My daughter is beautiful to me, just as any child is beautiful to a parent. I daresay others have found her attractive since her birth, as people never fail to remark on it when we are out in public. And while, when she was a baby, that a source of pride for me, as she grows older, I wonder what these people are really driving at. I'm sure they see her and apply their standard of "beauty" and it concurs with mine to some degree. Yet, at what point does this go beyond the good-natured acknowledgement of "beauty" and enter the realm of impropriety? When, as she grows older, will what is said or not said impact her self-worth? When will she begin to see her father's adoration of her beauty as just "Daddy being Daddy" and place more importance on the opinions of strangers?
I see the toll that the modern concept of "beauty" takes on women every day. The physical "ideal" of womanhood shrinks further as seasons pass, forcing women into making compromises in order to keep up with what society deems appropriate for a "beautiful" woman. Such is the constant cacophony and clamoring, that a woman cannot know from one second to the next if she is beautiful. Advertisements and fashion magazine covers tell her that she is not good enough as she is, but must become thinner, taller, more voluptuous. She is told that she must go beyond the physical gifts she was born with if she is ever to be society's ideal woman.
How else to explain a disease where a woman allows herself to waste away to a condition which a concentration camp survivor would consider svelte? That she would eat food willingly, only to vomit it back up, as if it were poison? Or worse, simply not eat at all? How does a society that rails at the idea of innocents dying in wars, children going malnourished, or babies not being born justify the undue pressure it places squarely upon the shoulders of women, telling them they need to "be more beautiful?"
Worse yet, the messages this idiotic roller coaster ride imparts on young girls, who are inculcated with the same weird and twisted ideas at an age where they should be allowed to be free from the weight of the world. Instead, they too are made to feel they are inadequate, and not just academically or socially. The evil is incubated and bred in the teenage girl, to be borne by the woman she becomes, who feels she cannot fulfill each person's expectations adequately, and seeks solace in driving herself to the knife's edge of health, determined to be "beautiful." The ride careens toward self-destruction, and only a unguarded moment or the love of others can drag her back from the precipice. Too often, it is too late.
Vanity is not the sole province of the woman though, for Narcissus was a man who thought himself so beautiful that he could not tear himself away from his reflection. Unlike a woman, a man is driven to be taller, stronger, beefier. He must build himself into a mass of chiseled flesh, to do combat with his fellow men on any field called for. Modern Samson's, men are rendered impotent should their heads not be covered in a thick mane of hair. And so men are just as easily poisoned by society's ruinous conception of beauty.
We will not truly evolve until we can put aside the outmoded belief that there is a template to desirability, a pattern that states unequivocally that a person is worthy of our affection. Until we do, we are no better than many of our animal brethren, who put on elaborate displays for the sole purpose of mating. We must look past the beauty without, which is ephemeral, and look to the beauty within, which is ageless.