Beauty is but skin-deep, I often like telling myself..mainly because my beauty seems to stop short of even my epidermis. The closest claim I can lay to beauty is when my friends, who see photographs of me when young, exclaim (with great surprise in their voices) “You look good in a PHOTOGRAPH!” or “You looked good when you were young!” I don’t mind the words, but I am NOT happy at the surprise in their voices!
All my life I have had people telling me, “You would be beautiful if you were taller.” Or…fairer. Oh, my dark skin…has been, you would think, my besetting sin! “If only you were a little fairer…”..to this I would add, “or juster.. or kinder…”
Or there would be what I call DC…Deadly Compliments. “D is the kind of person who is beautiful from within, she has no need for outside beauty,” is a gem I always remember. This wonderful remark was matched by another aunt who saw me after a few years and in genuine concern, exclaimed for all the guests at the marriage to hear, “enna…. eLecchu, karutthu, karuvAdA pOyittai?” (Why have you thinned out, darkened, and shrivelled up?) Wonderful words to hear!
Then came the comments that my short haircut occasioned. People in India have NO compunction about passing personal remarks, and indeed, the first thing they refer to when they see you is your personal appearance. One of the memorable remarks about my hair was, “Why do you have a ‘I hate men’ haircut?” Oh my goodness, I didn’t know that my hair had anything to do with my attitude to men..I thought it was mostly about my attitude to swimming! (My hairloss has completely stopped since I cut my hair short, but that’s another story.)
But all this has a very good side too…I have never been (or given the chance to be) vain about my looks, and have, consequently, been very comfortable in my appearance (and my dark skin, alas!) I was not overly attached to the long hair that I could sit on, and could chop it off so that swimming and indeed, general maintenance became easy. The arrival of a mid-life paunch on a waistline that was once (yes, really) 23 inches did not trouble me at all. To me exercise is not a way of looking good, but of feeling good..and being fit.
Recently, I asked KM how I look and in all honesty, he replied, “Your face has caved in, but you are OK otherwise.” I know of uxoricide, but I cannot get its antonym…but that’s what was about to happen that day!
I do not have a dresser-full of cosmetics, and I have never been to a parlour to have my eyebrows done, or various parts of me waxed…ever. I have never had a facial. Simple and inexpensive cosmetics suffice for me, and I am so glad about it!
(Only one person has called me beautiful, and I must say, I still glow (from the inside, of course!!) when I think of it!
Similarly, I may enjoy good looks when I see them, but to me, a good-looking person without a happy smile is NOT good-looking, and to me, all my friends ARE good-looking. I’m sorry, I am NOT able to see where the so-called ugly faces are. When a friend smiles at me….I can only see that smile and its beauty…
I know someone whose face is very scarred, and several people asked me, “What happened to her?” But after the first look, when I started talking to her, I liked her so much…that the scars just sort of vanished, as far as I was concerned. She later told me that most people found it hard to even talk to her because they were distracted by the scars. I felt that she had great strength of mind to face the world without wanting to improve her looks; to me, that made her even more beautiful. Was this very idealistic of me? I don’t know….but too often, I have seen the vanity and the lack of substance that can go with extreme good looks. I rarely compliment people on their physical beauty, as I think it’s not something they can take credit for! To me, an intelligent, alert look, a good-natured smile, a helpful nature, these are more beautiful..
Of course, I wish I was good-looking, too, because good-looking people…the TFH (Tall Fair Handsome) or SFB (Slim Fair Beautiful) people have such an advantage over the rest of us poor slobs! They get smiled at first, served first….oh well, in my next birth, perhaps!Right now, let me take my caved-in face to sleep….