my family. Sadly, I had tried Bulimia, but throwing up was not my forte, so I simply stuck to obsessive observance of my weight, a pre-occupation with my scale, an infatuation with calories and a neurotic exercise routine. Why? I just wanted to be accepted.
So, beauty has been the undercurrent of my life for more than 20 years. Having realized many years ago that acceptance of ourselves is far more important than acceptance from others, I've come a long way. I no longer care if anyone believes I'm beautiful. It doesn't matter to me anymore, because I've come to see that, just like the ocean, I'm just me. Some love me. Some don't. Some see beauty. Some see a dark, dirty, seaweed filled crater of muck. It doesn't matter. I'm just me. Subjectively anyone is entitled to their opinion. Objectively nothing changes that I am still me.
Beauty scares me for my daughter and for future generations of girls who I fear will have to learn the hard way that acceptance must come from within first, and that beauty will always be subjective to the beholder.
I recently joined a movement called The Hollywood Beauty Detective started by Holly Fulger. Since society seems so hell bent on creating a spokesperson for beauty, I feel 100 percent confident in leaving it to her and the other beauty detectives who have figured out how to redefine beauty whereby aesthetics are no longer the emphasis. Right now, she's our best hope for a future of young women who realize that greatness has nothing to do with their face, their figure or the opinions of anyone other than themselves. She's redefining beauty in such a way that when my 6 year old daughter grows into a young woman and asks, "What is beautiful?" I can explain to her that The Hollywood Beauty Detective has laid out all of the clues. Furthermore, I feel like I have a partner on my own beauty journey, a site that I can go home to when my own insecurities return from time to time.
Here are some facts from The Hollywood Beauty Detective site: By the time the average American girl reaches the age of 17, she's seen more than 250,000 commercial messages aimed at shaping her appearance. Over 80 percent of 10 year old girls are afraid of being fat and according to a statistic from Dove, only 4 percent of women consider themselves beautiful. If this doesn't scare you, it should. Beauty has become an epidemic that will take a toll on future generations who should be more concerned with how they can achieve their dreams of becoming philosophers, doctors, astronauts, artists, and the like, more than they care about their physical appearance. Today we can each take a stand, we can become part of a movement that is based on inclusion, and it all starts here with Holly Fulger, The Hollywood Beauty Detective. I hope you will join me.