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How to be pretty?

Dilemma: From Anonymous

"What does a pretty person look like. How do you become pretty?"

The Truth

This is a topic extremely prevalent to most people in general: beauty - the ultimate quality. As said by Aristotle, "beauty is the gift of Gods." For most this can be translated to mean, beauty is love, beauty is good, beauty is paramount. But to me it means: beauty is a physical quality primarily gained by winners of the genetic lottery. To turn beauty into a broader term, to portray "inner beauty" as kindness or generosity, is to idealize a word that by definition applies to physical perception; beauty is an appearance based term which provides aesthetic satisfaction.

In accordance with this, one does not become pretty. One is perhaps subjectively pretty or not, and at the same time, perhaps objectively pretty or not. But do not be disheartened by this reality - beauty is not the most important quality, it is simply made so by the society in which we live.

A set of deep, azure eyes glare at me from the shelf of the grocery store. The woman’s appearance is brash, her lips pout at me as if to declare that she is better than everyone else. Thick hair glistens with beachy waves: a lustrous harmony of honey and gold. Her torso lounges forward in a pose that is seductive, yet somehow beneath the lamentation of the magazine cover, a blunt display of sexuality becomes an everyday woman: an ordinary woman dressed in nothing but a translucent bikini amid a towering glacier. Her legs are long and lean, toned for effect but not considerably muscular. They gradually flourish into curvaceous hips which give her delicate figure an hourglass impression. The shimmering surface of her legs continues on to her torso, a flat stomach indented so that only a thin film of bronze skin separates her ribcage from the polar ocean air around her. Ample breasts overpower her small waist; they are covered by mere inches of fabric, yet the final shot seems more mesmerizing than provocative.

“Super skinny,” “pretty face,” “tall,” “big boobs,” “big ass;” these are the words one high school student uses to describe the ideal woman. Despite the common notion “beauty is in the eye of the beholder,” beauty is not purely subjective, but inherently objective as well. Society tries to tell us that “beautiful” is a pluralistic term, but hypocritically, it creates a common standard for the “beautiful” which most people try to conform to—as depicted by the magazine cover. In the early 1900s this standard was illustrated by the Gibson girl: slender, tall, and albeit with a ‘voluptuous’ bust and wide hips. In the 1950s postwar era, an hourglass look was prized. This look was displayed by actresses like Marilyn Monroe who flaunted a steady body mass index (BMI) in the 20s. During the 1960s a sexual revolution occurred, reversing the idealized images of the 50s and promoting thin, androgynous women rather than curvaceous ones. Models like Twiggy helped to set a new precedent: this is in. As supermodels became more prevalent, the BMI of female celebrities dropped well below 20--what would be considered “clinically anorexic.” That is not to frown upon naturally thin human beings, or even human being who have worked hard to achieve this idealized body, but rather to demonstrate the ways in which the ideal has been influenced by the media. As a society we simply follow the norms that are fed to us, thereby letting external forces define who we are and what we like.

A middle aged man wearing a crimson hoodie picks up the magazine and purchases it. He rolls the paper and stuffs it into his pocket so that only the first three letters of “Sports Illustrated” are visible. “Sex sells,” I think to myself as I look onto the next magazine behind the old one: the same exact devastatingly enticing woman--every man’s dream, every wife’s worst nightmare, every girl’s aspiration. There must be millions of copies scattered around local supermarkets, sitting in mailboxes, stacked on cafe tables. And all around the country there must be women shattered by the fact that they do not resemble the image. I look down at my unshaved legs, bristly with dry skin, chalky from scrapes and turf burns, and muscular thighs which brush against each other, and am inundated by a feeling of lust and resentment I cannot control. Moving down towards the checkout, I stare into the reflective metal, and see an average face framed by unbrushed strands of brown hair. As I place a loaf of cinnamon-raisin bread and a gallon of Rhody Fresh milk on the counter, I wonder if I should turn around, put back the food, and instead purchase one of the many beauty products which promise to instantly transform me into one of the faces on the advertisements.

We all want to resemble the flawless, graceful, elitist definition of a woman. We all want to look ‘attractive,’ to be envied by women, and wanted by men. We all want to please society, and to do this we instinctively try to hold ourselves up to its standards. We try to match the images taken by professional photographers of carefully chosen women, intricately airbrushed to parade flawless complexions and manually proportioned features: images that illustrate a lie. In an attempt to live up to these standards we spend a significant amount of money and time following the bold lines of magazine covers. First we will haul out the yoga matts and press down our aching torsos: “cute butt in ten days.” With full plates and empty stomachs we will toss perfectly good food into pale bins for a “thigh gap.” We will save up for months to purchase the “top beauty product must-haves that will change your life.” And day by day, as we stare into that glass reflection, we will look less and less like ourselves and more and more like the hollow mannequin society calls “perfection”.

Quite honestly, if you are pretty, great! That is a gift which will benefit you and hurt you at times, but nevertheless affect the path of your life. Maybe you are aesthetically beautiful and maybe you are less than so, but beauty is a society-defined construct. Who is to say you are pretty or not, ideally no-one, but in the world we live in, there are people who define what it means to be beautiful: big eyes, high cheekbones, symmetrical brows. You have no control over the way other people view your appearance--even if you do have the ability to wear make-up and present yourself adequately this power is still limited--but you can control the way you view yourself: as a capable, talented, kind, individual. Do not pine and perish over looks, because ultimately, "beauty really is only skin deep."

The Wise Kiwi Has Spoken