I am sitting in a critique in art school and my teacher is ripping my lino print to shreds. I was in the midst of getting over an embarrassing break-up when I made it, and I foolishly thought it might be good if I could make a piece to express my anguish, so I created a puke green heart print and wrote a brief story about how my wretched and short-lived relationship ended, backwards over the top of it.
My teacher was not amused, he was not entertained, he was not even intrigued. In fact, if I remember correctly, the quote above might be the only thing he said about it before moving on to the next person's work.
I always think about this critique when a random guy I meet virtually on Tinder tells me that I am beautiful, as if it is the best compliment he could give me. As if after I hear those words, I will lay back and spread my legs open with a beckoning look in my eye.
Additionally, I fucking hate Cy Twombly. Don't know who that is? Well....don't drop a Goog on him, don't seek him out. He is not worth the effort. But, for the purposes of this little rant, I will let you know that he is an artist whose work I have always hated. Well...no. Not always. At first, I merely disliked it. Then, after many years of watching my contemporaries and teachers drool all over his work and his whatever, I cultivated a heated and passionate hatred for his work.
These two seemingly random and disparate anecdotes have helped me to put beauty in its proper place, and keep it there, quite happily. Beauty, or the estimation of it, is in every way, subjective. It is not my responsibility to think everyone or everything is beautiful, nor is it the end all be all of what I hope the sum of my efforts will be on this planet. This is why I don't entertain the "change the beauty standard" conversation, because I am actually and enthusiastically in favor of, "abolish the beauty paradigm" concept.
Beauty is not a goal to attain. It is a state of being; it is something we say an object has or has not, and, it is completely subjective. Now, when I speak about feeling beautiful, what I feel in actuality is comfortable in my skin, powerful, and at ease. That feels beautiful. But if a person, random or otherwise, tells me I'm beautiful, it doesn't mean a whole lot. It's an opinion, and how much value I place on that opinion, or really, the opinion of anyone about almost anything about me, directly relates to how happy I am. That's a fact, and in knowing this, I am free to not give a fuck.
It seems that many of us are missing the point. It is not about changing the beauty standard, it is about understanding that it is ridiculous to even have one. It is stupid to believe it has anything to do with real people. It is like saying, "Coke looks good, I want to look like Coke." Or, "I love the flavor and texture of cake. What can I do to my flesh to make it taste like that?"
It is folly. There are so many things on the buffet that is human existence, and putting beauty as the main course is selling ourselves WAY SHORT. Life is about experience, it is about feeling, connection, and engagement. The sooner we reject the idea that looking "beautiful" is the apex of the human experience, the happier and better situated we will be to attain our potential. The sooner we drop the effort to be perpetually young and beautiful objects, the better off the world will be for it.
I am not going to go in to how many chemicals and poisonous materials are in beauty products. I am not even going to go in to what people spend every year in the vain attempt to alter themselves into the shape of another person. These are all statistics that are readily available to anyone with a search engine.
What I am going to go into is how little the human species has evolved ever since beauty and fashion became the focus of our efforts. By way of comparison, in the 1960s, computers filled entire large rooms, took many people to run, and did statistical problems more quickly than the human mind. Now, everyone with a smartphone carries one around in their pocket. And smartphones make old computers look like abacuses. People have not developed much further. We are still only using like, ten percent of our brains and the mass of us are still being manipulated into killing each other for the benefit of the very rich.
Beauty is a beast. It distracts us from who we are, who we could be, and what we might achieve. It is keeping us from our best selves and frankly, from really knowing each other, and until we understand that a beauty standard is just another way to manipulate and control the masses, we will never develop further than that. We will die among the waste products of our efforts to be beautiful, never knowing what we could have become.