Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The Economics of Beauty

Every time I watch a movie I am surprised at the number of really beautiful women there are in the world. It always seems like I can't imagine how there could be another one so pretty, and yet the next time I see a movie (or look at a magazine cover, or just walk around somewhere public like a mall), there's one I haven't seen before. With all the fuss we make over beautiful people, you'd think there would be a lot fewer of them than there are.

Which has led me to realize--so abruptly, in fact, that I am texting this to myself from my seat in the movie theater--why our obsession with beauty is so silly.

Physical beauty is not rare. There are millions of absolutely gorgeous people in this world. There's nothing unique about it, no reason why it should be in such high demand. It certainly wouldn't be if the laws of economics applied here.

Beauty isn't inherently good, either, at least in reference to what kind of people have it. There are plenty of truly crap people who are cruel and thoughtless, but also beautiful. 

You don't get to be beautiful by doing anything special, and you don't become a better person for it. It's not a quality you can develop. In fact, if our culture weren't shallow, superficial, and entirely backward in so many of the things it considers important, beauty would be the most worthless quality a person could have. 

There are countless, endless, limitless numbers of  really really ridiculously good-looking people in the world, so if the only thing a person has going for them is their beauty, then they don't have much at all. They're easily replaceable by any number of others. (Which is, perhaps, why Hollywood etc. are so obsessed with their looks... But that is sad, and makes me feel like we should pity them instead of envying.) 

Kindness, cleverness, compassion, determination, etc.--these are special qualities. These are things that make you unique, that say something about who you are, that make you different from others. These are things that count. One day beauty will be gone, and in the end I think we'll finally discover that it didn't mean anything to begin with.

Monday, June 28, 2010

"Goals are stars to steer by, not sticks to beat yourself with." -Barbara B. Smith

Thursday, June 24, 2010

"Life isn't about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself." - George Bernard Shaw

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Best Imitation of Myself

Sometimes I wonder about how other people see me. I feel like there are so many different versions of me out there in the world just floating around. There is shy, independent, baby sister me; emotional high school me; funny, stressed, happy college me; me on a Friday night or me on a Monday morning; me with my friends and family and me at work. All of those versions (and so many others) make up the whole, but sometimes it bothers me that most people will only ever see one version of me.

There will be people who only interact with me once or twice and maybe I'll be having a terrible, no good day and they'll see and remember that not so lovely version of me. There will be people that, regardless of how much time and effort we both make, will never experience a version of me that works for them (and vice versa). There will also be those select few who will get a chance to see the whole package...and they will still love me, even when dealing with crazy, over-bearing control freak me.

I think that, in the end, people will see what they want to see. All I can do is remember that everyone is dealing with their own doubts, moods, fears, troubles, etc. and try to be the best version of myself regardless of those things.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Not How it Happens in the Storybooks

I watched this wonderful episode of Sesame Street with Lana this morning, and it reminded me of our Post About Disney Princesses from back in March.

Here's what happens: Abby, Rosita, and a penguin are playing princess.  Paul Rudd plays a handsome prince. More specifically, he plays the handsome prince, the one from all the fairy tales. And he keeps showing up when the princesses are in trouble, determined to save them. 

But alas, our poor prince is foiled again and again; not by the evil schemes of a fairy tale villain, but--goodness gracious--by the resourcefulness of the very princesses he is trying to save! When Penguin gets stuck up on a balcony, he cries "Rapunzel, Rapunzel, let down your long hair!" And then Abby points out that Penguin doesn't have any hair. While the prince stands there, flummoxed by his failure, Abby flies up and rescues the penguin herself. 

The scenario repeats when the penguin has lost her ice skate, and again when she has skated so enthusiastically that she's flung herself into a mailbox and gotten stuck. Each time the prince shows up, ready to save the day; and each time he discovers, to his chagrin, that the princesses are perfectly capable of saving themselves.

I've included the clip I found on YouTube (which I hope isn't violating any copyrights... but if YouTube hasn't had to take it down, then it should be okay, right?). It's about ten minutes long, and if nothing else, you should watch it for Paul Rudd's amazing performance.

As much as I adore Paul Rudd as a foppish, conceited young prince, I love the moral of the story even better: That girls can take care of themselves, and don't need to be rescued by princes every time something goes wrong. And I really love that at the end of the episode, they talk the prince into playing football with them. Yay for Sesame Street, and a lovely message for little princesses everywhere.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Let's Make A Pact

A few years ago, I was sitting in my living room in my college apartment watching (because it was there) A Little Princess. There's a line in this movie where Sarah turns to Becky and says, "Becky, let's make a pact. I've always thought of us as sisters. Let's promise to always take care of each other."

At the time, I was sharing the living room with my roommate Mandy, who wanted to watch the movie, and my friend Nate, who was there trying to teach me how to use Excel. Right after this scene, without missing a beat, Mandy turned to Nate and said, "Nate, let's make a pact. I've always thought of us as sisters. Let's promise to always take care of each other."

Tragically, Nate didn't make much of a sister (although we did call him Sister Nate for the rest of the year). However, I liked the idea of defining sisterhood as a mutual desire to look out for one another, and I've always been amazed at how much taking care of someone increases my love for them.

I've been watching some friends going through some tough times lately, and I've been coping with some mildly difficult things myself, and I've been watching the way people step in to try to help, even when they don't have anything to offer but their love. I'm fascinated by the way that finding someone who has had a similar experience can make a bad situation better, just because it's nice knowing someone understands. I love the way I am made better when I can pull myself out of my own drama long enough to see how I can try to help someone through theirs.

So, lovely readers, let's make a pact.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Rock Bottom

"Isn’t it the moment of most profound doubt that gives birth to new certainties? Perhaps hopelessness is the very soil that nourishes human hope; perhaps one could never find sense in life without first experiencing its absurdity."
--Vaclav Havel
View from the Bottom of a Well, courtesy of clickykbd on flickr

Sometimes getting to rock bottom is what enables you to finally take a step that you've been needing to take for a long time. It takes a lot less courage to make a big change when you having nothing left to lose, and sometimes maybe that's life's way of helping us out. When you're at the bottom, there's nowhere to go but up.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Smart AND Sweet

So once upon a time, one of my friends was engaged to this guy - and then she broke up with this guy because they were clearly not made for each other. And when he came over to get his stuff, he said, "You know, I always thought I wanted to marry a smart girl . . . but I guess I really wanted to marry a sweet girl."

And the thing is, I know this girl, and she is sweet. She's a terribly nice person who also happens to be very smart. The problem was not that she wasn't sweet - the problem, for this guy, was that she had her own opinion and could hold her own if she disagreed with him. (And, you know, he was probably mad because she'd broken up with him.)

In any case, I've thought about that several times since then, and I've had arguments with some of my guy friends about what's most important. Because I value my independence and intelligence, I initially have a hard time when a guy says he thinks that sweetness is more important. It makes me think that he just wants someone to fawn on him and tell him how right he is about everything, and I'm not really sure how to feel about that. The word "sweet" seems to imply something saccharine and fake to me, probably based on my friend's experience. On the other hand, I've met women who didn't want to show their intelligence because they felt like it made them hard or inaccessible, like they were somehow disgracing womanhood if they weren't all sweetness.

However, I think I figured out the answer one night when I was talking to a friend and he said he thought sweetness was more important than smartness. I stopped him and said, "Okay, let's define what you mean by sweet." (I was taking a class about social science research, and definitions were important.) So when you look at what the word actually means, a sweet person is someone who is pleasant, kind or thoughtful. And really, these are lovely qualities that have nothing to do with the fakeness I envisioned when I heard the word. I like being around people who have those qualities. I want those qualities. And also, why should it be a question of one or the other?

Being smart is great. Learn all you can, be interesting and witty and brilliant all you want. Being sweet is great. Be kind and pleasant and thoughtful and make people feel like a million bucks whenever you can. You don't have to choose, and it might be nicer if you don't.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Gives Me Hope

I feel like I've been posting a lot about websites lately, but I discovered one today that makes me really happy. It's called Gives Me Hope; people write in with Twitter-length entries about experiences that gave them hope, and some of them are incredibly sweet and inspiring. Since we've been talking about hope, I thought I'd share; these were a few of my favorites from what I saw today.

One day when I was younger I walked to the nearest 7-11, and saw a homeless man standing with a puppy.
A couple friends told me to not give him money cause he'd waste it on drugs/alcohol. But I gave him two dollars.
He walked into the store and came out with a can of dog food to feed his puppy. He even gave me back change; 2 quarters. 
That man GMH.
Comment on #68086 (0) Jun 11, 2010 12:00 AM by Lanna, Aurora,CO - Inspiring feats

One day I passed a woman walking two dogs.
One was missing a leg, but they were both limping. I asked what happened. 
She explained that the injured dog had lost his leg, and that the other dog was copying him so he wouldn't feel alone. 
Caring pets GMH
Comments on #67987 (0)Jun 10, 2010 09:00 PM by Mimblewimble, Frederick, MD - Random acts of kindness

For three years, I gave a dollar to this one homeless man everyday on my way home from work.
I hadn't seen him at his usual place in the past month.
Today, I called for a cab to take me to the airport. And that homeless man was now my taxi driver.
Jun 8, 2010 11:00 PM by San Jose, CA - Inspiring feats

When I was a freshman in high school we had a Spring Concert.
I got my period during the concert and it stained my light blue dress. 
The senior girls huddled around me on the way out for intermission, and rinsed and blow-dried my dress in the girls' room. 
Their compassion for a little geeky freshman GMH.
May 28, 2010 12:00 AM by Somerville, NJ - Amazing friends

When my brother was in kindergarden, he couldn't stop talking about how cool and funny his best friend Jeremy is.
When we met him, we saw he was in a wheelchair. On the way home we asked my brother why he never told us that Jeremy was in a wheelchair. 
He simply said, "Because it isn't important." 
My brother's acceptance GMH.

Comments on #61990 (3)May 26, 2010 02:00 PM by Hanna L, Toledo, OH - Inspiring feats

Ladies (and gentlemen)--almost every one of these made me cry. There are some really amazing stories on that site. 

What gives you hope? I'll tell you mine--websites like Gives Me Hope, and like this Facebook group based on a PostSecret. People caring for each other gives me hope. 

Thursday, June 10, 2010

If I Had to Pick Just One...

"No need to hurry. No need to sparkle. No need to be anybody but oneself."
- Virginia Woolf

*Although, I must say, sometimes it's fun to sparkle.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

The Thing With Feathers

I like the idea of hope. As I think about all the different definitions I've heard of this word, all the conflicting ideas about it, I feel like sometimes we miss the point of it.
“Hope is definitely not the same thing as optimism. It is not the conviction that something will turn out well, but the certainty that something makes sense, regardless of how it turns out."
--Vaclav Havel, last President of Czechoslovakia and first President of the Czech Republic; poet, playwright, dissident, and human rights champion.
I think this is the best definition I've ever seen, aside from one thing: To me, hope and optimism are the same thing.

I think the problem with people's idea of optimism is perspective. Being an optimist doesn't necessarily mean that you believe everything will go the way you want it to right now; like Havel says, I think it means you believe, you have hope, that in the long run, everything will be right. If this means you suffer short-term failures, that's okay--you can't always see the path beyond where you are now, so if something doesn't go the way you wanted it to, it's just because your information wasn't complete.

Hope means accepting what comes, and learning that no matter what, you never know everything. It requires a faith in something bigger than you: A conviction that even if you can't see it now, things will make sense in the end.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Ugly Duckling Revisted

Back when we first started doing this, Lin posted something about the Ugly Duckling story and how that can be a little problematic. I saw this the other day and kind of liked it, so we're circling back around. 

"I wonder if the ugly duckling felt stupid when he realized being pretty didn't magically solve all his problems."

Monday, June 7, 2010

Blog Spotlight: Living in the Motherhood

For those of you who have enjoyed Melissa's guest posts today and in the past, we want to tell you about her new project, "Living in the Motherhood." She actually credits the Lovely blog as being part of the inspiration for what she's doing, and we think she's creating something really special over there. We're excited to share it with you, and encourage you to frequent it and perhaps write guest posts or nominate great mothers for the spotlights.

Thanks for being lovely, Melissa! Check out the blog at  http://livinginthemotherhood.blogspot.com.

Guest Post: Being a Mother

Melissa has provided us with quite a few guest posts, and here is another great one. Enjoy!

The word “woman” is not a definition in itself. A woman can be classy, sophisticated, and timeless; however, a woman may also be gaudy, brash, and unrefined. Women may be funny, or humorless. We are each born with our own spirit which may drive us to be traditional or modern, passive or passionate. We have the choice to become the person we desire. Each woman has within them virtue and flaw mixed with personality: the recipe for character.

Similarly, the word “mother” is not a definition in itself. I used to worry about becoming a mother. I thought I was far off from my own mother. My mother is kind, generous, sweet, refined, gentle, and innocent. I’m just sassy. While our core beliefs remain intact, our personalities are very different. Part of me assumed that when I became a mother, the angelic virtue of my mother would be born in me.


For a long time I struggled because I couldn’t recognize the goodness of my mother in myself. Then, after months of guilt and reflection, I decided the best way to be Hannah’s mom was to embrace the fabulous person I am; to love her with all of my heart, care for her, and teach her, but be my own person and do it my way. So I am working simply on being the best mother I can be: Because I can either be a wonderful version of myself, or a poor version of someone else.

Friday, June 4, 2010

List Your Life

For no reason at all except that it's fun, I share the following.

I really like lists. I make them constantly, whether they need to be made or not. I have playlists for everything, top five lists for lots of things, lists of what I'm doing, lists of what I'm not doing, lists of what I'm going to do. 

Recently, a few of my friends fell in love with listography. It has no purpose except to make list and read other lists, and it's a blast. It even generates list topics if you compulsively want to make lists but don't know what to list about. Check it out: http://listography.com

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Getting to Know You

I'm officially stealing a post idea from Annie. Maybe we can count it as a quasi-guest post? Anyway, she blogged about the age old tradition of sharing one interesting thing about yourself on the first day of school. I have always hated such getting-to-know-you questions...I never know what to say. I always wondered if people just kept an answer to this question on standby; I certainly tried to do just that but was never successful. My life always seemed unbearably boring and chronically uninteresting. That's not really true, but when I was put on the spot like that I could only think of the most mundane details of my life. Not like Annie. Annie has a plethora of "one interesting thing"s to share about herself. Things like almost meeting Tom Cruise and references to a decade of orthodontia.

In an effort to provide you Lovely Readers with a truly interesting fact about myself, I sat and thought for far too long about this question. My one interesting thing is that I won second place in a diorama contest in elementary school by creating scenes from The Lorax in a shoebox. The lid was the grimy "after" scene and when you slid the lid up, it revealed the "before" scene with the Swammy Swans and Truffula Trees and brown Barbaloots in their Barbaloot suits. It was quite involved.

And now I am very curious how you might answer this question.

So. Tell me. What is one interesting thing about you?

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Keep Calm

I love this print. I'm know it's fairly popular and a lot of people love it, but I wanted to post it here anyway. I have a little red journal I carry in my purse with this print on the front. I keep it with me so I always have a place to write down thoughts for this blog because this blog is one of those things that reminds me to "keep calm and carry on."

Keep On Keeping On

"Lots of people limit their possibilities by giving up too easily when things get tough. Never tell yourself--"this is too much for me. It's no use. I can't go on." For if you do you're licked, and by your own thinking, too. Keep believing and keep on keeping on."
- Norman Vincent Peale