” You don’t understand. You wouldn’t understand because you’re a guy. And because you’re not me.”
She was energized.
This was a conversation we’d been having since we’d met, but like all our conversations at the beginning of our relationship this one had never had legs. It hadn’t had time for legs; we were sneaking around and we were pressed for time and we were aggressively trying to get to know one another because our minds were madly in love but our lives and our hearts were still learning the language.
Our relationship had been founded on fleeting moments, an underlying urgency ripping away any real depth. For a while we were passing friends with a curiosity about one another. We had recently forged a path towards a more serious relationship and there was no doubt that our minds had gotten it right; our conversations were deep, fluent, and wonderful.
We were in a mausoleum off campus laying next to a glimmering fountain. You could see the sun going to bed behind the foothills, a track of dusty burnt red rays piercing the blossoming water.
“Then explain it to me.”
She was a beautiful, petite young woman, with long blond hair and the soft smoothness that takes considerable attention. She was pedicured, manicured, and done up at all times; crisp dark jeans with a black top was her uniform. The first time I met her I wrote her off as a prissy pop-tart with questionable priorities.
I’d never been involved with someone who was willing to have the “How Important Are Looks?” conversation with an intellectual (and empirical) defense of prioritized self-maintenance. Someone who was made up, all the time, without fail. I had certainly seen and met those women, but I think I found myself confounded by my attraction to one and I was seeking insight into something I traditionally considered superficial. I was seeking it from someone I’d discovered to be a blend of those women and an insightful, self-confident person.
I had equated superficiality to a lack of intelligence, or self-worth. An effort to mask something under the shell that wasn’t gorgeous by prioritizing surface beauty.
She went on to explain some things I already knew, and some I took with me after our lives went in different directions. Beauty for women was a different animal than it was for men. The world was set up to reward aesthetic prowess and as gradually as that was changing, or might change in the future, it was still something that most women experienced as they grew up and took on the world.
Her thoughts weren’t a victimization of women by society, and her point was that attention to outer beauty didn’t have to mean someone’s priorities were skewed. It didn’t have to mean they were hiding something.
Some women put the effort in purely because it was more fun to feel their best. It helped them be a stronger version of themselves, and they thrived on those feelings to accomplish whatever they were working for. Looking your best was empowering. Considering that and her particular perfectionist tendencies, and she made quite a case for someone who just wanted to accomplish what was within her ability to accomplish.
Like I said, we were finite. I haven’t spoken to her in years but I still consider her to be one of the smartest people I have ever met. It doesn’t mean she’s right about this, but it does mean she’s smart.
What do you think?
Where are the boundaries around superficiality? What is your relationship with your outer beauty?
I would be very interested in perspectives from both men and women.
Photo by Artifex.