Friday, April 17, 2009

Beauty: In & Out

New jobs are exciting, but as with anything new, there are undeniable disadvantages.

I make my way to a nearby Starbucks with my new lunch companion – the latest issue of Entertainment Weekly. I arm myself with a Tazo green tea and take a seat at a table next to two bright-eyed, chatty 20-something year olds. I immediately notice their admirable postures and superb smiles. As I sat down, flipping through my magazine, I couldn’t help overhearing a fragment of their conversation.

“I can’t believe he went out with HER. She was hideous, I mean, she practically had no lips!”

They both burst laughing in unison. The other one abruptly stops,

“Oh stop. Maybe she had a good soul. Or something. I always heard she was a nice girl.”

I decided then it was time to look for a different Starbucks. Or actually make friends at work.

Growing up, we are raised to aspire to be better. The utmost of life’s grand values are learned early on: as women, we are taught kindness, patience and understanding, and most of all, we are taught to be minimally judgmental towards the others around us.

Although they remain instilled at the core of our being, these teachings seem to take the backseat for, many a time, we find ourselves acting viciously, impatiently and heartlessly towards one another. We subconsciously let ourselves detach from them because of our innate insecurities and fears of others’ perceptions and views. Unquestionably, our human limitations make us increasingly insensitive and highly judgmental.

Taking a look at such shortcomings – is it entirely society’s fault? We have been and continuously are bombarded with media images of standardized beauties – long hair, round eyes, curvy hips and even curvier hips, to name only a few of the perky attributes. There is very little grace found in the very natural process of aging, for everyone desperately aims to “look” and “feel” young. It’s a concept of power – I am referring to the power of beauty.

I won’t deny that physical appearance plays a radical factor in our lives – we are expected to look presentable in order to be respected and taken seriously on our path to full potential reach and endeavors accomplishment. It is also equally important to preserve our health and maintain an overall healthy lifestyle. But exactly just how much emphasis does physical beauty deserve? How far have women gone in order to achieve and further perfect the unbeatable standard of beauty?

Too far.

And I feel that we all are a little too familiar with how far beauty has made women go: from breast implants to eyebrow lifts to the much-popular BOTOX and liposuction, to spa treatments and mineral make up, to myriad of weight-loss products and machines that promise to melt away pounds, to countless hours slaving away at the gym, proclaiming personal trainers to be Gods, to diet pills and cleanses to Weight Watchers. Yes, Jenny Craig, we get it. How can we not know it all since we have done it all? I’ll bet my mink coat (okay, if I had one, I would) nearly every American woman out there has taken at least one of the above-mentioned measures to attain the “standard.”

Ladies, THIN is IN. So is tanned. Preferably with long locks and even longer legs. Don’t forget radiant skin and luscious lips. Anything fair-skinned around 5’3 packing a few extra pounds with a bob cut and a sign of a face wrinkle milder than a Florida summer breeze should be banned from openly proclaiming her womanliness, or worse – wearing a skirt.

Perhaps I’m making the physical standard of beauty seem more drastic than it is, but in reality, why be reticent about such a highly publicized subject? I believe that in order to truly find our place in the world, we need to acknowledge the topics that will make us feel vulnerable, address them and expose possible solutions and remedies.

The truth is that beauty shouldn’t be and isn’t skin deep. It never was, it is not and it will never be. The road to inner peace and acceptance of our physical flaws is a mighty long and strenuous one. For some, it’s a lifetime journey across many roads and bridges and tunnels. It is solely up to the individual’s power and state of mind. It IS mind over body, after all.

Along with acceptance, you can recreate yourself through your positive thoughts process – sure, you may never look exactly like Heidi Klum, but you’ve got a great pair of legs to work with. There is always room for proper improvement. My trainer promised me he could make me look like the Pussycat Doll leading lady, vixen Nicole. I told him I’m simply trying to shape up, to stay healthy, and oh yeah, to look like ME. Is it so wrong to want to look MY very best without being compared to celebrities? YOU ARE GOOD ENOUGH TO WANT TO LOOK LIKE YOU! Not anyone else, but you.

Unleash your inner beauty – you know, those qualities that aren’t visible to the naked eye, but go a much longer way than a Vida Guerrera-look-alike rear end. Your actions are based on your inner workings, and they are a constant reflection of who you are. A true beautiful reflection of self can only be attained once you go beyond the superficial exterior and learn significant inner wisdom principles. Once mastered, they go beyond any possible standards of psychical beauty. Furthermore, physical beauty becomes much more substantial when there is a strong base of inner beauty.

The blend of both is the true standard of beauty.

The Break Up Factor

By far, a more personal note, written previously to my last "relationship," relationship that has had the power to crumble to the ground all that I had stood for and believed in, relationship that made me feel I had it all wrong. You might ask yourself then why would I be posting this. Perhaps I am looking for some cheap reinforcement or validation - we've all been through a break up, on either side, and will mostly likely go through more along the way. Once again, these are simply my collected thoughts. They are not meant to educate anyone in any way. But if they do, glad I could put it in such perspective.

I sighed gravely as I listened to my friend sob uncontrollably on the other end of the line.

"But I was doing so well before he came into my life," before meaning two weeks ago.

Since when does "seeing someone" for two weeks grant him/her the privilege of "coming into your life"? There ought to be a stern rule of dating that would allow no one to partake in such nonsensical way of thinking. Or okay, feeling. (But when is feeling ever sensible?)

While I rest my case on charades of disillusionment I've found myself in the past, I can only think of one person who has possessed the ungodly yet refined control of my emotions from the start. I remember a time being at the mercy of a man, a man whom I had adored yet was able to look straight in the eye and hate with all of my might at the same time. The entwined brutal blend of these two powerful emotions fed my insecurities, my lows and my fears.

I had to leave the first man I truly loved because the man I loved did not love me. The man I loved chose, at the time, to love himself more, keeping me at arm's reach, use and further expected disposal - a doormat would have probably received better treatment. Needless to explain, getting out of an unhealthy relationship is no easy task for the confused, emotionally consumed, enamored fool. Foolishly, I had believed that he was my drug, my cheap thrill and my favorite mistake. Mistake that I came to learn from, of course. I found the strength to leave and move on with my life. Two years and a lot of self-reflection later, he decides to come back into my life with more genuine representations, pleads and intentions, he speaks kindly of "friendship" and "maybe more." It's hard to say what his words now generate because it's hard to find emotion in indifference. I buried this episode of my past too deeply to even begin to think about exerting any emotional energy in trying to find it or dig it back up. As cold as that might sound, I can say at least I'm honest. I believe it all being state of mind because I refuse to make the same mistakes.

I've learned the heart is a powerful tool. But I can honestly say the mind is even more powerful. It's harder to "break" a mind. A mind is smarter, wiser, and more vigilant. It never lays perplexed in stupor; it rejoices in its dignity and resilience. Of course, one cannot LOVE with the mind, but getting the two to act and work together accordingly is what makes one of the best kinds of love.

Is it all a part of life, of being young and stupid and falling in love at the wrong time with the wrong person? Perhaps, but the basis for that lies at the core of humanity and its pitfalls. Heartbreak is meant to act as a stern tutor, a doctor who's the bearer of bad news. There's no escape from it and when experiencing it, life seems to literally be physically and emotionally unbearable. But time "does its thing", and then you find yourself in a place you'd never thought you'd be: fully past the pain.

I've hung onto a couple of maybes and what ifs, which is precisely the reason why I chose to close his chapter of my life. He will forever linger as a lover from my past. Simple. Nothing more and nothing less. I will always love him. But quietly. It will never surface. There's a certain romantic allure I seem to find in past lovers. I first remember the cryptic bitterness of the initial disappointment that comes down like a heavy blow, the encountered drama and pure stillness of the moment in which I feel the need to first gather strength to try and pull myself together. Thereafter again, as time exudes strength of character and need to heal, I look back and smile and remember just how good I had felt at certain times. It stirs hope in me that I can always find better, leaving me smiling because it happened, not frowning because of the desolate goodbye.

And so I've become wiser. Not sadder. Not anymore. Composure of character and emotions is crucial. I've always felt it being second nature to me. I've never permitted anyone after my lapse to have the power. Why? Because it shows. The gratification of it is sensed in your words and actions, your whole being oozing with an inadvertent stench of weakness and inferiority. The mistiness of the "talking-and-seeing-someon
e-but-hooking-up-and-sleeping-together-but-really-maybe-possibly-dating" limbo further only reinforces my reasoning. It's cute and it happens quite often these days. It shouldn't be a vulnerable time because it shouldn't be on murky grounds. And as long as it is, I suggest to keep legs closed and mind open.

I've always felt that I could keep whatever I want open (legs, arms, etc.) as long as I kept a closed heart. I later on found logic but no truth in this tactic. It failed me, not because I wanted validation but because I learned the ways to be, in romantic matters and otherwise, should rarely, if ever, depend on expectations and gratifications of others.

I shoudln't deny the fact that everyone ultimately yearns for love, which is why I do believe in an ultimate divine blend of beautiful composure of the emotional character and yet the powerful ability to allow yourself to step into love "on two steady feet". I'm precisely emphasizing the collectiveness needed in the beginning, the confident border-line haughty poise of strength and vigilance I know everyone posseses, the product of the two - the heart and the mind combined - being where true happiness - single or involved - begins to unfold.

The Single Factor

I know that no one wants to be single. Even the ones who claim they do - it could just be me, but deep down, I believe in an underlaying yearning of being in a happy and healthy, satisfying relationship. There is no recipe; what I wrote doesn't apply only to women. I know men feel as though women claim to have it so much harder in the dating game, but I pass no judgement. These are simply my collected thoughts. They might come across as cynical, with a tint of dry humor and sarcasm. They are not meant to educate anyone in any way. But if they do, glad I could put it in such perspective.

I gracefully sip on my Pinot Grigio, turning to her wide-eyed as I adjust myself in the seat, barely containing my obvious excitement.

"So I met a guy last night."

There it was - the phrase of all phrases; the mother of exhilaration and unsurpassed projected romantic triumph. The idiom is known to hold the uncanny power to stir up the most preeminent of conversations between girlfriends. It would be rather pointless to dismiss the fact that 99.9% of the time, "girl talk" is in fact about MEN.

And there we were - blabbing away with enchanted euphoria. Sometimes the story unfortunately doesn't change; single woman meets new (hopefully and much preferably) single potential man, single woman likes new single potential man and single woman starts putting on different antics that fall nowhere far of DESPERATE-VILLE.

Perhaps I'm wrong. I'm wrong to judge and say that I've never been excited upon meeting a new guy. But it's precisely my hypocrisy and past further encounters that have made me feel the way I ultimately do. It's innate; the excitement and unknown of new beginnings, blossoming away in hope like spring's first daffodil.

After all... it might just be that last first kiss.

And this is how it all begins.

The idea behind initial enthusiasm is not for it to be diminished completely; how can any kind of connection spark up in the first place without the occasional butterfly in the stomach? And while we all acknowledge that it's all fine and dandy to feel, it is specifically essential to remember to also think.

So you met him and he seems great. Who are you kidding? He is phenomenal. I mean, he took you out. He picked you up and even PAID for dinner. And he didn't talk about his ex-girlfriends once. Nor did he ask you what kind of underwear you were wearing. I mean, this really means something. HE really REALLY is SOMETHING. Right?


The most common mistake single women make, upon meeting a guy and engaging in, what we like to refer to as "dating", is the fact that they offer entirely too much gratuitous credit to the man they potentially hold an interest in. Ladies, he is SUPPOSED to treat you nicely and be a gentleman, at least on the first date, for Pete's sake! So please, try and refrain, to the best of human abilities possible, from praising him as if he flew, wined and dined you on the Cote d'Azur (that's the French Riviera!) on your first date. (Yes, you would deserve that and yes, I'm fully aware of the chances of that ever happening on a first date; however, as far-fetched as it might be, the example hopefully created an effect and showed my point. Oh yeah, perhaps in such an extreme and rare occurrence, the man would then deserve some minor acclaim.)

That being the number one step on the desperate-tinted road of singledom, progression can be halted should the single woman simply choose to avoid the following:

Resist the urge to live in an illusion-induced cinematic world. No, you don't know if you will end up being together with this person or not, therefore try to not envision long-term. Think next date, not "when will we be moving in?" Do not practice the tonality of your first name and his last. Not even once and not even as a joke. Your thoughts are more potent than you might. . well, think.

The base of it all is expectation. The more you will expect, the harder it will be to find a level of happiness. And the harder it will be to find yourself happy, the easier it will be to follow a desperate path, in attempt to accept, if not embrace your single status.

Instead of focusing on what you're feeling deprived of, think of all the fun benefits being single can be. Rejoice in your power of choosing. You're worth it - worth to be chased and never chase. Celebrate your womanhood without thinking how nice it'd be to hear a man compliment you. If you believe it enough, you're bound to receive plenty of compliments on a night on the town anyways. The inner-workings of your mind will further be able to reflect on the outside through your words and actions; you'll go out and date a man whom you find dashing, but you'll remember to remain composed and open-minded. You'll maintain a magnificent, mysterious resilience that will toughen you and make every man swoon over and ultimately make you a TRUE great catch, minus the headaches and dramatic sprees.

Second Chances

In a world we believe that "first is best," I've often let my mind wonder about second chances. If only I could reach into the depths of people's minds and souls to find each individual's perspective.

The questions often remain the same, revolving around a certain time frame and situation. It's questions we constantly ask ourselves and desire the answers to yet are also deathly afraid of. Deathly afraid when faced to make a decision. To take the next step.

We are ever-changing. With each experience, the passing of time triggers a subconscious parallel between who we were and who we are about to be. In that moment, we are a transgression. A shifting module in the universe. We can carry on thinking that the impact of the change hasn't happened, as if we wait to graciously be walked across an invisible line that signifies what is taking place. But change is inevitable, no matter what - as we are never the same after it.

As life often throws at us unpleasant and uncertain events, we set in motion a chain of transgressions. We alter our mind, our heart and sometimes, our whole being, all at once. Our moods, our actions, our character, our habits are all products of the change we experience. The change is who we become. A lesson learned, perhaps, along with pain and stress that become our daily worst enemies. And most importantly, fear. The fear of losing control. The fear of being pained again.

Wherever the path past the pain takes us, that's where we find ourselves. Perhaps that's precisely also when we find ourselves. But in the process, if there is ever a time we look back and the circumstance calls for it, there is also a time to ask ourselves if we truly believe in second chances.

I've held my head up high and fiercely shook my head from left to right when asked that question. I've sworn that I've been hardened by the ways of the world, that with each transgression I have experienced, the stress and pain subsiding with time, I have never fully been able to let go of the fear - that of taking a whole new chance to begin with, let alone one a SECOND time around.

What I've often failed to realize is the other person's simultaneous change. As drastic as my own might have been and as much pain as it's brought about, I have taken the selfish stand - wallowing in my own doubts and fears, never asking myself the real root of the unfortunate event. While we can't sit and analyze each situation we find ourselves in, we can ask ourselves just who is truly worth that second chance.

Perhaps it lies in the genuine progress the changes have led to - for both individuals. Perhaps that second chance can become the missing building block in the foundation of the relationship.

Perhaps it's just a place we have to find in our hearts, where we can freely dig deeply without fear caving in on us.