Monday, June 4, 2012

Beauty in Diversity

My 13-year-old daughter asked me the other day whether she should pluck her eyebrows. Apparently a girl at school informed her that her eyebrows were too misshapen! She has a pretty solid sense of herself, so her first reaction was, "Why would I want to pluck my eyebrows? How ridiculous!" She thought plucking eyebrows was some weird fad that her seventh grade classmates had invented. I told her, no, women have been tweezing and bleaching and tweaking and picking on themselves for centuries. This led to a wonderful discussion of all the pressures on women to look a certain way. We talked about how commercials purposely set up women (and all of us) to feel bad or anxious about something and then try to convince us that the only cure/solution is to buy whatever product they are pushing. We talked about how women are literally chopped to pieces in print ads. How many times can you find a cropped picture of a woman's body part--a leg, a curvy hip, a hand--which does not include the rest of her body or at least her face! We talked about plastic surgery and the trend toward younger and younger recipients.

I thought about all those thousands of girls and women spending however many thousands of dollars trying to look the same--the same Pippa butt, the same Angelina Jolie plumped lip, the same Barbie figure. I thought about how sad it is that women can't see their own unique beauty. Then, as so often happens with me, I thought about music.

There have been tens of thousands of beautiful pieces of music written over the last three hundred years. Each is made up of the same elements: long and short notes, notes that step or skip, melody, harmony. Yet each is unique in its beauty, in the shape of its phrases. We are like that. Though we are created from the same template, though we each have a mouth and a nose and a chin, none of us looks exactly like anyone else. We are beautiful because we are unique. How we gaze into a child's face eagerly looking for dad's nose or mom's eyes! How we marvel at the way the child reflects both parents' faces, combining them somehow into a unique shape. How sad it is that so many women cannot see the beauty in their uniqueness and the uniqueness of their own particular beauty. It is that very diversity that makes us lovely.