I’ve written about the moral, social, personal values of beauty and beautification in many posts over the past few years. But I’ve never been as moved or inspired by the critical role beauty has in our lives until I read this story by Emily Rapp in the Huffington Post, Beauty:What Does It Look Like?
Like many teenagers, she went through periods of hating how she looked and even experienced bouts of anorexia. The she decided to give it all up in her 20’s in an effort to express her natural beauty. While she started putting more effort back into her routine as she got a bit older, she reverted again to going au natural.
But this time it was for a heart-wrenching reason.
Nine months after giving birth to a beautiful boy, she learned he had a horrible degenerative disease, Tay-Sachs. Within the next two years, her little bubbly baby would devolve into a vegetative state and then die. As a mother you can’t help but tear up while reading her story. And as you can imagine, beauty was last on her priority list. She left the house un-showered for days, went months without haircuts and was lucky if she brushed her teeth.
But then a switch flipped. She realized she NEEDED her beauty and beatification rituals. They gave her a sense of control and agency. They gave her some happiness. They weren’t frivolous acts of vanity. They were a matter of survival. She writes:
“But there I was, I realized a year in, as I looked at my wan face and split ends and weak body, something I could do about how I felt. I could make myself feel better by making myself look better, according to my own standards. It wasn’t a superficial, thoughtless act to rediscover a sense of authentic beauty; it was necessary. It was about survival.”
Our circumstances my be shit and we may not all have the greatest canvass to work with, but we ALL have the ability to change how we look, even just a little bit. And this empowers us, affirms us, and grounds us.
Now I’m going to hug my kids.
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