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vendredi 24 juin 2011

In the eye of the beholder

Beauty, as defined by the Concise Oxford English Dictionary © 2008 Oxford University Press:


▶noun (pl. beauties)

1 a combination of qualities that delights the aesthetic senses.
2 [as modifier] denoting something intended to make someone more attractive: beauty treatment.
3 a beautiful woman.
4 an excellent example of something.
5 an attractive feature or advantage.
– origin ME: from OFr. beaute, based on L. bellus ‘beautiful, fine’.

I am not a beautiful woman. I have no illusions (or delusions) at that level, even if my sweet girls tell me they think I am beautiful (I suspect they won't always think this; I'm trying to make the most of it). My skin is horrible, I don't take care of myself as well as I should (or even at all, on many days), my hair is a disaster, my teeth are typically British and unattractive, I'm chunky around the stomach-hips-thighs... I could go on, but you get the drift.
Added to that is the fact that, living in the south of France with my daughters attending a private school frequented by the kids of doctors and lawyers, I see what I would consider beautiful women just about everywhere. Some of it is a question of grooming - maybe if I paid more attention to the way I looked and dressed I could be OK too - but there is, most definitely, a French "look" (well-off, well-groomed, well-dressed women) that I will most definitely never have.
Most of the time, I'm OK with the way I look. Sure, I'd like to lose a few kilos and get back to the size I was pre-children. But I'm not overweight, I'm not fat and I don't think I'm ugly exactly. So I'm pretty much OK with the whole thing.
But sometimes, just sometimes, I see something, watch something and it's like a shockwave running through me. Today, I downloaded (paid for, legally) Woody Allen's "Vicky Cristina Barcelona" and watched it instead of working this afternoon. I didn't particularly enjoy the film - I've loved many Woody Allen films, but this one, no. Deeply dissatisfying, I found. Frustrating, even - but there was something about the way Juan Antonio (Javier Bardem) looked at Cristina (ScarJo), touched her, caressed her that made me realise something.
Not the obvious - that ScarJo is way more beautiful than I could ever, ever have been, even when I was her age - no. It was that beauty is the way someone makes you feel. And no one, no man, has ever made me feel beautiful.
In the 14 years D and I were together, he frequently made fun of my clothes, rarely made compliments. He made me feel like a freak, in fact. On the rare occasions he compared me to someone famous, he invariably chose men - old, unattractive and often even DEAD men: Louis XIV, Churchill, Giscard d'Estaing. You can imagine how that made me feel because seriously? Who would want to be compared physically to any of those?. I'm not saying he should have said I look like Angelina Jolie because that's blatantly untrue, but even no comparisons at all would have been better than Churchill.
As I said, I have no delusions whatsoever about my looks. I wasn't a beautiful child, and I'm not a beautiful woman. And really, I'm OK with that. But it would have been nice to have felt that my imperfect body, hair, skin, teeth were beautiful to someone. And, although D did on occasion give the odd compliment, the opposite was more frequent. I have never felt the way Juan Antonio made Cristina feel. No man's touch has ever made me feel special, or beautiful or even attractive.
Beauty is, as they say, in the eye of the beholder, and I have the distinct impression that no one has ever beholden me with an eye that sees beauty.
And I've realised that I really am NOT OK with that.

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