I ask myself to sit down and in horrific, ultimately liberating prose, think about the definition of beauty utilizing my pen (and keyboard). Denying the usual research, I have only my little brand of twenty-eight-year-old philosophy to direct the flow.
Beauty as a baby, tucked away safely in a hazy yet formative glow, was easy: family and food. The immense curve of Mom’s smile, the happy squint of Dad’s eyes, the pudgy hand that Risa used to stroke my cheek, the warm rush of energizing milk– I do occasionally recall these things as glorious, because they were so necessary and beyond my comprehension to obtain for myself. I was happily given to contentment and even pleasure.
The scene changed faintly in toddler years. I took my luxury in Aunt Angie’s burnt-orange pumps and silky blouse and skirt, ten times too large but covering my freshly dried body after jumping unaffected in her apartment pool. I still smelled like chlorine, but could wear glamorous, grown-up clothes. This was beautiful, and I figured out that adventure would soon ensue. Eternal, crystalline grains of sand merged into a powerful turquoise ocean, which merged into a brilliant sky, which merged into rainbow-colored ice cream, which merged into the rush of wind trapped in a roller-coaster, which merged into a rack of lavender satin party dresses at Easter. Adventure and commodity have now nuzzled each other.
Elementary school brought imagination and autonomous work production. Three memories crush all others: stapling an illustrated narrative and presenting this literature to classmates, seeing the Nintendo Entertainment System in our basement on Christmas morning, and emerging from the baptism pool with an eight-year-old understanding that my life took the left fork.
I remember constructing this third-grade story like a proud poet, cradling her masterpiece at night and dreaming of well-earned recognition in the morning. I wrote about my summer with family, checking the proportions of Risa’s glasses, overseeing grammar hungrily, and choosing the astounding Crayola options with meticulousness never experienced before. Since then, the book lies decomposed in a trash heap somewhere– ephemeral beauty. I believe that if I didn’t drool, saliva at least collected in a ridiculous amount, while staring at the gray, red, white, and black machine. Hours upon hours fostered journeys into worlds and characters, like beloved books, but fresh and exciting and cool. I was transfixed. A few months later, a frigid dip into holy water changed my worldview: who controls my joystick? should I really abandon Mortal Kombat? (nah..) maybe I shouldn’t give my parents the nine-year-old version of the bird (turning back to the t.v. in a huff) when it’s bedtime. So finally and magically, beauty gets dangerous because it’s not about me.
The mini plights of middle and high school may have overshadowed beauty with its toxic angst (cue Fionna Apple, Foo Fighters, and Mystikal), but outliers remained. Particularly, the eerie chill of Edgar Allan Poe’s work being read in seventh grade English class– genius of Ms. Pritchett to let us read in dim candlelight. I saw his work as beautiful because its strangeness fit my rebellion, but also because the depth of darkness was another adventure. In a different dark overtone, hormones surfaced and I successfully convinced my parents to let me stalk boy band Immature during a concert. For this event, I bought a great little gray and black cotton/corduroy dress and thought, “Man, I have legs, boobs and a butt now– awesome!” Subtle pathways to heartache later, but for now I was sure Romeo (that was his actual stage name) would propose being my boyfriend with my outfit in his direct line of vision. With more directed and comprehended visions of beauty in high school I saw heavy literature, historical presentations on crime bosses (more on redemption theory in later posts), hauntingly rich music, and a frigid relational heart beginning to melt.
I’ll forgo passionate images of aesthetically-pleasing images during single college and dating life as a young professional, to get to the heart of my matter: a definition. Beauty is the end of yourself, and the break into an overwhelming (by habit and by shock) world. I’ll spend my whole life chasing this. Happy Lent.