“Everything has its beauty, but not everyone sees it.” ~ Confucius

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“We simply assume that the way we see things is the way they really are or the way they should be. And our attitudes and behaviors grow out of these assumptions.” ~ Stephen Covey

 “The most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched, they must be felt with the heart.” ~ Helen Keller

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The Epitome of Beauty: The Venus de Milo

How many times have you looked at someone you do not know and made assumptions about that person based on the way that he or she looks? How often do you see a woman in ill-fitting clothes or with a bad hairstyle and think to yourself that she should take better care of herself? Have you ever been in line at the grocery store and noticed that the person in front of you is wearing out-of-date clothes and shoes and is a little overweight? Did you make assumptions about this person, or perhaps, increase the space between yourself and the other person?

If I am going to ask you these questions, then it is only fitting that I answer them. Yes, I have made assumptions about people based upon their physical appearance. Yes, I have thought to myself, “why doesn’t she do something with her hair?” or “she would be more attractive if she lost some weight.”

But then I will catch myself and think, “who am I to judge?” I could stand to lose some extra pounds myself. I’ve run out of the house in sweatpants and an old t-shirt, my hair in a pony tail. I’ve gone into stores feeling very self-conscious because I know that I don’t look particularly great, but I needed a gallon of milk. 

“Your assumptions are your windows on the world. Scrub them off every once in a while, or the light won’t come in.” ~ Alan Alda

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One of The Great Beauties, Marilyn Monroe, incredibly self-conscious and suffered from low self-esteem

Harsh though it may be, scientific studies have proven that physical appearance makes a difference in the amount of money you earn, how you are treated by physicians, how educators react to you, and even whether or not you make partner.

According to a CNN article by Kate Lorenz, “Do Pretty People Earn More?” the facts show that attractive students get more attention and higher evaluations from their teachers, good-looking patients get more personalized care from their doctors, and handsome criminals receive lighter sentences than less attractive convicts.”*

So what does this mean to individuals in society who do not resemble Daniel Craig or Angelina Jolie? Dr. Gordon Patzer has made it his life’s work to study attractiveness and its role in human behavior. According to Patzer,

“Human beings are hard-wired to respond more favorably to attractive people . . . Good-looking men and women are generally judged to be more talented, kind, honest and intelligent than their less attractive counterparts . . . People go out of their way to help attractive people—of the same and opposite sex—because they want to be liked and accepted by good-looking people.”

This societal preference for attractiveness is called the halo effect, due to the association with the perfection of angels. The halo effect occurs when an individual is influenced by a person’s strengths, weaknesses, physical appearance, behavior, or any other single factor.

Whether or not it is fair, research shows that attractive people also have more occupational success and more dating experience than their unattractive counterparts. Attractive people tend to be more intelligent, better adjusted, and more popular—probably because they have received better treatment from their teachers, their peers, and their bosses.

*(http://www.cnn.com/2005//US/Careers/07/08/looks/)

“Perfection consists not in doing extraordinary things, but in doing ordinary things extraordinarily well.” ~ Angelique Arnauld

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Academy-Award Winning Director Peter Jackson

But let us pause for a moment. How many persons of note in history actually do not fall into the beautiful people category? Albert Einstein certainly wasn’t an attractive man, with his bushy eyebrows and unruly hair. Bill Gates, one of the wealthiest and most generous men in the world is what most people would describe as ordinary. Peter Jackson, a genius in the film world, resembled a hobbit when he made Lord of the Rings; but even he felt compelled to lose weight.

Is physical beauty truly necessary to be successful, to be considered extraordinary? I don’t believe so. Think about it. What about intelligence? Does anyone ever say, “Oh, her brain is so beautiful”? No. But shouldn’t they if they are really going to look at a woman or a man and judge her/him? 

“When a woman isn’t beautiful, people tell her: You have lovely eyes, you have lovely hair.” ~ Anton Chekhov

Why am I pondering this point? I was reading an article about a Scottish woman who appeared on “Britain’s Got Talent,” the UK’s version of “America’s Got Talent.” The judges for this program are the ever-snarky Simon Cowell, Piers Morgan (who also judges on the U.S. version), and Amanda Holden, an English actress who is mostly recognized for her television appearances.

A brief lesson for those of you who do not follow the show: Contestants apply from all over the country to be finalists on the show. In the initial rounds, the three judges watch the one-minute performances and then vote yes or no on whether or not the individual is talented enough to go to the next round. Once the contestants are reduced to 24, then there is a round for the semi-finals. In the finals, the viewing audience votes on who should stay and who should go. The winner is decided by audience votes.

“Beauty is about perception, not about make-up. I think the beginning of all beauty is knowing and liking oneself.” ~ Kevyn Aucion

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Contestant Susan Boyle Singing "I Dreamed A Dream"

Now picture this: an older woman (by older I mean not in her 20’s, not old for god’s sake) with bushy eyebrows and a very unfashionable dress and hairstyle walks out onto the stage. It only takes seconds before Simon Cowell begins his attack dog shtick, the raised eyebrows, the rolled eyes, the crossed arms. All of it. A pan of the audience shows that almost to a person no one is liking this woman: sneers, crossed arms, negative body language abounds.

Already, the judges and the audience have formed an opinion on this contestant based solely on her physical appearance, and that opinion is not positive.

How fair is this? Not at all fair. Has the woman had a chance to perform yet? No. Does the audience even know what she plans to do for her talent before they cross their arms? No.

The woman declares to the judges and the audience that she wants to sing, that she has always wanted to sing. You can hear the snickers from the audience. After all, how can this unfashionable, frumpy woman sing, let alone sing well enough to be on the show?

“There comes a moment when you realize that virtually anything is possible—that nothing is too good to be true.” ~ Kobi Yamoda

What happens next is positively enchanting. Susan Boyle opens her mouth, and pure beauty emanates from it. The audience jumps to its feet. Simon Cowell raises his eyebrows, and this time, it’s not in a malicious way. Piers Morgan is stupefied.

Boyle sings “I Dreamed A Dream” from Les Miserables, an incredibly difficult song to sing because of the range. As I watched the video of her performance, I got chills, and I began to tear up.

I wanted to reach through the screen and hug Susan Boyle for her performance, and I wanted to slap Simon Cowell for his disbelief that a woman who looked like Boyle could have such an angelic voice.

“Women notice details that most men don’t . . . They notice all the details, then make assumptions about every other area of your life based on these details.” ~ David DeAngelo

But it wasn’t just Cowell, was it? It was everyone. When the opening refrain of the song played, Morgan appeared to be totally uninterested, Holden had her hands over her head as if she were trying to stifle a yawn. No one was truly interested in the woman on the stage.

However, as compared to males, we females can be absolutely merciless in our criticisms of the women who are in our office, the women our friends date, the women who do our hair, or our nails. But we can be especially venomous when it comes to total strangers. Don’t pretend that you don’t know what I’m talking about: only saintly women or women who are completely self-confident do not beat down other women. And how many of those do you know?

“It matters more what’s in a woman’s face than what’s on it.” ~ Claudette Colbert

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Pursuit of Beauty Gone Horribly Wrong: Jocelyn Wildenstein

This is the very problem with assumptions. We make assumptions about people all of the time, every day, based on their looks, on what they are wearing, on how their hair looks, how scuffed their shoes are, what kind of purse they are carrying, how old their suit is, even what kind of car they are driving. And admittedly, women are worse when it comes to judging other women.

In my own experience, I have found that many beautiful women lack in self-confidence, while those who are not considered beautiful, abound in self-confidence. It’s as if they know that the world doesn’t believe in them, but they don’t care. They believe in themselves. How wonderful that is to believe in yourself, truly believe in your talent, or your goodness, or your abilities. And how pitiable it is when women abuse themselves by repeated plastic surgery in attempts to be more beautiful, look more youthful, more perfect, not stopping until they resemble caricatures of themselves.

“Although beauty may be in the eye of the beholder, the feeling of being beautiful exists solely in the mind of the beheld.” ~ Martha Beck

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The Ugly Duckling Is Not Always What It Seems

Now what I did not mention is that when Sarah Boyle came out on stage, she was obviously prepared for Cowell’s sour disposition, but it didn’t seem to affect her at all. She answered all of his questions with a smile on her face. It was as if she were challenging him: “I know that you are assuming that I have no talent, but you just wait. You’ll see.”

Boyle stood her ground, even doing a bit of a jig in her sheer delight at just being invited to the party. And when she finished, she knew that she had won the battle. She walked off the stage with her shoulders back, a broad smile on her face, and joy in her eyes.

All three judges were effusive in their praise. But the best part is this: With her talent, her incredible voice, Susan Boyle has a real shot at winning “Britain’s Got Talent.” Wouldn’t that be something? And about time, too.

But just a closing thought: Why were we so surprised that Susan Boyle could sing? That is probably the heart of the matter, and a question that we should be asking ourselves even as this incredibly talented, sincere, selfless woman stands before the world and graces us with a voice from the gods.

 And on that note, I present Susan Boyle singing “I Dreamed A Dream”

Embedding has been disabled. To see the video of Susan Boyle’s performance, go to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9lp0IWv8QZY

More later. Peace.

“In order to be irreplaceable one must always be different.” ~ Coco Chanel

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Beauty Depicted in 
“Boreas” by John William Waterhouse

“Striving for excellence motivates you; striving for perfection is demoralizing.” ~ Harriet Braiker

We just returned home after having dinner at our favorite sushi restaurant. I tried a couple of new rolls tonight: a volcano roll and another roll that I cannot remember the name of for the life of me. It was just the two of us; we only do this about once every two months.

I always feel very superior and healthy when I eat sushi and drink green tea. I can just feel those bad cells being replenished with Omega 3 fatty acides from the fresh fish, and an overall detox of my system from the green tea.

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A Young Elizabeth Taylor Before Her Roller Coaster Weight

I don’t know how much of this is true, but it’s what I like to believe, especially in light of the fact that I seemed to gain at least seven pounds while I was on that new headache medicine, this after noticeably losing some weight. I hate this weight roller coaster. It makes me feel so bad about myself, as if I am just some lump, a bad representation of my former self.

To make things even worse, I was reading a story today about movie villains, and it included a picture spread of Anthony Hopkins as Hannibal Lecter next to Sharon Stone, as the ice pick killer in Basic Instinct. Sharon Stone, with or without airbrushing, looks fabulous. I am overcome with jealousy when I see her pictures because she is one of those women who just gets better with age.

I know. She has the money for a personal trainer and probably a personal chef, but the fact is that at the end of the day, it’s her body and her face, and I hate how these pictures of beautiful women make me feel.

“Nobody objects to a woman being a good writer or sculptor or geneticist if at the same time she manages to be a good wife, a good mother, good-looking, good-tempered, well-dressed, well-groomed, and unaggressive.” ~ Marya Mannes

I also know that I am not the only normal woman who feels this way. Society has conditioned females to be in a state of constant anxiety about their bodies, their faces, their conversational abilities, even their choices in shoes. Just peruse the magazine section of any store: the covers are graced with luminous women who look as if they have never gotten up in the morning with crust in their eyes, and hair that looks as if gerbils nested in it.

But what really pisses me off is that after all of these years and all of my women’s studies courses, I am still a victim when it comes to society’s socialization of females.

On the other hand, men do not face nearly the same pressures as women when it comes to looking good, dressing well, and always being outstanding at their jobs. Granted, the whole stigma associated with not looking your best all of the time is starting to infiltrate the marketing aimed at men, but not nearly as profusely as that aimed at women. Yet women still feel a need to be wonderful mothers, sexy spouses, and fearless in the workplace, with each role being a contradiction of the next.

Advertisers in general bear a large part of the responsibility for the deep feelings of inadequacy that drive women to psychiatrists, pills, or the bottle. ~ Marya Mannes

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Gwyneth Paltrow Advertising Estee Lauder

Don’t believe me? Just watch one evening (let’s say three hours) of prime time television. Count the number of commercials aimed at women versus the number of commercials aimed at men. And notice just exactly how these commercials aimed at women are focused. An Applebees commercial in which the men are enjoying hot wings does not fall into the socialization of which I speak; more, it’s just a reflection of how commercials aimed at men focus on enjoyment more than anything else.

Women are assaulted in magazines, on television, on the radio, even on line to get rid of wrinkles, eat yogurt that helps them to be more regular, whiten their teeth with new, better fitting whitening strips, and to end their affairs with their old mops and brooms. How many men are targeted in commercials about replacing brooms and mops with Swiffer Wet Jets? How many men are cautioned about eating more yogurt ? How many men are asked if they get bloated, moody, and crampy every month?

Do you see my point? Men are depicted in commercials as having fun: wearing big Number 1 foam fingers at football games, having beers with a bunch of friends, using the latest portable machine to make their abs rippled like washboards. I don’t know that I’ve ever seen a commercial in which a man is bemoaning how awful his kitchen floor looks. In one commercial, a group of men are at the bar, ordering premium vodka or tequila or something while some stylish woman in a black dress has her arm draped around one of the men. She is literally arm candy, while the men are incredibly intelligent for ordering this premium liquor. At least, that’s what I get from this commercial.

Do you ever see a commercial in which a man is complaining to his best friend being bloated? How about one in which someone tells him that he should be wearing better underwear, the kind that gives him more “lift and support”? Now that would be a commercial worth watching. 

“It matters more what’s in a woman’s face than what’s on it.” ~ Claudette Colbert

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The Always Suave Pierce Brosnan as James Bond

Understandably, I am more than a little cynical about this great disparity between the sexes. I mean come on. To look good, a man has to shave and shower and throw on a tuxedo with some clean underwear and shoes that aren’t scuffed.

A woman getting ready for a black tie event needs to shave, shower, pluck, depilatory, put moisturizer on her face, a different moisturizer on the rest of her body, paint her finger nails, paint her toe nails (after using an abrasive skin slougher on her feet to make sure that they are extra smooth), add mousse and gel to her hair, come up with some kind of hairstyle that is flattering, put on concealer, foundation, loose powder, eyeliner, mascara, eye shadow, lip conditioner, lipstick and gloss. Not to mention finding just the right jewelry and trying on 10 pairs of shoes before deciding on the first pair that she tried.

Bollocks.

I left out at least ten steps in the above, and then after all of this primping, plucking, and preening, I’ll bet you that there isn’t one woman who still isn’t sure that she picked the right dress, or the right shoes, or the right shade of lipstick. And as she is walking to the car, she’ll look down and see what is supposed to be the natural curve of her belly and immediately think that she needs to put on another Spanx to hold in her grotesque fat before she lets anyone see her in public.

“The emotional, sexual, and psychological stereotyping of females begins when the doctor says, ‘It’s a girl.'”  ~ Shirley Chisholm

We females are socialized from a very early age to try to look pretty whenever possible. We are taught table manners, and the proper etiquette for what to do in a stranger’s home.

Boys grow up to be men who belch and then laugh about it, compare body odors, consider cleaning up to be changing yesterday’s t-shirt, and make it a point to use the decorative soaps in other people’s bathrooms just because they know that they shouldn’t. And all of this is considered to be absolutely hilarious.

I know that I’m generalizing, but I just can’t help but remember earlier in the evening as I was putting the last piece of my volcano roll in my mouth, that I looked down at my stomach and thought to myself, “ugh, I am so fat. I can’t stand myself.” You can bet that when Corey put the last piece of sushi in his mouth, his first thought was probably that he wanted more sushi.

“The test for whether or not you can hold a job should not be the arrangement of your chromosomes.” ~ Bella Abzug

No, not all men are boors, and not all women are preoccupied with their physicality. But the chances are far greater that most of the women you will meet during your life will have said at some point: “I hate my body. I wish that I looked like X.”

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My Lovely Daughter Alexis

I always wanted blond hair, and my hair is very dark brown. My daughter always wanted dark hair, and her hair is dirty blond. My oldest son, on the other hand, comes into my room and looks in my mirror and says, very confidently, “God I’m sexy.” And then he walks out like a rooster getting ready to take a stroll among the hens. We all have the same genes. But my son has the one thing that Alexis and I will never have: a Y chromosome. And that makes all of the difference.

That Y chromosone is a free pass. It allows the holder to ignore social signals, be completely confident about looks, and to dare anyone to say anything negative about the holder, even when something negative could be said.

Socialization is a bitch, but genetics make socialization moot. No matter how far we’ve come “to get where we’ve got to today,” and even though we have our own cigarettes and razors, it’s going to be a long, long time before someone’s daughter struts into the bedroom, looks in the mirror and says, “God, I’m sexy” without being sarcastic about it.

So let me close with the following:

“I am beautiful as I am.  I am the shape that was gifted.  My breasts are no longer perky and upright like when I was a teenager.  My hips are wider than that of a fashion model’s.  For this I am glad, for these are the signs of a life lived.”  ~ Cindy Olsen, co-owner of The Body Objective

There will be more later. Peace.

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