Sep 05

Finding Beauty in the Ugly

Ugly Sister by 4mel1e on Deviant Art

Ugly Sister by 4mel1e on Deviant Art

Somebody taught you what it meant to be beautiful.

You’ve been watching TV for an average of 32 hours a week since you were two years old. By the age of five, you knew enough to ask for your first Barbie, and she completed your education. You understood that being beautiful meant blond hair, long legs, a tiny waist, and improbably large breasts. You also knew that you were not beautiful, and you never would be unless you took measures into your own hands…or rather, the hands of a skilled surgeon.

I have a family friend who was born a natural beauty. She had wavy blond hair and sparkling blue eyes, with sun-kissed skin and a figure toned and tightened from years of swimming. Her personality made her even more attractive — she had a wry sense of humor and an adventurous, playful spirit. She was the kind of girl that people gravitated to and enjoyed being around.

But then, as she grew older, she decided to go into modeling. She had plastic surgery. She enlarged her breasts and trimmed her nose, and she molded herself into the beauty ideal.

She disappeared.

The work she had done didn’t make her more attractive; it made her less noticeable. She became a clone, another pretty face like those you see plastered on TV all the time. I wonder if she did it on purpose so that she would have a mask to hide behind, so no one would ever know the real girl again.

They say that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. I disagree. I think beauty is in the eye of the seeker, the lover of truth, the reject0r of convention. Everything is beautiful if you look hard enough.

It’s easy to walk down the street and notice the allure of the flowers in your neighbor’s garden, the colorful birds flitting through treetops, the bright green, perfectly trimmed yards, the laughing, squealing children who run through the sprinklers. But can you also see the charm in the rusting old clunker lifted on a jack, missing two tires? The dead tree on the corner lot that you keep hounding the neighborhood Home Owners Association about, insisting on its removal? The old woman who comes out of her house in robe and slippers, with mussed up hair, obviously hung over, to retrieve the newspaper from her driveway?

Can you find beauty in the ugly? It’s there. I’ve seen it.

People ask me why I write darkly. There’s enough darkness in the world, they say. Why don’t your write about hope, joy, and goodness?

I do sometimes. But I want to dig deeper, to find the truth. To find the beauty in the truth.

People turn away from pain and suffering. They avert their eyes. They don’t want to know that it’s there. They do whatever it takes to avoid it in their own lives. They medicate, copulate, accumulate, and consume. They are willing to give up feeling anything in exchange for no longer feeling pain.

And yet, is there anything more beautiful than pain? Suffering is exquisite. It is etched in the lines of our faces, in the movement of our limbs, in the scars both seen and unseen. Suffering means that we have experienced life, the good and the bad, all of it, not just skimmed around the edges.

My friend is beautiful, yes, not because of her facade but in spite of it. Her beauty lies in the razor blade cuts that hide behind her perfect smile.

I challenge you to be seekers of beauty, not beholders. The next time you are driving along the street, notice the beauty in everything around you. See the homeless guy waiting at the bus stop, dirty and tired. Imagine the secrets that he holds. Acknowledge the gang banger walking along the sidewalk with his pants slung low, his swagger, his menacing look that says, “I’ll cut you before I let you hurt me again.” Notice the flower that has somehow pushed its way up through the cracks in the sidewalk, but notice the gray and dingy cement, too, dusty and scuffed by thousands of shuffling feet.

See the beauty. Be the beauty. Change the way the world thinks about beauty.

So tell me: What is the most beautiful thing you’ve seen today?


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  1. Nikki

    Now that was an awesome post. Nice wordsmithing, lady!

    1. Shelli Proffitt Howells

      Thank you kindly, my dear friend! Your opinion always means a lot to me. 🙂

  2. Corona Elks Lodge

    Today I took a really close look at my elderly client. As he was searching for the letters on the keyboard of his laptop (first time ever on a computer), I watched his face crinkle up even more every time he made a mistake. Although very wrinkly, he face was smoother than I had thought it was – making me think he was closer to 70 years old instead. And even though he wasn’t the most handsome man – I could tell that in his younger years – he must have been a looker.

    1. Shelli Proffitt Howells

      I love that, Eydie.

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