There is a beautiful woman I see nearly every morning during my walk. Her hair is the shade of honey-infused lemon and I haven’t been able to discern the color of her eyes, but I’m guessing they’re blue. Slim, with delicate, symmetrical facial features and perfectly shiny, unfrizzy hair (I’m a bit obsessed with shiny, unfrizzy hair, if you haven’t noticed – my own tresses are channeling Einstein’s), she looks like an aristocratic, polished Barbie. I’ve never seen her smile, but I’d bet my mother’s prized costume jewelry collection that her teeth are blindingly white. She’s probably in her mid-twenties, give or take a few and puts a lot of effort into her appearance, you can tell. And she’s good at it. I love the crimson coat she sometimes pairs with her pretty black scuff-less boots — it’s a bold color that suits her. The chilly morning air flatteringly reddens her cheeks to almost match her coat and I can easily imagine her riding a thoroughbred amid some manicured estate with her handsome beau.
Then I catch myself. I assume so much in just the thirty seconds it takes for us to pass each other. I create an entire lifestyle for her, even a past and a future. Most notably, I assume that because she’s beautiful, she must be happy. Maybe she is. After all, there are plenty of research studies to uphold the theory that attractive people are happier. And of course, there are plenty of research studies that confirm the opposite.
It doesn’t really matter either way since this woman has no direct impact on my life, but I’m amused by my tendency to create stories for people, particularly for the ones who fall into the societal definition of gorgeous. It’s a fun pastime as long as it doesn’t become a self-defeating comparison game. There’s always the danger of comparing my insides to others’ outsides, as the saying goes.
Times have changed. Back when I was a tween, I scoured magazines searching for girls that looked like me. Diversity amounted to including a brunette white girl amid a sea of blondes — the kinds strikingly similar to the woman I see in the morning — and I remember feeling sad about the shape of my eyes, the yellow tint of my skin. In time, a fetishized, “exotic” set of Asian models emerged on the runways, but they were even harder to relate to. All this was pre-internet, though I actually think the spawn of instant access to the glut of information and images might be more harmful for girls these days.
K attends a school where being bi-racial is practically the norm. I’m biased of course, but I think these mixed kids are beautiful on a whole new level, their identities complex and multi-layered. K likes to say she’s half-Japanese, half-Indiana. This is a cool portrait project featuring multi-racial families, created by Sweet Fine Day.
Last year I read a YA science fiction novel called Uglies that kept me up all night. It was set in the future, naturally, in a time when all children are born “ugly” and they live in anticipation of their sixteenth birthday when they can become “pretty” via massive cosmetic and genetic reconstruction. Their so-called re-birth culminates in cohabitation with all the other pretties across town. Uglies spend vast amounts of time planning their hair color, face shape and other physical attributes. The book made me think of the proliferation of cosmetic surgery in Korea and Brazil and my hometown Los Angeles. Korea, in particular, came to mind where cosmetic surgery is taken to extremes through a popular procedure that involves restructuring the jaw bone. I have to admit that the themes of conformity and the overemphasis on superficiality felt unsettlingly prescient. But it’s also an addictive read with a relatable heroine who bucks the norm.
I’m not sure why I decided to write about that, but I’m clearly avoiding sewing my Ginger skinny jeans. Maybe I’ll make better progress next week. Fingers crossed.
P.S. The image above is actually a postcard/birthday card that was part of a gift I received one year from two friends who also have multi-racial kids. It plopped out of a box I happened to open right after I finished writing this post, and seemed like kismet.