By Arden Edelcup (aka: The Beauty Babe)
I devote countless hours doing exhaustive research on the subject of beauty (Marie Claire, Vogue and In-Style magazines) at my research laboratory (a.k.a. my bubbly bathtub). Nothing fascinates me more than the vast array of beauty articles, beauty quotes, beauty blogs on the subject of … How to be MORE beautiful.
I am able to pay for these magazines and my bathtub by selling a dizzying assortment of beauty products at our store to make women look and feel, you guessed it, more beautiful. However, I have never really had the spiritual insight to ask myself the most basic question: “What is beautiful?”
I most certainly can tell you WHO I think is beautiful, but my friend Katie almost always dismisses my expert beauty opinion with an annoyed wave of her hand: “Sandra Bullock is not even close to beautiful. Charlize Theron is clearly the picture of physical beauty.”
These debates even extend to my family dinner table. My husband has his own controversial opinion on who he thinks is beautiful. He actually loves the crooked face of the aging Ellen Barkin, and in private has confessed that he is beguiled by Barbra Streisand. In the interest of total disclosure, his mother bears a striking resemblance to Barbra so I am not quite sure what to do with that revelation.
So where do all of these conflicting opinions on a seemingly simple question leave this beauty expert?
It has left me with an insatiable thirst to find out the truth about what is beautiful.
While engaging in my research, I found a glossy picture of the actress Keira Knightley accompanied by this modest quote: “I like a good flaw. It makes us human. Perfection is boring.” I tapped a soapy finger on this picture and snickered, “Hmm, very interesting quote from a stunning girl in an AIRBRUSHED photograph.”
I wonder if her acting career would have soared if she had a “good flaw” like an unfortunate birthmark on her face. I was about to fling the soggy picture into the garbage and then a flicker of insight seeped into my beauty-obsessed brain. Perhaps there was a bit of truth to what she said after all.
Is it possible to be truly beautiful WITH flaws? Aren’t truly beautiful women pretty flawless? And what are those “good flaws” she was referring to?
Suddenly, I had many questions on a subject on which I claimed to be an expert.
While pondering these questions, I was abruptly interrupted by my mother’s phone call. In an excited voice she said: “Are you watching that interview with Hugh Jackman and his wife? Well let me tell you, for such a gorgeous actor, his wife is NO BEAUTY.”
So like an obedient daughter, I had no choice but to dash to the television and catch the interview. Sure enough, Hugh Jackman was sitting with his “average-looking” middle-aged wife of 17 years. While gazing at her, he repeatedly said how beautiful she was and what a lucky man he was for being married to her. As I watched this adoring husband gush, one thing was crystal clear to me: Hugh Jackman did NOT agree with my mother.
Similarly, during a recent episode of the HBO series, “Girls” — a chubby tattooed twenty-something woman engages in a two-day intense love affair with a stunningly handsome chiseled-face doctor.
After they make love, he strokes her puffy freckled face and whispers: “You are really beautiful.” In disbelief, she replies: “That is not normally the feedback I have been given.”
While humorous, it was also a brutally honest assessment of how not-beautiful she has always believed herself to be. She spoke to all of us who felt that such intimate moments (with men who looked like him) are reserved ONLY for the most beautiful among us. Yet, however unlikely this mismatched pair was physically, as he gazed at her with lust and passion, we all believed she was beautiful too.
A few weeks later, I found myself in a plastic surgeon’s office with my teenage daughter who was contemplating joining “The Family Club”. This club was exclusive to those of us women who got nose jobs. The doctor showed her an altered photo of what her new face would look like after he “fixed the flaw”.
I eagerly proceeded to yank out my credit card, while my daughter stared blankly at the photo of her “new & improved” virtual face. After a minute, she looked at me and stated: “I need to think about this.”
I quietly slid my credit card back inside my wallet and walked out proudly with my daughter. A few days later when I asked what she had decided, my daughter responded confidently, “I showed the nose job picture to a few friends, and everyone agreed that my real nose is what makes me, well me.”
That said, the conversation was over. At 18 years old, my sage of a daughter seemed closer to accepting her “good flaws” as well as recognizing her authentic beauty. While she was not a “beauty expert” — she was wiser than I was on the subject in many ways.
While years of scientific studies have led researchers to the conclusion that a “universally beautiful face is perfectly symmetrical” — does it really mean anything at all?
How does that answer the beautiful gawkiness of Taylor Swift, the magnetic allure of Ellen Barkin or the stylish sexiness of Sarah Jessica Parker? These are just a few of the famously “imperfect” women who turned conventional beauty wisdom upside down and inside out.
Admittedly, I have never been brave enough to challenge the beauty status quo like these women. Over the years, I have attempted to cover, correct and fix every single imperfection with cosmetic tweaks, chemical peels, and anti-aging miracle creams. I have zapped hair with lasers in places where it shouldn’t grow and applied serums to places where it stopped growing.
I have plucked, shaved, colored, streaked. Ironically, my husband with his off-beat taste in women, has NEVER noticed any of my extensive beauty challenges.
Whether I am as hairy as a gorilla or ravaged with a nasty case of morning breath, he truly believes I am quite a beauty. While I have never attached him to a lie detector machine, I choose to believe that he is telling his truth. Maybe that is why he has a teenage daughter who sees her own imperfections as “good flaws”.
With a bit of soul-searching, I have come to the realization that our “beauty” is just a reflection from those who see all of our imperfections as “good flaws”.
Maybe it is really that simple. While we can’t choose if we are born into this world holding the same beauty lottery ticket as Cindy Crawford, we CAN choose to create our own little universe filled with friends, family and lovers who hold up our mirror and see all of those imperfections as our “good flaws” that make us uniquely beautiful.
Lisa Barr, Editor of GIRLilla Warfare: Arden Edelcup is a Mom of three “Indiana Hoosiers” and owner, with her hubby Earl Edelcup, of Ross’s in Highland Park, Illinois.
** The gorgeous painting featured in this blog is by local artist Ronit Wiener. For all of you Chicago-based GIRLillas — Wiener and other artists’ work will be featured in an exhibition entitled,”Beauty Imperfect” — at The Art Center of Highland Park, Illinois, 1957 Sheridan Rd, from March 1 – April 1, 2013. Don’t miss it!