Beauty. Intelligence. Society.

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Only occasionally do I hunch over in front of a tooth-paste lined mirror and attempt to dexterously line my eyelashes with mascara and polish my lips with red lipstick. Most often, within four hours the mascara has started to smear around the bags of my eyes. Within 30 minutes, red lipstick has magically appeared on my teeth, the top of my wrist (from when I tried to wipe it away from the edges of my mouth) and if I’m unlucky, onto the dress I’m wearing, because that wrist has deposited its excess onto my torso.

There’s a piece of me that aspires to be beautiful; to stride instead of shuffle onto subway cars, having mastered the art of the heel, all my belongings fitting perfectly under the zipper of my designer handbag, and practically pose there, every hair in place, the chunky gold watch complimenting my earrings perfectly, and the whole car blinking as if the Cover Girl spontaneously materialized.

Yes, there is a piece of me.

But in many ways, I revel in defying, or perhaps complicating, society’s irrepressible ingredients of What It Takes To Be Beautiful. Truth be told, part of me accepts that I’ve already been disqualified. My face is far too blotchy; my chest looks like it never left girlhood. I have little interest in ostentatiously caving to The Man by indulging in plastic surgery, though I wish I were slightly more disciplined about applying SPF 25 before I jetted out each morning.

Still, the part of me that delights in mucking up the rules also insists on a four-dresses-per-week minimum, all seasons of the year (and of course I bike and climb trees in them shamelessly.) In defiance I insist on wearing ballet flats and dressy flat sandals as I charge around New York. (Heels would only inhibit my ambition.) No I don’t usually wear makeup and no I don’t use any electronics on my hair — but I do braid, twist, and pin all or parts of it a myriad of times every hour.

Once in a while – or more than that – I strut around New York like I’m the only liberated woman alive. Ironically this seems most likely to occur when my shoulders burn under the weight of my color-clashing green backpack that I’m only toting because what else would carry my laptop and let me bike around the city? What am I, in grade school?

XX

As a little girl, I lived a solid twenty minute walk away from the public library. My mom signed us all up for library cards the day that we turned five — shamelessly acknowledging her rationale as being able to check out the maximum number of materials at any given time. As she trudged out to the car, her hands clutching bulging canvas bags replete with literature, I instinctively became gleeful about immersing myself in the American Revolution, Roman Republic and Montana plains once we got home. My obsession with stories and my home school upbringing meant that when I attended private high school, I was doomed. I was a nerd and worshiped at the feet of learning.

Not much has changed today. I feed my daily insatiable starvation for content by making a morning ritual of opening up dozens of tabs to dozens of articles, op-eds, and blogs and then commence digesting. For several hours. But although in grade school, I read solely for the story, I realized earlier this week just how important it is for me to read what everyone else is reading. Let me rephrase: to read what other brainy, intellect wonks summarize and blurb about all over the internet.

And I do this shamelessly. Indeed, I walk into any bookstore and immediately head towards greeting tables that display all the flashy and trendy graphics of the latest books making the New York Times, NPR and Atlantic rounds, turn the books over, skim the back and then, without fail, remark that “This is something I need to read. I’ve heard it’s so good.” If I do fail at making said remark, I whip out my slider phone and email the title and author to myself as a reminder to put the book on hold the next time I have internet access.

On Twitter, beyond the twenty-or-so baseball related personalities that perennially clog my feed, I follow city planning nerds, Politico and Bloomberg reporters and urbanist-biased folks whose article suggestions induce all sorts of self-enforcing biases. And I lick my plate clean.

What a conundrum this is! For as much as I pride myself in my liberation from cloyingly, suffocating appearance standards, it is with this same gusto that I embrace the elite standard of smarts, intelligence, and wisdom.Yes, there is a piece of me that wants to be that beautiful girl on the subway. But every day that I find myself devouring Nate Silver’s statistical analysis or the latest issue of the “Economist” while leaning against a train pole, I applaud myself much harder for my Sense Of The World and Well-Roundedness.

And here’s the icing on the cake:. Although I consider myself someone who longs for connection with all types of people, the type of media that I consume either brings me in closer or further contact with particular subgroups. There is that type of person that watches Mad Men. There is that type of person that watches Girls. There is that type of person that watches Game of Thrones.

And then there are the masses, who consume reality sleaze, late-night try-to-be-funny comedy acts, vampire literature, urban novels, and blockbuster movies — all the media that I often pretend does not exist. Ridiculously, I pick a cyber-culture where this media  often is not even acknowledged, and yet I hope that I can still connect with all types of people.

I don’t want to assert that without media, no human connection exists. I’m just saying that I’ve let myself be made in the brainiac image of the people I try to please, the people that I acknowledge, the people that I aspire to be, and shouldn’t be so silly as to think that I’m above society’s cookie cutter imprints.

“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind that you may know what is good, and acceptable and the perfect will of God.” #ThanksPaul #NowWhat

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3 thoughts on “Beauty. Intelligence. Society.

  1. Seriously, best entry to date. Profound. I think every 20 something should read this, especially, those who are eager to be in the world, change the world, but also, be their own trend setter. it takes great courage to be critically of oneself, but on the flip side, enhance your uniqueness as though, it’s your contribution to world becoming a better place.

    I live for this; “What a conundrum this is! For as much as I pride myself in my liberation from cloyingly, suffocating appearance standards, it is with this same gusto that I embrace the elite standard of smarts, intelligence, and wisdom.Yes, there is a piece of me that wants to be*that* *beautiful* girl on the subway. But every day that I find myself devouring Nate Silvers statistical analysis or the latest issue of the Economist while leaning against a train pole, I applaud myself much harder for my Sense Of The World and Well-Roundedness.”

    Definitely worth a few re-read

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