Iconic, Magnificent Beauty: The Stunning Sophia Loren
Who decides what is beautiful?
“Beauty is power; a smile is its sword” ~ Charles Read
I was reading a post on a blog a few days ago that really just made me sit up and take notice. Apparently, Jessica Simpson has gained some weight. Oh my. And Kim Kardashian has come to her defense. Well this particular blogger found the whole thing offensive because Kim Kardashian is too fat to have an opinion on Jessica Simpson, who apparently is humongous because she must have gained—omigawd—twenty pounds!
I am going to post here the picture that was on the blog showing Kim Kardashian’s horrible body, her “thunder thighs and fat a**.” Now, as with most women who have carried and delivered four children, I am not as thin as I used to be. But my body image is skewed, in large part because of the media and because of comments like the one in the blog that I read.
But in looking at this picture of Kim Kardashian, I have to say that I see nothing wrong with her body. She is not rail thin. She is wearing a bathing suit that flatters her body. It is not a thong; it has a strap that artfully conceals the little bit of tummy that she has. She has legs, yes. They aren’t bird legs, and how wonderful that is. How wonderful to see a beautiful, sexy woman who is proud of her body and full of self-confidence.
You can tell by how she carries herself. More women should use Ms. Kardashian as a role model as far as how they carry themselves. She has an aura of poise that reflects a confidence in her bearing and her demeanor. It is not hard to imagine that Ms. Kardashian can walk into any room and command attention.
I know nothing about her personal life. I’ve never watched “Keeping Up With The Kardashians.” I know that Bruce Jenner is her step-father, and I know that she is relatively high profile. But other than that, I don’t know squat about this woman. My choice to write about her is purely because I am so tired of the media holding up wraith-like women and girls as role models in our society.
I mean, yes, women are taking much better care of themselves. Forty is the new thirty. Generationally, we are aging much better than our mothers. But there are numerous factors that come into play: better moisturizers, more knowledge of what ages the skin, better nutrition, less smoking among women, to name but a few. Look at Madonna. Her body does not look fifty years old. Personally, I would kill to have chiseled arms like hers, but I know that she works hard every day for those arms.
“Beauty is how you feel inside, and it reflects in your eyes. It is not something physical” ~ Sophia Loren
But it’s a matter of give and take, and what you consider to be beautiful and that for which you are willing to settle. And it is so hard to know what to settle for when you are constantly being bombarded with images of celebrities who look perfect two weeks after giving birth. Of course, their pictures are air brushed. They have personal trainers and chefs who cook high protein meals for them to assist in quick weight loss.
Young women with eating disorders have these problems for many reasons. First and foremost because of their distorted self-image. They might weigh 98 pounds, but when they look in the mirror, if they can pinch even a tiny bit of flesh between their fingers, then they feel fat and ugly. And then there are the fashion magazines, and every other advertisement is for a new diet or weight-loss pill or regimen. Commercials in the evening promote exercise machines and diet plans. Even women who don’t need to lose weight feel pressured to look like Heidi Klum and Angelina Jolie, neither of whom look like they have borne children, or Kiera Knightly, who has never seen cellulite in her life.
Skinny and beautiful sell. Anything over 150 pounds is considered obese. I am not immune to this societal obsession with weight, and skinny women, and perfect bodies. Everyday when I look in the mirror I see a fat sausage, and what makes me the maddest, is that I actually feel this way, that I cannot be happy with myself the way that I am. But I know that my low self-esteem comes from years of negative comments from someone in my family. You cannot escape that history easily. You cannot jump an ingrained hurdle without a great deal of confidence to fight, which unfortunately, I do not possess.
“Everything has its beauty, but not everyone sees it” ~ Confucius
And then there is the matter of cosmetic surgery. MaureenJ and I were discussing this overwhelming need our society has today for cosmetic surgery: everything from Botox to complete face lifts to butt lifts to nose reconstructions to thigh reductions. If it’s part of your body, it can be fine-tuned. Personally, I’m not big on cosmetic surgery, although I may have to get my chins lifted one day simply because my mother has given me crap about that since I was a teenager, and I am very, very sensitive about it.
But the truth about cosmetic surgery, I believe, is that the people who get it again and again are very insecure about themselves. My mother has had a lot of plastic surgery, and she is never happy with the results. She had her first face lift about 20 years ago. My theory about my mom is that she is very insecure about her own personal beauty, so she tries to compensate through surgery.
That’s my theory about most people who have cosmetic surgery: They are insecure about themselves, so they try to fix something that is wrong on the inside by fixing something on the outside.
“The most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched, they must be felt with the heart” ~ Helen Keller
The old quote about beauty being in the eye of the beholder is probably truer than most people realize. Quite often, one man’s beauty is another man’s fodder. How often is it that two people standing in front of the same painting will walk away with two completely different impressions? One man’s Escher is another man’s Monet. It’s a matter of preference, a matter of taste.
But if you put ten women in a room together, how many of them will agree on what the standard of beauty should be by picking out the same pictures depicted in models? Long legs, big eyes, pert breasts, possibly bordering on larger round breasts, flat stomachs, firm buttocks, high cheekbones, beautiful hair, nice arms—the total package.
How many of us do not really believe our husbands when they tell us that they think that we are beautiful? We think, “oh, how sweet. But he doesn’t really mean it.”Yet psychologists will tell you again and again that beauty is determined by the heart, not the eyes. Yet at the same time, do we tell our significant others that we think that they look nice in that grey sweater? That we like those pants? Do we mean it? Then why can’t they?
“What is lovely never dies, But passes into other loveliness, Star-dust, or sea-foam, flower or winged air” ~ Thomas Baily Aldrich
So let me close with these two images of beauty. The first is a statue that I have always loved. It’s called “Undine Rising From the Water” and it was created by Chauncey Ives. One of the most incredible features of this statue is that the marble is so thin and shiny in some place that when the statue is placed in direct sunlight, the marble looks wet and almost transparent. That is quite a feat to attain with marble. Because her drape is so clingy, her body is revealed beneath the wet garment. I have always viewed this statue as incredibly sensuous and beautiful.
Undine is an immortal water nymph who is drawn to the man she loves, even though loving him will make her mortal. Once she becomes mortal, she begins to age, and her love no longer stays true. Undine slays her love for failing to remain true, and she returns to the water.
In comparison is the other image of beauty: America’s Next Top Model from cycle 8 (2007), 20-year-old Jaslene. This young woman is definitely beautiful, but again, her body, which is being held up as something young women should strive for as being idyllic, is in direct contrast to what I would call a realistic woman. Few women can achieve a body like this without starving themselves. Granted, there are people who are naturally very thin, but most of the time, that is an anomaly.
I chose this particular picture of Jaslene* because it is so reminiscent of the Undine statue, with the long flowing dress being reminiscent of the water pooling at Undine’s feet, and Jaslene’s arms above her head being similar to Undine’s arms reaching upwards. Both women have their eyes closed as if they are in a dream-like state. And Jaslene could definitely be compared to a water goddess.
In the end, we must define beauty not by what we see in a person, but by what that person makes us feel. Does this individual bring beauty into our lives in some way, through their songs? their poems? their words? Does this individual bring beauty into our lives in the way that she gives so much of herself in everything that she does? Does this person bring beauty in our lives by being genuine and passionate in everything that she does? Does this person reflect beauty in her kindness to others? Is this person someone you are glad to share time with?
Beauty of the soul is a gift. Physical beauty is nothing more than mascara, blush and lip gloss applied with some finesse to heighten something you naturally have. It cannot hide all of the ugliness on the inside, ugliness that calls someone ugly names just because they don’t happen to weigh 105 pounds.
More later. Peace.