PHOTO COURTESY OF isabella Giancarlo, via www.isabellagiancarlo.com
“Beauty is a form of Genius— it is higher, indeed, than Genius, as it needs no explanation. It is of the great facts of the world, like sunlight, or springtime, or the reflection in dark waters of the silver shell we call the moon. It cannot be questioned.” — Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Grey, 1890.
As I read these words, parked in an arm chair at the nail salon— whose $35 service I regret to note has become a bimonthly routine— I stopped dead in my tracks. Oscar Wilde, an egg-shaped man with a drastic middle part who is nothing but bones in the ground, had hit the nail right on the head.
It is unmistakably f*cked up that one could lock themselves in the library, memorize the entire periodic table and dissect the works of Darwin, Plato and Freud alike— and still never measure up to the washboard abs of Zac Efron. You’d think that a theory that was unearthed by Wilde in 1890 would be obsolete by now. Think again.
‘Would you rather be beautiful but dumb, or smart but ugly?’ my grade-school friend Sophie once proposed, haphazardly twirling a pigtail around one finger. A simple question (which would soon be forgotten once the lunch bell rang) nearly a decade later has me stumped.
Why is it, that in a group of ten women, it is statistically proven that nine of them will feel that their bodies don’t measure up to what they’d like them to be? Instead of focusing on their strengths and intelligence, these women will dwell on their too-thick thighs and too-fat arms for the rest of their days. There really is no determining whether that willowy woman or chiseled man in the glossy spreads of Vogue received a 4.0 in high school or attempted the LSAT.
Really—what is the hype?
Quite frankly, the most courageous and daring thing that a man or women could do these days is stand squarely front the mirror in their birthday suit and tell themselves “I’m completely fine.” Once we accept the fact that we are not perfect and never will be— no matter how many reps of ‘Kayla’ and vile green smoothies we choke down— it’s remarkable how much easier it is to breathe.
Why is it more common to set goals of ‘drop ten pounds’ or ‘perfecting my contour’ instead of ‘read a book a week’ or ‘keep a journal?’ Why, in the words of Oscar Wilde, has beauty become stone cold ‘fact,’ black and white with no wiggle-room?
In my humble opinion, Mr. Wilde, beauty indeed can be questioned. I believe that to a certain extent, true beauty is light years away from being debunked. Beauty is a magical institution that has no one definition in Webster, and has a multitude of connotations.
After trying my hand in a few philosophy classes last semester, I have witnessed beauty in ways that no page of Cosmo or Vogue could ever encompass. The look of sheer determination and passion that filled my classmates’ eyes as they toyed with the words of centuries-gone philosophers was beauty at its finest. Might I add— class after class, most of my classmates donned uniforms of faded sweatpants and gym shorts, without a care in the world.
I’d be a hypocrite if I didn’t take the time to note that I am constantly at war with myself over my appearance at least three times daily— each time I eat a meal. I am just your average millennial with severe discontent over my thighs. However, the times I slap my wrists over my lack of memorized Periodic elements and books are far and few between.
I have learned from years of practice that one sentiment can truly save us from our horribly misleading minds: Accept the fact that you are not perfect and see how much easier it is to breathe.