I only care about how I see myself, and not about how others see me. I have never been so clear on this before. In fact, I never understand why many people care so much about how they look, especially in photos. Around me there’re so many people who are willing to spend a lot of time taking selfies, retouching them, and then posting them on social media platforms, with the hope that their photos will be liked and appreciated by others. To make a long story short: I wonder how they have become so obsessed with how other people see them? And why is it something so important to their sense of being? I once knew a person who said to me that she “spent half an hour every morning putting on her makeup everyday as a form of respect to others.” This, of course, also meant that she would be spending about almost equal amount of time removing them before going to bed. I wondered what she meant so I asked her, and her response left me both enthralled and sympathetic. “Most people, if not everyone, wants to see beautiful things, places, and people; so, if I can make myself beautiful, or at least ‘not so unbearably ugly,’ at least to their eyes, then I am expressing to them how much I respect them.” There are some good reasons in the way she thought about cosmetic, but, first of all, from whom did she arrive at the conclusion at “everyone wants to see beautiful things, places, and people?” My feeling is that it’s her upbringing. It could be her parents, her family member, or whoever surrounding her since she was young, who, since then, has been telling her that it’s important to look good in front of other people. Fine. There’s definitely some sorts of biological vis-a-vis cultural dimension to it — I too try to shave whenever I can so I wouldn’t look like a bear outside (since my bread generally grows very quickly). But I didn’t take it too far as to say that “for me to not looking like a bear is a way of expressing my respect to others.” The second thing that seems problematic about having this kind of assumption is how exactly can one understand how other people see you? I, for once, do not like cosmetic ever since I was very young, mainly because it makes a person’s skin looks as if there’re layers of powder grazing on top of it. As someone who is growing up in a very simple household with very simple material means, I regard, more than anything else, sincerity as a form of respect. So, as long as the person brushes her teeth, keep her hair straight and in place (as opposed to coming all over her face covering her eyes which I think is everyone’s most beautiful window to the soul), and smile, she’s beautiful. In fact, I like children simply because children are unpretentious. They have yet to learn how to pretend in order to get what they want. They respect other people by being themselves, which I think is the most beautiful form of respect one can address to fellow human beings. That said, I am, of course not, not supportive of the thought that one should freely express one’s own-self in every situation and circumstance. In my earlier post in which I wrote about my cousin and her annoying unpretentious behavior, I wanted to say that although I like unpretentiality, there is a limit to what it could entail. I would not accept unpretentious desires that encroach on other people’s liberty, dignity, and sympathy (like what my cousin sometimes did to her family because she has yet to learn about how to be unpretentiously liberal, dignified, and sympathetic to other human beings — so yes, I believe that we must both keep our faith in the good essence of human nature as well as meaningful nurturing techniques such as those that Rousseau wrote about in Emile, Or on Education). But since we’re talking about physical representation here, I’d like to stick to the notion of unpretentiality of the physical body. The less a person pretend to be someone — or even something — they are not, the more beautiful they are, because they’re being beautiful from within. So, I find any comments on superficial beauty to be both meaningless and tasteless. I value the absolute beauty provided to us by nature and I enjoy how our physicality naturally change over time (aka, aging). So, I also don’t like to engage in any forms of discourse, speech, or verbal and non-verbal community pointing at how old or how young a person is. I don’t care if someone think I look young or old, and I don’t have time to even think about how young or old other people look both relative and non-relative to my look. So, I always try to inform my colleagues whose friendships with me I hold dear to refrain from making any comments on how young or old they themselves or others look. I don’t care about that, and I appreciate, always, the aesthetics of natural aging. Also needless to point out, don’t get me started on my viewpoint on plastic surgery!
Recently, right after I took a photo of a person I knew, she came right at my cameraphone and asked me if she could look at it. At the moment she found the picture I took to be unpleasing to her sensibility, she asked me to delete it on the spot. I had to disagree because I thought the picture was lovely, and the smile of her in the photo was as enigmatic and pleasant as that of Mona Lisa. This was the verbatim defense of the photo that I took, but it in no way managed to convince her, so she continued to insist that I get rid of it. Photographs, to me, are more than just a two dimensional graphic memory of an event, person, place, etc., but also a record of my personal history. When I look at every photo that I took, I could recall to the very details of why and how I decided to take it, what was the motive behind composing it with a particular kind of framing, what was the dimension of aesthetics in which the poetic of such picture is located, and so on. I can even recall the tension in my arms, neck, or parts of the body involved in the process (especially if the camera that I use is a professional one rather than a cameraphone). So, every photo has an imprint of my personal memory, integrity, and philosophy embedded. Every photo means that much to me. The reason why I stop taking photos of other people is because I know that I will get annoyed when the person whose photographs I took ask to see the photos I just took, and, as in this case, then once that person (usually a girl) realizes that she doesn’t look as good as she wants herself to look in my camera, she would ask me to delete the particular photos that she would claim aren’t representative of and don’t do justice to her appearance. What happened in this case was that she tricked me to believe that I could trust her. She asked me if she could see “other photos” that I had taken in my camera. As you could probably guess, the moment I handed to her my cameraphone, the first thing she did was to find the photo of her that she did not like, and then, without my consent, deleted it. I got so upset; the reason for which I have already expressed, and after that I have to remind myself every time that there’re people in the world who only want to see themselves in a particular way, and if the photographic representations of them fall outside of how they expect them to be then no matter how historical and important such representations are, they must be destroyed. This incident raises two important questions for me.
First, can I really deal with this kind of people? The answer is no. I don’t like superficiality — in fact, I hate superficially — and I never believe that the bodily, facially (and therefore superficially), and/or physical representation can tell us anything meaningful about a person. I like to see beautiful things, places, and people, but only for a short period of time because I know that once I become familiar with them I will no longer find them to be beautiful. So, I want something more than that — something that stands the test of time. I think the beauty of the nature has that quality, so does the beauty of good architecture because they naturally age. So, second, what should I do with them? One of my favorite movie of all time is Shallow Hal, which is a movie about a man named Hal (played by Jack Black) who felt in love with a girl — truly because of who she is, and absolutely because how she looks. Because of his shallowness, treating beauty as the only important criteria for people whom with he would date, Tony Robbins casts a spell on him: That spell makes him completely blind of the physical appearance, and makes him see only “how they are.” So, in this movie, although Gwyneth Patrow is an extremely obese woman, who in no way a shallow guy like Hal would ever want to be with if he sees the physical her, she is able to capture Hal’s heart simply because she’s the most wonderful person in the world; so, thanks to the spell, Hal sees her as the beautiful Gwyneth Patrow rather than an obese woman.
I wish someone could come and cast that spell on me. I once said to a close friend of mine, “my love for a woman is completely gone when I like how she looks, more than who she is.” I want to be with someone with whom I could feel at home when I am not at home, with someone who makes me feel she’s most beautiful even if she does have the body to physically express it.