"About fifty thousand times."
This exchange between Sailor and Lula from the movie Wild at Heart has stuck with me. I was but twenty years old when I watched this movie for the first time in the theater, so I only had an inkling of the pivotal role it would play in shaping my perspective over the course of my life, but several times a month at least, I think back to this quote and feel as if Sailor is speaking directly to me, and maybe, hopefully, about me.
It was at this time, over twenty five years ago, that I realized what, or rather how I wanted to be. This line, along with a variety of other experiences and events pointed me in the direction of adventure, freedom, and independence. It was a line that would help me see popular culture as an option, not a requirement. A line that would encourage me to be me withhout apology.
As such, I aged being less and less concerned with mainstream culture as time went on, and more and more concerned with knowing and expressing myself. I became more comfortable with questioning conformity and my relationship to it. There have been times during my life that I have raged against our corporate culture, engaged angrily in debate over the maneuverings of the patriarchy, and threatened destruction to the social norms that keep so many enslaved. But I have now come to see that those reactions might have wasted my energy just a bit, because the truth is, none of those things are about me. I am free from the belief that I must be like everyone else in order to thrive.
This is also how I have come to see beauty. If something is truly beautiful to me, it inspires that feeling. If something is truly beautiful, it must be beautiful on a level that opens me up, reaches into me, and warms my soul. True beauty is inspiring, not demeaning, not oppressive. True beauty is joy, glory, an expression of the human experience.
As long as I remember this, it is easy for me to reject things without judgment which are not for me. For instance, I don't read fashion magazines because I am not the audience they are trying to reach. This isn't a value statement in either direction, more just a statement of fact. There is nothing in there for me, and therefor, they are, as a group, one less thing with which I must contend.
I am fully in charge of the choices I make in terms of beauty. If I am choosing things that make me hate my thighs, or my nose, or my life, it is not really about the things I am choosing, rather, my ability to choose good things.
If fashion magazines made me feel fabulous, if high heels made me feel powerful, then I would rock those things. But they don't. And what's more, their existence does not minimize my own.
There is no "right" or "correct" form of beauty for everyone. We all have the opportunity to surround ourselves with images that inspire, or images that denigrate. If you are making the choice to view beauty in a way that makes you feel ugly, you might want to re-consider your choice.
This is why I always think of Sailor. That guy was ridiculed for that jacket. He was, by society's standards a strange guy. But he didn't really care. He might not even have known. His mantra was all about individuality and personal freedom.
There is nothing more beautiful than a person who can rock who they are, stand out, and make no apologies. Whether or not they look like me, act like me, or listen to the same music as I do is immaterial. The beauty that is a unique expression of the human experience is what inspires me.
That is the beauty I choose.