Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Defining beauty


THERE’S beauty everywhere. You see it in the sunset, in a cosy garden, in a tasteful design, in a sweet smile. One may be fortunate enough to experience beautiful friendships and have a hoard of beautiful memories. Some are distracted by beauty queens, beauty salons, beauty and the beast, and affirm that black is beautiful. Some are not happy with how they look, so they achieve some self-confidence through a facelift, breast enhancement or plastic surgery elsewhere to appear more “beautiful”.

I enjoyed the story on a website about a man who was planning to meet his Internet pal after a few years of e-mailing each other. They decided to wear a rose each so that he would recognise her when she alighted from the train she would be taking to his town. When the train arrived, the young man eagerly looked for the rose, and he found it ... on an old woman’s jacket. He identified himself to her and she did so likewise. Hiding his disappointment, he gallantly gave her his arm to escort her to lunch.

As they walked away, the old woman handed him the red rose and told him to give it to the beautiful young lady behind her. She said the young lady had requested that she wore it, and that if he walked with her and not away from her, she would be pleased to be introduced to him! Here was a woman who was more concerned about meeting a man who was nice to everyone and not only to beautiful women. That was the beautiful quality she was looking for in him.

Many years ago at a social gathering, I overheard a middle-aged man saying, “She has a beautiful face”. I looked in the direction he was facing and saw that he was referring to an elderly friend of mine. I was momentarily surprised that my good-natured friend with her wrinkles and hardly any make-up was considered beautiful.

Could it be that the suffering she endured in the earlier years of her marriage have added character to her face? Yes, an old face can appear beautiful, too. In fact, some photographers and artists have been known to single out old “interesting” faces that result in beautiful shots or paintings.

Of course, I have come across people who worry all the time and it never reflects in their faces. There are people who look sweet enough and yet when they open their mouths, their rough tone or language can make you want to keep your distance. So I have given up concluding that all sweet, calm exteriors guarantee a cool, calm interior.

I have met lively L-sized folk, uneducated old folk, physically disabled ones and people going through hard times, who provide “beautiful” company. It is the positive attitude they have which brightens the day, for themselves and for others around them.

I have never forgotten an incident during my younger days, while browsing in a textile shop in Malacca. The salesman attending to me showed me a new arrival. I exclaimed that it was gaudy and it triggered an admonition, “All colours are beautiful”.

Indeed, since then, I have tried to remind myself to refrain from reacting too fast to other people’s taste – for what is not beautiful to me could be beautiful to them. So very often when I go shopping with someone and I am asked for my opinion, I’d say, “If you like it enough, take it” even if I am not that keen on it. Hey, I cannot imagine matching green with pink in my décor or in my dressing, but it has been trendy for some.

Beauty, in the physical sense, is in “the eyes of the beholder”. Elsewhere, it may be hard to define as we are all so different. However, it can be easily felt when one hears something well-expressed in words (but you young people should be careful over “sweet nothings”) or see a kind act from someone.

Here’s sharing a witty quote from Ninon de l’Enclos, a French woman writer from the 17th century: “That which is striking and beautiful is not always good, but that which is good is always beautiful.”

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