Everyone is not beautiful

DISCLAIMER: I am speaking primarily of women here. Not becaues I don’t think these issues affect men, but because not being a man myself I can only theorize based on a few comments and brief discussions Ive had with men about these issues. I wish more men would discuss these things honestly. I suspect the reason my empathy is so shallow for men is because they really feel uncomfortable being open about body and image and self-esteem issues. That’s the main message I get from them. For every man who runs to up to point out “men have these problems  too!” there’s twenty men who change the subject. And sadly, the ones who run up to inject themselves into the female-based discussion only do so to derail, not to add to an overall conversation. I think the primary problem for men and image has to do with shame and secrecy. Society pressures men to strut and act like they don’t care about their image. I find it hard to believe men are really so different from women in that regard. So ultimately, I leave the male version of the issue alone – its not my story to tell and thus far I don’t have enough input to incorporate their story into ours. But I do believe the discomfort and anxiety that goes along with image issues affects men just as often and just as clearly as women. 

 

Here’s the thing, I actually don’t believe everyone is “beautiful”. To be frank, I haven’t yet met anyone I didn’t find attractive, but I can’t get behind the “everyone is beautiful” campaign. I also don’t think that campaign is ever going to really take root. Because really, not everyone is “beautiful”.  Perhaps that’s a semantics game because I’m going by a definition of beauty that I am pretty sure is the most common one. I am also pretty sure the “everyone is beautiful” campaign is going by a different definition. The common understanding of beauty is “the arrangement of symmetrical features and lack of aberrations that society deems to be most attractive” 

 

The fact is that not everyone can possibly measure up that way.

 

I think the real issue is how people merit themselves. I am not talking about potential, either. We can potential people all over the place and it doesn’t mean squat. That starts venturing into “you can accomplish anything if you put your mind to it!” territory which I *know* is bullshit. If you disagree, fine but answer this question: can I ski through a revolving door if I put my mind to it?

I say that not to ruin a very nice uplifting sentiment but to place the parameters of the discussion. We can’t truly discuss human traits if we don’t have roughly the same vocabulary.

 

 

 

The beauty we usually talk about when we talk about strangers is the outside appearance – their attractiveness. The beauty we talk about when we talk about people we know is the inside – their persona. But we can’t conflate the two. The outside beauty, while nice, isn’t something we can do anything with. It may enhance the landscape when its around but it doesn’t really affect us just by existing. Beauty from the inside is so called precisely because it *does* affect us. It is some quality (or a group of qualities) that enhances our actual existence even if only for a moment. Someone’s beautiful persona can lift us up, give us solace, urge us on or calm us down. How incredibly versatile for a quality that is so incredibly undefined!

 

This is why I don’t like calling someone “beautiful” unless I am speaking strictly of their outward appearance. Attractive – maybe because sometimes what’s attractive isn’t in the looks at all, but beauty is something I *see*. 

 

Beauty is skin-deep. Beauty is as beauty does. Beauty glows in love. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Beauty is truth. Beauty is pain.

 

Beauty is subjective.

Well, if beauty is subjective, why is it that so many people have decided on some particular traits and made them “the standards”?

Is excitement a subjective thing? Can I label anyone I like with that word and say “well I just think everyone is exciting?” I could but how believable is that really? What about joy? Is everyone joyful? Smart? Helpful? Generous? Thoughtful? Spontaneous?

 

I want us to talk more about the inner awesomeness that each person carries within. I want to cheer on the people who need it most. I want to say encouraging things to the ones who sit at home, feeling scared and sad because society has told them again and again that they don’t measure up. I want *that* campaign to happen and be successful. I just dont’ think its going to work if we keep using the word “beautiful”

Because those people know better. They know that society isn’t lying to them. Society dictates what is “beautiful” and they didnt’ make the grade. We can talk all day about overcoming the pressures of society and feeling good about yourself and empowerment and reclaiming terms but ultimately we ARE society. Society is people. Its the people around us too. And when the majority of the people around you are telling you that your looks don’t make them happy, there’s no arguing it. We can argue facts until one of us discovers the valid truth but arguing opinions is ridiculous. I’m not going to continue to argue against the opinions of MILLIONS either. I can disagree all I want but trying to change those people’s opinions is ludicrous. And who am I to arbitrarily decide when the majority of society is wrong in their personal preferences?

 

I’ve known an awful lot of people in my near-half-decade of life. Like I said, I’ve yet to meet someone I didn’t think was attractive on some level. But I’m odd like that. I didn’t, however, think everyone I’ve ever met was “beautiful”

 

And I am totally okay with that. What I’d like to see, rather than a minority of society working so hard to change the majority’s opinion, is an acceptance of the differences. What I’d like to see is us embracing the other qualities of people instead of “beauty” and making it a point to exalt those qualities just as much. Every time we push this “everyone is beautiful” campaign, we reinforce the notion that beauty is the most important thing of all.

 

Why can’t we try just as hard to tear down the notion that beauty trumps all?

 

Why can’t we try just as hard to exalt other forms of attractiveness?

 

That’s what I want to see. 

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depression

There’s a lot of blogs that talk about depression. A lot of really great writers have posted their journey and expressed how depression “looks” to them. I say “looks” because depression isn’t always something you feel. Sometimes its just a glass you look through. For some people, the glass is distorted and scary. For some people the glass is cloudy and hard to see through at all. For some people the glass is blue and everything seems sad. For some people the glass is grey and everything seems lifeless. For most people, its a combination of views often changing and morphing into other views.

For me, the glass is high-contrast grey – lifeless but painfully clear and sharp enough to hurt sometimes. There’s a dull film of emptiness laying over everything but there’s also an intrusive stab that comes whenever something happens unexpectedly.

One of the most draining things is making decisions. Did you know that? Think about it…

So stands to reason when one is depressed, making choices and decisions are about the most exhausting things a person can do. Yet I can’t believe how often I’ve encountered the question “so would you like to do ____ or ___?” after I’ve clearly stated I am depressed. Terribly depressed. Incredibly depressed. My brain can’t function very well except for the simplest things and anything external stimuli is excruciating to deal with. The very sound of the birds chirping makes me want to run screaming into a cave. So it stands to reason, when I am depressed, the very worst thing in the world is to have to make decisions and choices of any kind.

Now, my logical facilities are working somewhat. I have an autopilot for most life functions. I can get through just about any situation necessary. Its the unnecessary situations that enrage or drain me. The more trite the decision, the more draining or enraging it will be.

So at this point in time, I am trying to avoid everything that requires excessive attention, focus or decision-making. I can’t do it. This is why in the past month I’ve begun at least five writing pieces and finished none of them. And I don’t mean they aren’t perfect enough. I mean I just drifted off in the middle of them and lost all interest. I know I’ll get back to them and so they are posted privately for me to dive into later.

This was also how I finally realized just how bad this has gotten.

I can’t write.

I go to the doctor tomorrow for a new scrip. Hopefully in a few days I’ll have more coherent things to say.

 

Who do you think you are?

Who are you?

The one who put your hands on me

Moved like silk

turned my stone into butter?

The one who gave me a thrill

a tiny little spot of happy

when I knew I would see you soon?

 

Who did you think you were to me?

Some giant of the heart

Some Santa Claus?

 

You gave me a spark

Stoked it slowly

then walked away

never looking back.

 

I didn’t deserve that.

 

 

Who are you?

The one who talked with me?

Spoke of ideas

turned my beginnings into worlds?

The one who made me breathless

a miniscule pause

when I knew we would chat all night?

 

Who did you think you were to me?

My tutor of the mind

My Pygmalion?

 

You gave me a flower

Waved it under my nose

then crushed it underfoot

with a smile on your face.

 

I didn’t deserve that.

 

Who are you?

The one who rescued me?

Pulled me from the morass

turned my poverty into middle class?

The one who paid for my life

infusions of money

when I knew there was no bottom?

 

Who did you think you were to me?

A sugar daddy

A Howard Hughes?

 

You gave me a home

Pushed me inside

then trashed every belief I held

while protesting your love.

 

I surely didn’t deserve that.

 

I know who I am, I know what I am worth

Much more than you ever knew

I know I didn’t deserve those slights

But you, all of you, don’t know anything

Because if you knew, you wouldn’t have thought it so grand

and you would have come back for more

 

So here we are; I know my worth yet you don’t know anything

I’ve been slighted

and you’ve disappeared.

 

Stay gone.

I used to be so cool (from the vault 2011)

I remember how it was when I was free-spirited, deep and always looking for “meaning” in everyday objects.

Always wanting people to find their star.

Always turning cartwheels.

Always prophetic dreams.

Always spouting wisdom and foolishness in the same breath.

Always connecting every fleeting emotion to something with breath and fire and drowning my own grief and being reborn as a new child of the universe every morning.

 

I remember….

 

thinking that being “deep” and “meaningful” and “esoteric” and “artistic” was what everyone should be.

thinking that “mundane life” was so shallow and sad.

thinking that “they just don’t GET IT, man”

 

 

Then i had kids.

And everything in me turned upside down.

 

The “mundane” world is no longer dull, shallow and sad to me. It’s subtle, transient and filled with bittersweet joy. Everything is so “now”.  Everything is so “you” and “me” and “us” and “here”.

Everything that used to be so important is so meaningless. Everything I thought was meaningless is so full.

 

Every moment is so incredibly unique. For me. For them. For us.

 

Watching them learn the life, the universe and everything. I get to do it all again and laugh when they are “deep” and “esoteric” and love fiercely when they are “meaningful” and “artistic” as they believe they invented the world. Becuase to me, they did. They invented my new world. The one I could never see because I was too busy trying to inhabit someone elses vision, someone elses quest, someone elses judgement.

 

No matter how much I love my life, nothing really was ever so beautiful as when I saw it for the first time, again, with children.

Dove and Beauty

Apparently I’m a weirdo in more ways than I thought.

I care what others think about me.

By the looks of things, I’m the lone freak of my friends in that regard. Everyone says they don’t care and they are offended by the “real beauty” ad campaign by Dove.

I’m not.

I’m not weeping with joy over it either, though. When they started, I recall I reposted the jump-cut collage ad they did about beauty ads and little girls. I liked it, I thought it was an exceptional and powerful statement. The fact that Dove paid for it to be made didn’t bother me one bit. Sure, they hoped that by doing “reverse psychology” ads they’d clean their brand a bit but I’m not an idiot. It was a well-made piece of video art and I liked it and the message it conveyed.

What I appreciated more than their ad campaign was their self-esteem movement for young girls. It’s not perfect and yes, again, its a way of establishing brand recognition and all that but again I don’t care. Good deeds are good deeds even if the person who does the deeds is not inherently a great person.

But oh holy hell I caught for liking that ad. Because after all, its a beauty company and we, as women, are painfully aware of how beauty companies look on us.

But I’m not ready to blame Dove alone for all the damage that the beauty industry has caused to women (and indirectly, men too)

I just can’t do that.

Okay, so their campaign is insincere. Self-serving. Biased. Slanted. Insidiously furthering the same agenda of “you’re not pretty enough”.

Yep, its a beauty company.

Other beauty companies, the ones we are NOT putting under a microscope and castigating are still doing their usual thing of screaming “MEIN GOTT YOU ARE HIDEOUS!” as well as ” for Gawds Sake Cover yourself up!”

So… we ignore them (still) since they aren’t going to change?

We slice and dice Dove for at least breaking with tradition? For at least superficially saying we should feel better about ourselves?

Yes, they are trying to sell products. Products many of us buy. So if they choose to change their marketing strategy to a more subtle form of “use our products to be beautiful” rather than “you are ugly” I’m okay with that.

What I’m not okay with is ignoring the real problem; the fact that the beauty industry is as influential as it is.

Yes I care what other people think. My life doesn’t revolve around strangers’ opinions and my self-esteem isn’t so delicate that I need outside validation of my worth as a human based on my genetic lottery winnings. However, I like being told I’m attractive in some way or another. It is one tiny thing to add to the basket of “doggone-it, people like me”

And yes, I like “pretty” to some degree. But I’m not supposed to say that any more than I’m supposed to say “I’m pretty”. In fact, its a terrible terrible thing to appreciate physical beauty in a human being unless that human being is a total stranger none of us will ever actually meet. Somehow that seems “wrong” to me.

Nobody would slander me if I said I like a nice floral bouquet. Nobody would give me stink-eye if I hung a portrait of Natalie Portman or Eric Stoltz on my wall. But if I say anything remotely related to “I like attractive people” then instantly I am cast as shallow, callous and superficial. Heaven forfend I say I fine myself attractive. Then I’m not only shallow, callous and superficial, now I’m vain and conceited too.

Well guess what?

I do like attractive people.

I also know that I am an attractive person.

In fact, to some people, I’m very pretty.

To others, I’m hideously ugly.

Oh wait, now I self-denigrated. Oops.

Look, physical attributes exist. In all shapes, hues, and limits. We are humans and we have preferences. Its okay to like a certain food but not like a certain physical look?

So when I say “I like attractive people”, what do you really think of me?

This is aside from the argument of what do I actually consider attractive in the first place. Most people wouldn’t even think to bother asking me to clarify myself. They’d write me off as vain and that’d be that.

I can’t recall ever meeting anything I didn’t think was attractive in some form or another. So I feel perfectly justified in saying that I like attractive people. When I finally meet someone who is completely unattractive in every aspect of life, then maybe I’ll reassess that opinion… or their humanity.

For now, I’ll sum it up thusly: One beauty company decided to change their strategy from offensive and demeaning to just subtly pressuring. I can live with that.

Attractive people exist all around, everywhere. I wish more of them knew their own attractiveness because self-esteem hinges on all aspects of our person, not just any one attritbute.

Noticing someone’s beauty, including YOUR OWN, is not inherently negative at all. Its when you fail to see other attributes, non-physical attributes, as part and parcel of that person’s beauty. That’s the problem.

I never will expect the beauty industry to care about that.

But what about us? By focusing our ire on Dove, we are, in some weird way, reinforcing their belief about us; all we can think about is whether or not we all fit the physical beauty mold. We’re angry so many of us don’t and are made to feel bad about it and we should be angry, but let’s not blame Dove for putting blinders on our eyes about the REST of “real beauty” – we did that ourselves and until we consciously stop doing it? Dove and their ilk will keep exploiting it.

Gender? who’s asking?

So the other night, I was hanging out with J (in a rare evening of camaraderie) and somehow he ended up asking me “how can you be a butch and still be with men?”

Wha?

“I’m a butch with women,” I said, “but with men, I dunno, I’m not exactly femme but you don’t have to be when you’re with a man. I like people for people, I fall in love because of what I see inside people, but sex? Eh, its different depending on who I’m with. I guess that’s part of what I love about it.”

So I start looking things up and doing research (remember I’m writing a paper soon but I’m also reading “Stone Butch Blues”) and realize… I’m genderqueer. Always have been. Never thought much about it though. Because when the rest of the world is pre-occupied with your freakishness, how you express gender doesn’t seem to matter anyway. Why should I be concerned about acting “feminine” or not? Why should I bother trying to be “pretty” or “cute” or a myriad of other superlatives that equate with physical beauty? I’ll never look anything like the people who are considered “attractive” and nothing, not even surgery will change that. Ever. I’ve known that all my life. So I never thought about it like that. I express my sexuality and my sensuality however I feel “right” and whether it “fits” or not won’t matter in the slightest.

Yes, many of my friends have seen me in a dress, skirt, makeup, the whole made-up nine yards. I even like dressing up that way. I like being “prettified” sometimes just as I like having a vase of flowers on the central table of the room. Its nice. But I’m not going to pretend the flowers will hide the mess in the corner or erase the faded upholstery on the chairs. Prettified is only one little bright spot on an otherwise mundane landscape. Its also temporary. There’s nothing wrong with temporary brightness, either, but its foolish to think its the totality of the room.

So Sometimes I wear a dress, skirt, make-up even sexy stockings perhaps. Other times I toss on my favorite t-shirt and a pair of tight skinny jeans over my industrial grade working boots, slick back my hair and adopt a swagger in my walk. Sometimes I wear a party dress and my working boots with a swagger. Sometimes I wear a tuxedo jacket with shorts and satin ballet slippers and fishnet tights. Its not even that I don’t give a fuck what people think: I do care what people think. But I don’t necessarily adopt their definition of what I should look like. Because I lost as soon as I stepped out of the gate. I’m in no hurry to pretend I’m gunning for the finish line anyway.

I know everyone says they don’t “conform” and truth be told I see conformity very rarely among people over the age of 20. But there was never a prayer of a chance for me to conform so I never tried and I never cared. Its liberating in a way and I didn’t even realize that until I began discussing gender/sexuality with other people.

So how am I “butch” and still bisexual?

Well I guess I didn’t know I couldn’t be both so I just went ahead and did my butch bisexual thing.

I love men, I love sex with men. I love having a relationship with a man. When I am in one, sometimes I am prettified and “femme” and sometimes I am not. I never thought how I express my gender had anything to do with the person I was fucking. But I guess if I consider myself a butch, then maybe it does?

No. Being butch has nothing to do with how I look. Yes, many butches look the part to some degree or other but its not about how you look, its about what kind of attitude you adopt with another woman and who you like to be with. I’ve heard there are butch-butch relationships (as well as femme-femme) but I’ve never been interested. I feel a kinship with other butches and that’s how I know I am one. From everything I’ve understood, being butch has to do with how you express your sexuality, not your gender, even though the two are often conflated. In me they are not. In life sometimes I respond to the world in a masculine-type way and sometimes I respond to the world in a feminine-type way. Sex with a willing woman is a time I respond in a masculine-type way. Sex with a willing man? Somewhere in the murky middle.

So that’s how I can be butch and bisexual: I’m genderqueer.