A funny thing has happened.
Over the last few decades there has been much emphasis on authenticity, values, and the deeper things in life, and this is all very positive. A person's character, his values, his words and behaviour are all far more important than how he looks. We even say that people are beautiful on the inside, and it's quite true. This is all good, all good.
Somewhere along the way though, we got scared to remark that a person was beautiful on the outside. People don't take compliments graciously, and you can be called shallow if you comment that someone is attractive. Why are we so afraid to admit that there are people among us who are exceptionally pleasing to look at?
I have a friend who studies Tao. He says that as soon as you recognize one thing you are obliged to recognize its opposite. I am keen on balance in all things, and so I pay attention. In other words he's saying, if you acknowledge that some people are beautiful, you must acknowledge that others are ugly. And we are all uncomfortable with that.
Well, when I say all, of course I mean thinking people. There's no shortage of those ready to condemn anyone who doesn't line up with their idea of beauty (even if it's an attribute they don't have themselves). And rightly, we condemn them in turn for their judgemental attitude. We tell them to get past that, but they are not interested.
I have seen articles about people, especially children, with severe facial deformities, that 100 years ago would have had them hidden away in an attic. Today we are more sympathetic and caring, and we want them to be treated like everyone else. And this is a good thing. But some people go so far as to call them beautiful. I understand why they do this, and they will tell you it's their smile, or their eyes, or their spirit. Which is wonderful, but we may as well say they are tandrenous, for all the word beautiful means here.
I am not saying "be brutally honest" here. I know how dangerous that sort of idea can be, but let's be realistic.
I am not beautiful. I used to be. I got lucky in the gene pool and I was born with all the right proportions in my face. Then age came along, and while I won't scare the horses, I'm not beautiful anymore. I'm perfectly OK with that, it's one less hassle frankly.
I know a thing or two about being beautiful. Oh yes. It is a HUGE advantage. When you are young it makes self-confidence that much easier. As a teenager I was slim and pretty and never had to obsess over my looks or my figure. I'm here to tell you that makes life easy. Anyone who says otherwise is either lying to you, or.......or.........they had other reasons for their lack of self-esteem. Because I guarantee, right now, reading this, are women saying "WOAH! HOLD ON! I was slim and pretty too, but I was a neurotic mess!". Yeah. Beauty won't fix that.
So that advantage only works if it's not offset by other issues. Actually.
The other advantage, OBVIOUSLY, is that you can get any romantic partner you want!
This is a rumour put around by those trying to explain why they didn't win the "prize".
"Wait a minute....I'm not seeing the advantage here."
Actually it's minor. I did get one job based solely on my looks, but apart from that and the time saved, there was no real advantage to it.
And the unwanted attention you get outweighs any advantage anyway. When you are young and slim and pretty and you enter any bar, club, party, or whatever, every scumbag in the place make a beeline for you. It's tedious.
I much prefer being old and ugly. I have conversations with more interesting people. I don't get hit on. It's just waaaaaay easier.
That's the truth.
Nevertheless I can't imagine many young people choosing to be ugly. They may choose an ugly hairstyle or whatever, but that can be changed. Only a minority deliberately uglify themselves, and they generally have psychological issues.
It is certainly different for the young, and we must never overlook that. We teach them that you are setting yourself up for heartbreak if you base your self-esteem on your looks, because unless you got really lucky in the gene pool (Johnny Depp, etc) those looks won't last with age, and we see people spending a fortune on age-defying surgery.
Then we scorn vanity. We often do this in the same breath. We talk out both sides of our mouths on this entire topic. We are so conflicted.
And, last but not least, there is personal taste. There are even people out there who don't think Johnny Depp is good-looking. It's a minority view, but it's genuine. They just don't see his appeal.
So, to call a person beautiful is an opinion. It's never a fact. That's interesting in itself.
The fear of beauty goes right along with the fear of ugliness. It's a fear of opinion itself. We don't want to be seen thinking the wrong thing, and that is a type of vanity!
I don't want to live in a world where beauty is everything. Where we shun people for not meeting an arbitrary standard. But I want to enjoy beauty where I see it, SEE IT. Not feel it. Actual physical beauty, like flowers, and butterflies, and sunsets. I don't want everything to be treated as equivalent, visually. I don't want bad art to be applauded, I don't want horrible colour schemes, I don't want buildings to get run down, or gardens to be neglected because they all have equal value.
I want there to be beauty, and I want it to be OK to acknowledge it, to enjoy it, and to say so.