“Pretty Is as Pretty Does”: On Beauty and How We See It
I have many reasons to be grateful for the opportunity of following Shauna James Ahern via social media. She’s the one in the middle in this photo, taken by fellow food writer Maria Minadeo Raynal of Fresh Eats At Home HERE, during a fantastic lunch at NOLA, one of Emeril Legasse’s fine restaurants in August 2011. We were attending the International Food Bloggers Conference in New Orleans. I’m on the right, and on the left is my friend Merry-Jennifer Markham, whose blog, The Merry Gourmet HERE, I dearly love to read.
I love reading Gluten Free Girl and the Chef, the blog she and her cool talented husband Danny write, HERE, and I delight in following her on Twitter @glutenfreegirl, as well as on Instagram and on Facebook HERE. I adore her photos, spirit, and commentary, and I’m honored and tickled that she and Danny are my friends.
But the gift that keeps on giving is her reading list — Shauna has been known to post an article or two on her Facebook page, and whenever she does, I know it’s time for a little read-up. Yesterday she posted “The F Word” in Allure Magazine, by journalist and author Jennifer Weiner. Shauna’s friend commented under the Facebook post, providing a link to The TODAY Show’s Tuesday blogpost, “Too Fat for TV? Anchor fires back at critic; outpouring ensues” , featuring News Anchor Jennifer Livingston of WKBT in La Crosse Wisconsin.
Today brought another extraordinary, moving and powerful story around the same topic: Women, beauty, size, appearance, judgment, perfection, how we look, how other people see us, and how we see ourselves. I find all three stories deeply moving, inspiring, difficult to read, and impossible to forget. This is so important, and it comes right home to me, because 1) I deeply believe that how we look outside matters very little, and how we are inside matters a lot; and 2) I catch myself every day, judging my own self as bad and wrong over my size, my shape, my weight, my hair, my skin, my outsides. I do not like this about myself, and I work on it. It takes me about 5 seconds to come back to the truth, that this is the wrapper and I am the treasure, that how I look is one small item on the grocery list of who I am and what I am worth (“wonderful!” and “a fortune beyond measure!”) But it’s a habit, an attitude, that I do not love and wish I could shake, for good. In the meantime, I remind myself and re-tune the radio station of my frantic chattering mind to the truth channel: “Here I am. I look good! Here we are. What a gift! A privilege. A blessing.” The old saying I grew up with, “Pretty is as pretty does”, is corny, and trite, and absolutely the truth. I agree, and I am working on bringing that home in my attitude toward myself.
With other people, it’s easy for me to see beauty; real beauty, not the “supermodel/world’s sexiest man” version. The teacher, the mom, the dad, the guy at the Post Office with kind words and big laughs, beaming old folks, my friends… I’m thankful for having 20/20 vision when I look around the world.
I truly do not understand the disdain, contempt and ridicule we dispense about people over their sizes and shapes; nor do I get the worship and value we place on those who meet-and-exceed the mainstream standards that we have for beauty. That we judge this shape as good and that shape as bad; having hair on our heads as better than being bald; youthfulness as more charming than age? Well, so it is. There we are, at least for now. And as I said, I work on my attitude toward and love for my self, daily. But the open contempt? The ridicule? The blame, dismissal and active hatred for people whose bodies are larger than what we consider ‘right and good’? The absolute conviction that they are lazy, inferior, and that it’s about character? That I do not understand, not at all. I do not accept it, and I need to say so, out loud, in writing, whenever I encounter it. I’ve been letting it go by. It makes no sense, and I want it to stop. I want us to stop it.
Here are the three stories, in the order in which I came across them (thank you, Shauna) — finding the third one in succession today convinced me that this is worthy of some time and thought and action. Read one or all three, or just consider these things on your own. I would love to hear what you think.
News Anchor on WKBT La Crosse WI
“Too Fat for TV?” TODAY show coverage and NBC News Blog by JoNel Allecia
For a delightful tale about the 2011 IFBC in New Orleans conference, read my friend Gwen Pratesi‘s post on her gorgeous blog BunkyCooks HERE.) I’ll close with a second photograph from that hilarious, fascinating and delicious lunch with three good friends and fellow travellers on the food road. It’s a little blurry—no, actually, it’s just flat-out blurry (taken by me, same camera as above…) but I wanted to get my friend Maria Minadeo Raynal’s photograph in here, too. This photo is not perfect. None of these women is perfect and if you know anything of me, you’ll not be surprised that I’m not perfect, either. But aren’t they beautiful? Aren’t we beautiful? Beautiful day, beautiful lunch, beautiful women.