Eye of the beholder

by mollykl

If I could look like anyone, anyone, in the world, I would have to admit that I would not be politically correct or self-aware or any of that bullshit and say “myself.” I want to look like Keri Hilson.

I think she is, quite possibly, the most beautiful woman in the world. While on a day to day basis I’m relatively content with the way I look, if I had my druthers, I’d look like her. For those of you that don’t know me (um, do I have any readers that DON’T know me? Probably not…) I am a 42 year old, white-anglo-saxon-protestant-and-looks-it, 5’6, 160 lb, , mother of a 4-year-old, who has to color her grey roots every 4-6 weeks (but I do it every 8). There is NO WAY IN HELL that even with cosmetic surgery I am going to look like Keri Hilson in this lifetime.

So where do we get our standards for beauty? I don’t mean the standards that we hold as a society (and try and tell me we don’t have them as a society), I mean our personal standards.  Why don’t I want to look like someone a little more in reach, i.e. white, brown hair, hazel eyes?

I think it’s partially exposure.  In high school I was very aware that all of the popular girls were black and I, obviously, was never going to really fit in.  Yeah, I had, again, the mouse brown hair cut really short and the pale skin with freckles. I knew I was never going to be one of the pretty popular girls, but damn I wished I could be. Corn rows were really popular – it was 1985- and all of the cheerleaders had them with yellow and blue beads (our school colors) – and here I was with the most spectacularly dull brown hair that was, due to an unfortunate perm, cropped very short. Throw in my glasses and braces and it’s a wonder I emerged with any self-esteem at all.

If the familiar shapes our notion of beauty, then how do we fit ourselves into that particular picture? And what if we can’t?