No perfection in beauty

8:02:00 AM

No perfection in beauty | Awesome in Manila

High school to me was four years of cliché. A la Princess Diaries – an almost-complete Mia Thermopolis package, sans having Julie Andrews as my grandmother and queen of a weird, fictional country. Frizzy hair, baggy eyes, formless figure, questionable fashion sense, unpopular friends, the butt of jokes – you wish I’m just being melodramatic.

It weighed on my confidence. It seemed like every other girl caught some guy’s attention and, while I was far from imagining my dream wedding, in a way it mattered that I didn’t. In my lowest I would look at myself in the mirror and nitpick. I would be lying if I say I never got to the point of considering getting something “done”. As young as fifteen.

Pop culture, while it may be a poison to some, was my saving grace. MTV used to air I Want A Famous Face, a reality show featuring young adults who undergo cosmetic surgery to look more like their favorite celebrities. To be fair, I’m sure the show was not created to condemn patients who decide to alter their appearances. But there was, in every episode, a tiny evidence of the human hope that the “beauty is skin deep” epiphany would hit them before it’s too late.

No one in the show ever went under the knife without reservations, from their families and/or themselves. It “changes lives”, that’s the promise. Generally, the patients do walk out happy but no one ever comes out the same. It was moving to see them claim the confidence they never had before the procedures, but dismaying to realize what it took: losing their unique identity.

I didn’t want that. It mattered that I get noticed every once in a while, but keeping my God-given individuality was more important.

And that was around 2004-2005, before more “open-minded” entertainment choices de-sensationalized plastic surgery. I wouldn’t say it was still taboo then, but it wasn’t as openly advertised as it is now.

These “beauty doctors”…their ways to persuade perplex me.

Get the body you deserve
Inspiring confidence in you
Look as good as you feel
Nothing wrong in making yourself a little happier

They dive into the human psyche, prostituting the idea of inner good to make empires out of people’s insecurities.

Beauty is often misconstrued with perfection. But real beauty is not perfect. Aging is not a curse. There is something lovely in the way skin manifests well-lived years. And our bodies – the intricacies of every functioning system clothed in malleable forms, which naturally adapt to our activities and the things we consume.

The Japanese have this view on beauty called wabi-sabi. It is a principle of aesthetics grounded on the acceptance of transience and imperfection. Simply put, beauty to the Japanese is flawed – “imperfect, impermanent and incomplete” – that there is something intriguing and fascinating with the most unassuming, natural things. Even the arts have broken away from standards that limit what can be considered acceptable. We see a rustic, imperfectly round tea bowl and think of it as a work of art; yet we find it challenging to get over the fact that there exists a perfect nose like Kate Middleton’s and it’s not in our imperfect faces.

Going back, I’m happy to have graduated from high school (where the pressures of being cool were much higher than maintaining my honors status). College was my Genovia. It sought to “civilize” my Mia, and may have succeeded a little bit, but offered more avenues of happiness than keeping up with the Lana Thomases of the world.

I’ve accepted that while I may never be a patchwork of People Magazine’s “50 Most Beautiful” (not that I ever wanted to play Frankenstein), I can contribute so much more beauty to the world with, say, the words I let out.


I wrote this essay for an advertising copy test I accomplished a few weeks back. Should there be any problems in making the article public, do let me know.

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