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Thursday, July 10, 2014

Beauty Doesn't Hide By Erin Mann

So often, I allow myself to be lost in the vast emptiness of a hollow box that has told me what beauty is supposed to be.  I get frustrated with my reflection because what stares back at me isn’t what I see in on a silver screen or the on covers and through the pages of magazines that line the registers of every supermarket.
 They show you what you are supposed to be and look like while screaming to your subconscious to stock up on the calorie packed candies that frame them because you don’t.  But every once in a while I have to embrace truth over fantasy and give that truth a voice.
These lines in the corners of my eyes represent the number of smiles I’ve displayed, not the number of expired years I have been forced to endure.  The healed claw marks that drape over and through my skin like wild ivy is evidence of my sacrifice and love that only a mother can fully comprehend- every kick in my womb, every hiccup, every moment of development made them even deeper, longer and more discolored.  They represent the beautiful people that will leave their own mark on this world and that is my true legacy, exchanged for the small price of my insignificant vanity.    

Every day I wake up and stretch out the cricks and crackles of my body left behind by self inflicted abuse and unnecessary tolls of premature aging due to misguided self medications.  I climb into the piercing streams of the steaming water from my shower.  I shampoo my thinning hair, wash my body and shave my legs.  I cleanse the canvas to painted again fresh for a new day.  As I dress it is a deliberate act of choosing my costume.  I have to lie on my bed to squirm my way into the jeans that compress everything into the numbered package I present to the world, choosing appearance over comfort.  Hooking clasps behind me of the lacy ornaments filled with sculpted cotton and poking underwire to lift my wilting breasts back into a position of youth and seduction that gravity and time have robbed me of, all the while hoping to find someone capable of seeing past the sexuality of pillowy breasts and into my heart.  
Sliding on a shirt that is tailored to hide my imperfections.   I slip on shoes that make me appear just a little bit taller.  I style my hair, to bring attention from my face, and then sit down with my magicians box of rainbow colored powders and waxy coatings.  I conceal discolorations, lengthen my lashes, highlight my cheekbones, match eye shadow to my wardrobe, and paint over the pale pink tones of my lips with a mixture of wine and rose colored stains.  
Every once in a while I look at this stranger that stares back at me that I painted on and I examine what parts are real and what parts hold beauty and sometimes I am able to see more clearly than others.  This mark on my hand? It’s from a burn I got cooking a dinner that I prepared to nourish someone that I love.  This one on my knee? I got that falling down laughing with friends when we played a sport that I lacked the coordination and athleticism to play without injury.  I have these extra pounds because I enjoy the taste of food and I have spent many meals having conversations with loved ones over them, and maybe sat there a little too long picking at what was left on my plate when we lost track of time.  Sometimes I don’t want to exercise because I am tired from all the the other things on my daily to do list.  My hair has gray in it that I cover with artificial coloring I get out of a box, but those hairs have changed color because I worry about someone who carries a piece of my heart around with them.  My nails are broken because I have used my hands to build and keep a home for my family.  My hips are wider because I brought a life into the world.  I try and see the best in people and sometimes I have been hurt - but sometimes I stumble across someone who surprised me.  They give more than they take, they forgive more than they judge, they listen more than they speak and would rather wipe away the mascara flakes trapped in a teardrop that rolls down my cheek than to do anything else in the world.  
Every once in a while I ask myself why I feel the need to straighten my hair, or paint a mask on my face.  Why do I do all these time consuming and costly things? I do them to make myself pretty, or at least what pretty is “supposed” to be.
The truth is sex does sell.  Sexy images of fantastical dreams of unreachable realities, airbrushed cartoons portraying what is real and what is desirable.  But the thing I love about facts is this, there is always another side to the story.  For every down there is an up, and while yes, sex does sell, passion has a higher price tag.  What people want in their art, in their literature, in their movies, and in their thoughts is the evoking of emotion and of thought, the empathy of not feeling all alone in those whole big bad world, no matter what it is- joy, sadness, envy, anger, fear, love, embarrassment, amusement, gratitude and the list goes on.  The mannequins in the windows of fifth avenue boutique have a way better figure and wardrobe than I do, but I have something more valuable than all the overpriced handbags and shoes in the world.  I have memories that will outlast the soles of those shoes, I have thoughts and dreams that give color to the blank canvas of life, and I will lie in the arms of someone who looks past what the world would consider flaws and sees those things as something that separates me and makes me the person I am, inside and out.  
Beauty lives in the personal and intimate moments of life, not on a hanger, not in a magazine or television screen.  No one will ever remember what size shoes Maya Angelou wore or what color her favorite shirt was, but we will forever quote her words.  No one remembers the faces of Ghandi, Mother Theresa, William Shakespeare, Beethoven or Davinci, we remember and learn the lessons and and legacies they created in their work, art, words, and lives. I would be lying if I said I was swearing off hair products and styling gels, clothes that make my waist look smaller and butt look tighter, but I can say this, when I look in the mirror and ask myself the question “What is beauty? Why does it hide?” I can see through the mirage to the truth now and know- BEAUTY DOESN’T HIDE, WE HIDE IT.

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