Tag, Not It


Beauty has so many forms and expressions. Not only is it in the eye of the beholder, but it’s magnitude is limitless. It is love, wit, intellect, helping others, a musical experience, a trip to your favorite gallery, sitting by the sea, a moment in your child's journey that is life forming. It’s the compassion of a partner at the end of the day, relaxing with you while wearing elastic and watching Colbert.

Beauty is also something that’s been evolving within my consciousness. For a list of glory I can bore you with from my past decade, my health is not one I would include. I’m not saying my health was an albatross, but more of a serious pain in my ass.  And with having a big pain in my ass, I had to reevaluate how I applied my own notion of beauty to myself. To be kinder and more empathic, to me.

It was psychologically tough, because years and years of ballet set me up with a solid foundation of muscle and a dedication towards fitness. It was my thing. “Oh, Jess? She’s tiny. All that ballet.” This was my baseline for decades, and despite every insane effort expended because doctors said I was fine, I was losing control of my own body.

I evolved to living in elastic (not the sassy kind), and throwing my hair in a top knot. I wore barely a sparkle, glitter, sequin, or bauble, which had always been my thing. And my sequin gold Uggs totally do not count, that was me being my version of lazy. I’m a frivolous fashion loving person, and I stopped it all together because I didn’t want to decorate a body that didn’t feel like my own. I was a bare minimum getting-by-er hiding my fashion freak flag.

Call it serendipity, or a mind meld, but when I got up to write this post on Saturday, I woke to a comment on What’s Your Frequency? that said : “One of my pet peeves is beauty. When do women learn that ‘decorative’ doesn't have to be at the top of their list? Even ‘fat is beautiful’ focuses on the shell.”

I wholeheartedly agree with Pia about the superficial nature of skin deep beauty. Inserting a physical attribute into  “____ is beautiful,” also takes what we are trying to wrestle from society’s stranglehold, to only place directly it right back into their handsy rulebook.  

But at the end of the day, I am a visual person who thirsts for self expression. Not attention, self expression … two entirely different things and often muddled together. We’re going to return to this fact as this as it’s the crux of this post ... but first, I'm going to indulge in another quick sidetrip touching on how in the dim of my health, I lost and missed decorating myself, for me.

It wasn’t until I turned the corner and shed about 10 pounds that I cropped off my hair and dyed it lilac. I also splurged on rose gold jewelry. Earrings, necklace, and rings. Yes rings … something I haven’t worn for years, minus my anniversary ring wedding band. And my new rings are the most delicate little things that I absolutely love wearing. I feel the glint of their sparkle in me, even when I’m typing away on a draft of this post in a Google document. Not because of their materialism, but what they mean to me. I wouldn’t have ever imagined wearing something so fine, in the delicate sense, these past few years. Fine contrasted too much to my puffy.

I reference back to Pia’s comment, that we are not decorations. We’re not “less than” when we aren’t acknowledged, nor are we “more than” when celebrated by dinging the formulaic beauty radar. But it honestly feels really freaking good to feel happy with myself again. To finally feel the strength and fitness gains from working my ass off. This return to wellness, and reconnection with my body, feed my self expression and self esteem.

But in the sparkle of self expression, I tread lightly as attention is a byproduct. And attention leads to one inevitable thing ...

We as a culture have glorified beauty to the level of it being a sport. And with beauty being a sport, social media is the stadium. How do we navigate our truths with beauty when the world is televising it?

With weddings, holidays, family vacations, school events, and forced-fun obligations, inevitably, they all turn into photoshoots. I want to wither within myself everytime a mobile is directed my way, because I know notifications will be pinging days later with tagged photos.

This need to capture and contain beauty doesn’t just restrict us in our own lives, it’s all around us. We see folks with seemingly shibori level certification, tying themselves into knots to fit within an Instagram grid.

Did it not happen if there wasn’t a photo?

When did “you look fine, it’s just a photo” become a non-insane, socially acceptable string of words ... especially when said photo is publicly posted and not tucked away in a family photo album collecting dust?

When does a lack of vanity turn into vanity?

I believe if we celebrate the beauty in those around us, and within ourselves, that energy grows. And when we celebrate it, we live it. And when we live it, we talk about it. And when we talk about it, we can engage others in a mindful conversation so that for goodness sake, they don't have their goddamn phones in their hands to snap, post, and tag.

So what are your truths on beauty?

How do you express, celebrate, capture, or share your own?

What has you saying, “tag, not it?”

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