The atlas of beauty
Alina Song | Thursday, September 13, 2018
I have always want to have a double-eyelid surgery (blepharoplasty), a plastic surgery that would make my eyes appear fuller, brighter and more awake. I’m fully aware of the risk of having this surgery — it might hurt my eyesight and I might look uglier if the surgery failed. But I still hope to do it, because I want to become beautiful, and a double-eyelid is a necessity of the beauty standards in Asia.
I learned about these standards, or the definition of beauty, the same way I learned to speak — by inevitably eavesdropping on adults’ conversations. I heard my mom and her friends murmuring about my big eyes and my potential of being an actress when I was still lying in my car-seat. Then, I knew that big eyes represented beauty, and being beautiful was beneficial. “Many a little makes a mickle,” my mind was imperceptibly instilled with the obligation of pursuing these beauty standards before I grew conscious enough to think about what beauty is.
It turned out that I didn’t grow up to become a beautiful actress, but those beauty standards are so firmly fixed in my brain that I have never questioned them. In high school, my friends often complained about why us Asian people are born with smaller eyes than the Westerners. We blamed our genes rather than even thinking about criticizing those uniform, monotonous, invariable but unreasonable beauty standards. The sad truth is that it isn’t just me that is trapped in these standards. The internet is always flooded with selfies emphasizing big eyes with delicate make-up and comments like “Oh … look at that beautiful girl,” “You are such an angel” etc. I post those pictures too, by using as much photo software as I can to make myself close to those standards as possible. I feel sad when nobody comments that I am beautiful and I feel happy when I receive many “likes.”
I thought beauty standards were universal, so I thought I must be the ugliest person in the U.S. with my little eyes. But I was wrong. That night, when my roommate suggested that we take a photo together, I was bare-skinned with every facial problem that you could imagine, and I was laughing so hard that I could barely see my eyes in the photo. So, kind of intuitively, I decided to cover my face with a cute cat sticker and then post it to my social media. When I told my roommate about thinking I was too ugly in that photo, she was shocked. She told me that I looked awesome. I somehow found out, later, that Westerners love Asians’ small eyes and some of them are also willing to do a plastic surgery to make their eyes mono-lids. I thought well, then, am I suddenly beautiful now?
So, here’s the dilemma. If I am considered not beautiful according to the beauty standards in Asia, but am considered beautiful in Western countries, and if Asians want bigger eyes just like the Westerners, whereas the Westerners want smaller eyes just like the Asians, then how can a person be both not beautiful and beautiful at the same time? Doesn’t it mean that the set of beauty standards are useless, no matter what region? So why don’t we just regard our own common looks as beautiful?
Some people may argue that the pursuit of those beauty standards is beneficial, as it makes us positive and consistent. But why don’t we just define those internal qualities and characteristics as beauty? We need to redefine beauty. Here’s my opinion. Beauty means being ourselves. We know we are beautiful by knowing who we are, spiritually. We attract spiritual people into our lives, people who love our authentic mind and soul.
We have the power to heal what needs to be healed. Nobody looks ugly and nobody looks prettier. You may just look different, and everybody is different. You deserve to receive people’s kindness, cordiality and camaraderies. You get to have your real, giant and gorgeous life. And that’s why we are the human beings. The prosperous uniqueness is our representation, instead of the universal uniformity of the machines.
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.