Thursday, May 15, 2008

A Wandering Ranter, I

What is pretty?

I watch America's Next Top Model... yes, I know, go on, call me whatever, but, I like the show, and whomever 888770 is on youtube is, I want to thank you... without them, I'd have had to go without my fix since I've moved... all of my television viewing is done via my trusty laptop.

Plus, watching it via youtube lets me skip past the blah blah parts and get to the important stuff...the shoots, the judging, and Miss J taking the voted off model's name every week.

This year, I rooted for Lauren, the tall lanky model who had never worn heels from Brooklyn, and Whitney, the model who announced she had "...boobs, hips and a booty, and I'm proud of them. I won't change for anyone."

Lauren made it fairly far in the competition, then failed when it came time to do a commercial... the camera and memorising lines did her in... she was not moved on to be ANTM.

Off came her name from the jacket.

I put all my hopes on Whitney, even though she was in the bottom two on four occasions. She ate like a normal person, she was built like a normal person... she was proud of her body, full and rounded and lush.

She won.

Booya.

Pretty, um, special.

I also have tickets to see Neil LaBute's new play, reasons to be pretty, as part of my MCC membership. It's the third in a trilogy that started with The Shape of Things, and moved on to Fat Pig--all three plays about America's obsession with looks.

I don't know when I'll see the play, I've not made my reservations yet... I admire LaBute, I find his work to be sharp, he digs down and I find connections to my own life, especially in last year's production of In a Dark, Dark House, that often set me back... I wonder if he has read my secret diary that doesn't exist, listing my fears and emotions from my childhood.

His wit can cut wounds so deep and quickly, you don't know they are there until you see the blood dripping. The man can write. So, I'm anxious to see pretty...

...to a point.

I have to ask myself, after watching ANTM.... what is pretty? The premise behind the LaBute play is a comment made by a man about his girlfriend... well, let me quote:

"Greg's tight-knit social circle is thrown into turmoil when his offhanded remarks about a female coworker's pretty face (and his girlfriend's lack thereof) get back to said girlfriend........."~Playbill

There is more to the plot line, but, this is the part I'm focused on, and am thinking of, along with Whitney and her win on ANTM.

What is pretty, and what are the reasons to be pretty?

There were a huge (no pun) number of comments made about Whitney's success on the show, all focused on her 'plus' size. The fact she has a stunning face, even sans make-up, was often put aside.

I've seen photos of the two actors who play the women in the play, and neither are near the word plain or average. How do you act 'plain'?

We focus so much on looks, in this country especially... that it is an obsession. From the moment my children were born, my mother spoke of how beautiful they were. Granted, I think they are lovely... but, I did my best to raise them to see their full potential, not a face. They are your basic people... with features arranged in a pleasing fashion. They are also bright, talented, loving, witty and they put up with me.

I was not brought up in the same way. I'm not going into it, my children do read my journal... my past pain isn't necessary to make a point... what does need to be said is, in a place, in a country, in a world where how you are perceived can actually create the way you live....when no matter how you actually look..,.the face/body you see in the mirror is the one you carry in your head... words said to a child linger on into adulthood, and sometimes never go away.

I am an average, plain woman. I am not going to curdle milk or anything, but, I'm not going to stop traffic. There was a long time in life where I railed against my fate... I have a mother who is still, in her last quarter of life, a beautiful woman. My Aunt A is like her, both with the strong Gaelic facial structure that allows them to grow older and stay beautiful. My mother exudes pheromones like nobodies business, I've gone out with her, and seen men bypass me to flirt with her...

I do not have this gift.... or is it one?

Here is where I stand... I'm okay with how I am, finally. I wish we didn't raise up younger and younger girls to the place where I see 10 year old kids trying to look 15. I wish men (sorry guys!) didn't put the burden on 'mature' women to struggle to look younger, because they seek out young women instead of realising it is okay to date and have relationships with someone your age. I wish we could be more like the Europeans, and grow old with grace and joy... I wish we wouldn't say to our daughters, "Well, at least you have nice eyes."

I wish I'd stop wanting to put my breasts back where they used to be, and understand that using scotch tape to hold my upper eyelids firm and taunt by pulling them up and taping them to my forehead really isn't going to work... and people aren't saying anything to me because this is New York... and I ride the 'F' train... and people on the 'F' train are strange. The reasons to be pretty still niggle at me enough, I do want my breasts back higher... my eyes are fine. I pretend the tape isn't there, and the hell with those who say it is.

So, Whitney won ANTM, there is a final play in a group whose second offering I never want to see again, because it made me sob in pain.... and I give up on America accepting we are what we are... be comfortable with it, why doncha? More interesting is, this applies to women far more than men.

I saw a dating test online once... I answered the questions the same way, as a man and as a woman.... I only altered one area... the amount of money made per year. Being a mature woman, my chances in the dating pool were slim, even though I listed myself as making over $100K a year. As a man, I was hawt.

I guess even cash can't make up for some things.

What is pretty? Why is pretty?

Shakespeare said in Love's Labours Lost

Good Lord Boyet, my beauty, though but mean,
Needs not the flourish of thy praise:
Beauty is bought by the judgement of the eye,
Not utter'd by the base sale of chapmen's tongues.

(and you wonder why it's taking me months to read his complete works??)

I think Margaret Wolfe Hungerford (no relation to our Margaret) said it best:

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

I guess she forgot that if you aren't pretty to begin with, no one looks to see if what is behind the face is interesting, witty, bright and true.

Shame, really.

16 comments:

The Investment said...

i wish people tried less to be pretty. so many people in the world are gorgeous at their worst, but it's never good enough for anyone.

Michael Manning said...

I can see beauty in every woman!

coastrat said...

I guess I am one of those folks who believes that real beauty is a lot more than skin deep. I am fond of characterizing people as 'beautiful', and meaning the total person, not just his or her physical looks. Sounds like we are in agreement on this topic, Quin, and I thank you for center-staging it for us to think about, reflect upon and be reminded of the basic important things in life, rather than allowing things vain take up and waste our everyday thought process. Hope you and your Mama are doing well.

MrHarlequin said...

But isn't that the point?

Some people perceive beautiful as simply a higher score on the scale of prettiness, which is like awarding Michelin stars on the basis of the decor in the washrooms. OK, that's a poor analogy, but you know what I mean.

Beauty is a factor of the person, their wit, their compassion, their humour, their intelligence, the way they live their life.

Pretty is a purely subjective set of physical rules of almost mathematical construction: Eye to mouth positioning; nose size compared to cheeks and lips. This is then supplemented with a stereotype of ideal body image, which originates with a biological imperative but has been corrupted as the need to identify a potential mate has been subsumed.

Yet it's interesting to note that the definition of pretty changes with both culture and time - you only have to look at National Geographic for the former or a Rubens for the latter.

The corruption of body image that leads to today's young girls aspiring to looking like a broom-handle is not only unhealthy but oddly, seems to strike no chord with most men. Perhaps it's our primative caveman DNA over-riding years of conditioning, but we tend to want more meat on the bones!

So America's Next Top Model? Perhaps.

America's Next Top Beautiful Woman, errr, no.

I didn't see it, so can only hope that the winner is a revolt against this pervasive trend, but I have a horrible feeling it's just a PC blip on the skin-and-bones radar. Winning the competition is one thing - being embraced and EMPLOYED by the fashionistas is another thing entirely.

Note to self: Don't post quick comments on medication.

Harriet V said...

And you wonder why I don't watch those shows!

How can you compare people -- male or female -- when every culture has a different yardstick? Clear skin and symmetrical features are just about the only constant.

I won't pass judgment, but my ideals are usually different from the models.

inflammatory writ said...

Quin, I've never seen a photo of you, but I think you're beautiful.

Seriously though, I hear ya. I'm okay. I'm cute. I have an okay body, nice boobs, very average face. The only thing not average about me is my hair - which is pretty damn fabulous - but that's because of the amount of work I put into it. I realized a long time ago I wasn't beautiful by conventional standards, but I get by just fine. I have a husband who thinks I'm sexy, and I feel okay with myself as I am for the first time in my life (most days, anyway).

Peter Varvel said...

I've seen a photo of Quin, and a 6S video of her. She is indeed gorgeous!

Quin, you've discussed some very important issues, here, thank you.
This has been on my mind, lately. As a performer, I've worked with some of the most physically beautiful women (Disney had some very pretty gals playing their princesses). I worry about them more, now that we are older and our looks are fading. A few of them are surviving nasty divorces and going through a lot of difficult drama.
Were things too easy for them twenty years ago because they were so beautiful?
Does being pretty mean you are less likely to become emotionally equipped to handle reality and all of the trials of normal life?

People in Los Angeles can be too materialistic and shallow, especially when it comes to physical appearances. I have noticed, though, that most L.A. locals may have normal/average looks, but they are able to make the most of what they have to work with. It inspires me enough to build up my own self-esteem.

Prince Gomolvilas said...

Again with the LaBute?! If you love him so much, why don't you marry him?! :)

the Constantly Dramatic One said...

LMAO!!!!! Prince and his LaBute's rivalry cracks me up so much...=p
Anyways, there is a reason why I dont watch ANTM. I already have issues as it is.


And pretty....right......oh huney. I grow up in my beautiful, skinny sister's shadow. Growing up there was never a day when I go on without being compared.

"The older one is the beautiful one. The younger one is the fat one. Oh the older one will marry good...the younger one....well we dunno."

Harsh words. Things said in childhood does linger around. They dont fade away. You make do. I probably be the ugly one always but I'll make do.

What else is there to do?

Writeprocrastinator said...

Pretty is Kate Dillon, not Kate Moss. But that's just this guy's opinion and very few men will agree.

Oh, BTW, you're tagged.

Quin Browne said...

investment~truer words never spoken

mm~teach a course...really

cr~i'm glad you liked it...and she's out of hospital, bossing my aunt around, and doing pretty good, thanks!

harle~asperger's kicked in, but, i did manage to focus on most of your big words. : )

sortamom~i love the catfights

wit~i <3 you. i give myself great skin and a pleasant smile. crap hair, though.

pv~pish tosh. and, it's a good point, does beauty make you better able to handle emotional reality?

prince~yes, again with labute. i appreciate his brilliance and call 'em as i see 'em. don't be a hater, i praise you, too. plus, i'm going to marry peter.

dramatic one~i do understand...and, you have created an amazing woman, on her way to being strong, witty and beautiful. and ugly? so was the swan for so very long... word.

wp~i hear you there. and, tagged, again? you. are. killing. me.

Bud said...

The older I get, the more beautiful old chics get. I'm glad you are comfortable in yourself. I just lie about my age for gigs, not for younger women. Am I a bad person?

Writeprocrastinator said...

"wp~i hear you there. and, tagged, again? you. are. killing. me."

I'm sorry, if I wasn't a fan of you and your writing, I wouldn't tag : )

If you are too busy, I understand.

Quin Browne said...

bud~you are a great person.

wp~that's right, get me where you know you can... i am so going to do the tag. :)

Prince Gomolvilas said...

"prince~yes, again with labute. i appreciate his brilliance and call 'em as i see 'em."

...Get a room!

Bill From Gainesville said...

Quinn, I think you are beautiful, although I do have to admit I have never seen what you look like. Your writing has moved me before, and I guess its that connection that has given me the high opinion I have of you.