Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Of Breasts and Beauty

Via Shapely Prose, I have to comment on this photo from the Uncovered photography project. (Photo from Jordan Matter Photography.)
If you can't read the text, it is as follows:
When you're forty, men stop looking at you. You sort of disappear and
become a non-sexual entity. It's a very strange thing to have been interesting
to strangers your whole life and then suddenly it stops overnight and you ...

Now, I don't know about you, lovely readers, but I have never been interesting to strangers. Men have never looked at me. I find it fascinating to read things like this, stories of women who took such notice for granted, women who thought such notice was sure to continue indefinitely. What must it be like, to be considered a thing of beauty? What is it to know that you'll never have to pay for a drink or have an empty bed?


  1. When I was in my early teens I lived in a place where skinny blondes were considered gorgeous. I got really used to being told I was lovely and beautiful, and it completely went to my head, and I really depended on it for all sorts of self-worth-related issues.
    And then came the mid-teens, and acne, and weight gain, and suddenly NOBODY looked at me anymore. It was really horrifying, but I learned a lot about myself and about men, and human nature.
    And then in my late teens and early twenties, as the acne came and went and got better and worse, and the weight came and went, I learned a whole lot more.
    I lost my virginity to a guy who looked at me the next morning (sans makeup), made a face, got up and left, and never came back.
    It took me YEARS to get over that, and months of going out with my husband before I'd let him see me without makeup.
    I'm not sure if I've made any sense here, but I just wanted to share how it's felt for me to be 'a thing of beauty' and then to become invisible. And then to become a thing of beauty again, but sometimes still be invisible! (Being loved makes us all things of beauty, doesn't it?)

  2. I don't know how to address this without coming off as a douche, especially since I never really post any clear pictures online.

    But yeah, I understand what the woman whom you quoted was getting at, and it's something I worry about a lot. I've gotten a considerable amount of appearance-based attention all my life, and while I can say now with a lot of bravado that it has no effect on who I really am, am I telling the truth? I've never had to do without it, so I honestly have no idea how much value it has to my self-esteem, and because of that I'm terrified of losing my looks.

    It's Kuus again, by the way.

  3. It's not douchey. I'm really fascinated by how well we fit beauty standards affects our lives.

    I wasn't told I was beautiful until I was 22 or 23. I knew I was smart, clever, good with words - I knew I was useful, and that became very important to me. That I stay useful, that being able to do things was better than being decorative.

    I don't know if it really is, but I know that I call Bacon "clever" a lot more than I call her "pretty". There are days when I wonder if I'm doing her a disservice by it, but then, I think, it's so easy to "lose" one's looks, and it's so difficult to lose a skill, that I think I'd rather she hate me for making her handy than for teaching her that only physical beauty matters.

  4. I think you're doing her a great service. I actually have a lot of talents and skills (no fear of seeming douchey here!), some of which I will inevitably lose as I age and lose control over my body, but for some reason losing beauty really scares me. I think it all comes back to the beauty = lovability thing, as it always seems to.


Gimme some eggs for my bacon!