When I think about some basic components of “beauty” (by basic I mean the things that when assembled together regardless of features, race, or gender make a person “attractive”) I think of radiate skin, a great head of hair, and beautiful teeth, these things in concert read as “health” and “health” is attractive to us on a organic level as we are primates after all. Much like a lion’s mane or a peacock’s plumage, we as primates instinctually read these things as markers of good genes for breeding. Now, since humans are so “evolved” (and I stretch that term to the point of breakage) we have taken these basic tenants of the Darwinian sorting system of finding the healthiest/strongest/most powerful mate and made it into a commercial industry called beauty… we have sublimated the natural standard to a manufactured sometimes unreachable level, but I’m getting ahead of myself…
So, let’s for my intents and purposes codify the elements or components of beauty as:
I got to ruminating on this because recently I had a little dental incident. Well that is not wholly true, the original incident occurred decades ago. When I was about 11 I was somewhere doing something that I was not supposed to be doing… ok, ok a group of friends and I went to the park, but here is the thing where I grew up in Overbrook, there was a clear racial delineation, two block West from where I lived was the “White Zone”. Now the local elementary school was located in “The Zone” so the Black children who attended could enter, school hours created immunity. The local pizza place was also (clearly) in the zone—not deep in the zone- so you were safe after dark in the “neutral” 2 blocks between the black line and the Pizza joint in the “White Zone”, after all beat downs are bad for business. So we had gone to the park in the White Zone right by the school, but we had stayed too late it was getting dark when we were walking back and just as we passed the Pizza joint (without Pizza) a group of White boys started to chase us. We ran towards the safety of *our zone but I fell and cracked my front tooth in half…
*Note I have since stopped running from white boys if you get my drift…
Needless to say my parents were pissed, and my mouth was jacked! And it stayed jacked for a number of years. It wasn’t until I was 14 that I asked my father to finally take me to get it fixed. However I recall with clarity that although it never stopped me from being expressive, smiling or laughing, I did not feel beautiful. I can’t really say if I had ever felt beautiful before the incident, as I was entering the awkward stage anyway, but I knew that at 14, I was uncomfortable with my appearance enough to ask for my smile to be repaired. I remember I was set to perform in our spring concert and I had a solo and I just wanted to feel beautiful, completely. I wanted to take my bow and smile and not feel self-conscious. So I am very much aware of what it feels like to feel in adequate in one of these areas.
Where bad skin, or teeth can make an onlooker uncomfortable (you might not know where to look), the person who lives with these conditions is certainly not ignorant to it. They no doubt harbor insecurities about these issues and their carriage and body language will certainly reflect it. Think about the adult woman with chronic acne who wears thick layers of make-up to “conceal” it when really it in a horrible twist of irony only highlights and often compounds the problem. What about the person with bad teeth who does not smile only grins as not to reveal their teeth in their purest moments of joy? How retraining must that be. My brother’s wife has misaligned front teeth; they overlap. Where she is a beautiful woman, because of her self-consciousness she holds her mouth in a pinched, pursed manner, which makes her look severe. Ironically, my bother’s daughter (not by his wife) ended up having a similar dental issue. When her adult teeth were growing in instead of her front two teeth splitting the center, one tooth grew solidly in the middle. When she was about seven I saw the physical signs that her teeth were already starting to effect her self image, the pulling her mouth closed, she grinning instead of an open mouthed smile, the hand in front of her mouth when she smile fully or laugh.
I think about men who start to lose their hair in their twenties, where “being” bald is acceptable, men can still be considered “hot” if you are bald, what it feels like to know that you are bald is something different. Male pattern baldness is common and as I stated previously acceptable, but what about women who’s hair starts to thin, or won’t grow… enter a double standard. Where there are numerous ways to camouflage thinning hair or hair loss for women (weaves, wigs, scarves, hats) though it might be concealed the reality always lies beneath, it’s still there, and the act of “having” to cover it up may create shame, sadness, and a sense of inadequacy in many women. It’s important to note that being compromised in one or more of these components does not necessarily make people “Unattractive”, “Undesirable”, or “Unlovable”. Let’s face it there are bald, toothless, people with bad skin who have people who love them and think they are the hottest things ever, conversely there are people with perfect skin, hair and nails who have a hard time finding a partner. The point is that our self-image is not solely determined by how we are perceived by others (that is a part of it) but it is about how we feel about ourselves that defines who we are.
It’s not about what YOU think about me, it’s about what I think about me!
This series is more about bringing you options for taking care of some of the things that nag you about your appearance that are correctable.
First up TEETH with Dr. Blake I. Winokur of Manhattan Dental Studio :
If you would like to contact Dr. Winokur you can do so at: firstname.lastname@example.org