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1.25.2013

The Perfectly Imperfect: What Makes You...You!


So, the other day, I came across this really disturbing article about plastic surgery and an insane push for uniformity in South Korea. (If you feel like listening to a segment on This American Life - it's just the first 8 minutes or so -  here it is. Fascinating stuff.)

Thin, tall, v-shaped faces, white skin, B-cup breasts, big eyes...or so this one English professor's smartest class of Korean women in an all-girl's school rattled off as things that make a woman beautiful. It made my heart break. It made me sad to hear that looks weighed so heavily as a deciding factor in their lives...in getting into school. In getting a job. In their overall confidence. Scales and mirrors on every floor of the school pushing these girls to judge themselves on their looks.

It really killed me that no one mentioned anything about intelligence or kindness...personality traits that make a woman amazing, dynamic, and, yes, beautiful.

...and, to be fair, I have nothing against some minor tweaking. If you wanna go ahead and do a little polishing, un-drooping...be my guest. I'm not gonna judge. However, if you're going to get so much surgery that you don't look anything like your former self...well, there's something really wrong there.

I did a quick tally in my head:
  • Thin: Check (I like to refer to it as "scrappy")
  • Tall: FAIL
  • V-shaped Face: FAIL
  • White Skin: FAIL
  • B-Cup: FAIL (Oh, look, some tumbleweeds just blew by my chest.)
  • Big Eyes: Check? (If we're talking about eye folds, my mom gave me those...but I don't know if I would categorize my eyes as "big.")
If I were to apply for a job or a school in South Korea, there's a good chance someone of the same intellectual level that happens to have more of these traits would get in and I wouldn't. Yikes. That's not right. Just thinking about that makes me a little bit sad and, dare I say, a little bit self-conscious.

Luckily, I'm not in South Korea and, after a rough time in my teens and early twenties, have finally settled into my looks. Sure, I still have off days where I look in the mirror and think, "What is that featureless piece of dough in the mirror? Oh. Just me," but I refuse to cut myself down based on my physical appearance.

I'm taking this post to talk about a few traits that I hated growing up that I now appreciate as my perfect imperfections. Things that are very much part of me that I won't ever be able to let go of...

Down at Snaggle Rock

I grew up in a town where everyone got braces and everyone was sporting perfect teeth by high school. I missed the tooth train and, though most of my teeth successfully grew in straight...ish, there was one lone tooth that always stuck out. I have deemed it "snaggle tooth" or "dragon tooth" and used to despise it. You'll notice a gross amount of photos in my early teens where my facial expression in photographs ranged from "I hate you" to "I'll cut you." If I smiled at all, it was generally a thin line, upturned at the ends.

Unleashing the snaggle was showing the world my crooked smile...

Cut to 15 years later and it's become one of the discerning characteristics of my face and the thing that sets my smile apart from the sea of perfect smiles in Los Angeles. Score!

Sidenote: I recently heard that people in Japan are actually going to their dentists to get these types of teeth (called "yaeba" over there) implanted! Sounds cray-cray...but, hey, look! I've already got one.

Marked for Death...Wait, No. Beauty!

I've got a few beauty marks I've developed over the years, but one has been with me since the beginning. A very dark, very round mole on my stomach. For the longest time I was revolted by it. "Why? Why there of all places?"

Any sort of stomach exposure was unheard of. My midsection was off limits...I can't say what it was that eventually brought things into perspective...undoubtedly something along the lines of "I'm happy and healthy, so what the hell. Why not?" or "Good gravy, it's 100 degrees...what am I doing with this much clothing on?!"

And so, somewhere in my late twenties, I accepted my mole for what it was and started calling it a beauty mark rather than the M word. (It actually makes a huge difference.) Since then, we've both reassessed our relationship and what we mean to each other. Things have been much better ever since.

Jaws (Mine. Not the Shark.)

Scroll back up for a second and take a look at that list of "beautiful traits" and note the V-Shaped Face phenomenon. I don't have that. I inherited my father's strong, squarish jaw and, to be honest, I cursed it every single day starting from puberty up until about 3 or 4 years ago. I dealt with a prolonged battle with baby fat and I feel like it wasn't up until a few years ago that my face started to thin out a bit. (Yep, it happens with age and it turns out that women all over the country are injecting their faces to try to plump things up because a plump face is a youthful face.)

Thankfully, I don't see it as an eyesore anymore, but something that connects me to my dad. If you look at a photo of my parents and I (you can see one here), it's pretty obvious that I am my parents' daughter. I'm my mother from the nose up and my father from the nose down. They gave me cheekbones, happy eyes, a wide smile, and a strong jaw...and I wouldn't want it any other way.

Especially now that I live across the country, retaining some sort of familial identity has become even more important than before. Catching my reflection and thinking, "I look just like mom" or "that's a total Pop face" makes me really happy.

...............................

So many unique traits have set women apart throughout history...whether it was Babs' nose, Kahlo's unibrow, or Hutton's tooth gap, it was always about perspective. "Imperfections" should be celebrated as that certain something that sets us apart and make us who we are. They should also help to connect us with our heritage, our family, our past. Which is why they are not imperfections after all.

Aesthetics will continue to be redefined every decade and the hearts and minds of whole nations will be swayed by a single magazine cover or article, but the fact remains that there are aesthetics and there is beauty.

You are beautiful...the parts of you that make up who you are, whether physical, emotional, or mental, are beautiful. Celebrate who you are, what you are, and where you're headed!

2 comments:

  1. Love this post. Inspires me to make a list of features that haunt me and accept them head on! Thanks Nami

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    Replies
    1. Thanks for taking the time to read it, Tina! :)

      I think really objectively looking at things we consider imperfections is something we can all benefit from.
      To be fair, my list is much longer, but the older I get, the more I accept myself and all my moving parts.
      Life's too short to be fretting. We're all going to be wrinkly & grey someday anyway (I'm kind of excited about that, actually.)

      It's all about perspective and inner beauty!

      xoxo!
      N

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