Tuesday, December 14, 2010

How do we embrace beauty in our culture?

I've come to realize that there is a huge backlash against beauty in today's society...and understandably so with the gross magnification of outward beauty that is especially pressed upon women. I know that I don't like being told by anybody how I should look or that I have to wear heels every day or be a certain weight or that if I don't laser/wax half of my body that I am not well groomed enough. Well, nobody likes being told how to look or what makes them acceptable in the eye's of a mainstream culture. That just isn't any fun...

but that's not what I'm talking about. When did those of us who identify with countercultures decide that beauty in general is bad? I've struggled with this for awhile because I'm a weird anomaly of sorts. I suppose I would fit into a fairly crunchy hippie type of category but the austerity of many folks who embrace a simple life is well, it's just not me. Ever since I can remember being a child I loved to dress up. I eschewed baby dolls for barbie dolls at an early age, not because I was reading fashion magazines when I was five, lol, but just because I preferred pretty dress up dolls over babies. I don't know of any teenage girl who isn't bombarded by images of impossible celebrity beautydom and like anyone else I was surely influenced by those things as I grew into that tender age of trying to figure out who I was as a person...

but I feel pretty confident as I am now in my thirties that no matter how hard I try I still have a need to surround myself with beautiful things. I am always particular about the objects I surround myself with and having some sense of artistic value there when possible. I still love to dress up and it only saddens me that my simple life doesn't offer me more opportunities to do that. The thing of it is that I don't feel some great pressure from society to wear makeup or high heels or certain clothes. I just find it to be fun....and I guess as a culture we have let obscene exaggerations of beauty make us believe that expressing yourself or your home in a way that is beautiful is wrong. Minimalism gone wild if you will. It is pretty clear that I'm not all that interested in most beauty standards because I refuse to shave and I have pretty messy dreadlocks but I still like to do my nails and wear makeup and my Chanel no.5. I am discovering that no matter how far I get from metropolitan areas where there is no necessity or pressure to look a certain way that I am still drawn to beauty.

As a spiritual path I have embraced the middle way. It seems the most peaceful existence really and renunciation can be a bit like giving more power to something as being inherently bad that only has as much influence on you as you allow it to in your own mind. Renunication is a valid path for some but I don't live in a monastery so it just seems silly. I'm working toward living in harmony with things that are considered "bad" and instead changing my mindset about them as neither good or bad but that they just are. I think beauty can be one of these things.
I know that we are all striving to be so eco conscious about these things, the chemicals in our makeup, hair dyes, and nail polish.....trying to simplify and buy clothes that are secondhand or at least fair trade. I myself shudder to think of the conditions in China where many expensive luxury goods are made...but that is a discussion for another day. There is a great book called "When Luxury Lost its Luster" for those interested in how luxury goods are manufactured and the few companies who use ethical practices.

The thing of it is that you can take away all the designer labels from the magazines and the celebrities. It is invigorating to see how Etsy for instance has created a huge following for indie recycled fashion. Beauty and fashion doesn't have to be what you see in magazines or on tv. It can be whatever you want that makes you feel good. Maybe that means dyeing your hair purple or doing your makeup a certain way. Maybe you don't like makeup but you love hippie vintage clothing like I do. I just don't think I will ever be sucked into this super minimalist jeans, tshirt, and no makeup thing, even out here surrounded by mountains. I've made changes. I  no longer bleach my hair because of the chemicals. I try to use henna or other natural dyes. There are a lot of cosmetic companies making great strides to offer makeup with natural ingredients. It isn't perfect but there has been a lot of progress and I try to support those companies when I can.

I can see as well as many others how unreal beauty standards have been detrimental as a society. I personally get excited when I see photos or movies of women in the 60's 70's who had natural breasts and no bikini waxes, lol. I don't think that means however that we have to go to an unhealthy extreme in the reverse direction, unless of course that is who we are and what we find beautiful about expressing ourselves.  As for me, my Chanel will forever remain steadfast right next to the patchouli oil in my bathroom.


Jason said...

Good for you. This has been the first post of yours in a while that to me did not come off as a bet of a whiny rant. I enjoy reading your blog, and find it interesting to see how you are adapting to a more simple lifestyle. I have been in the place you are, and am now back to my old materialistic ways, and have been for a number of years. I don't know what drove me back, but I often long for the simplicity my wife and I shared. We had no car, no property, jobs that paid the bills, but were not careers, and frankly didn't care if we ever had careers. Now we are almost 40, have property (whatever that means) cars, trappings, etc. Anyway, keep it simple and happy holidays. By the way try finding any trace of Buddhism in Wyoming if you thing NM is a challenge :).

Little House On The Mesa said...

Lol, yes, it has been whiny lately. I haven't been to Wyoming but I did look up Buddhist centers there once and I see what you mean. Happy holidays to you too!