While the city shuts down and the rain pounds upon the hardened but delicately sensitive beautiful souls of the city, I find myself bored and lost in my head.
The campesino takes off his hat—
As a sign of respect
toward the fury of the wind
Don’t worry about the noise
Don’t worry about the water
Don’t worry about the wind—
If you are going out
beware of mangoes
And all such beautiful
sweet things. * From Problems with Hurricanes by Victor Hernández Cruz
What little beautiful sweet projectiles should we be wary of – I wonder…
While I brave the storm alone, I browsed upon this New York Magazine article: “I Didn’t Think of Myself As Good-Looking at All” about “Richard Avedon’s muse and the first non-Caucasian model to grace the pages of a major fashion magazine,” China Machado, and it made me recall a recent conversation I had with my best friend while shopping on conceptions and standards of beauty, our features, and our own personal perceptions of beauty.
The title caught my eye right away and seeing this extraordinary woman’s profile made me reflect on how powerfully alluring it is to claim and accept one’s differences.
Growing up, I have often been conflicted by my features. I don’t know anyone (female: biracial or not) who hasn’t been. For me, it’s been about having very striking/strong features (large eyes, full hair and lips, prominent nose and cheekbones) while being small and fair, dealing with the duplicitous of being both light and dark, small but big – basically not fitting in and the duality of being perceived as “exotic.”
I’ve had a love/hate affair with my nose. My mother has near “perfect,” flawless features, and most of the women in my family are beautiful effortlessly. Many people often tell me there is absolutely nothing wrong with my nose and often, I agree but sometimes I wish I had a ski slope or button nose and rarely, like photos of myself in profile, which at other times, makes me angry at how much of the beauty standards and norms for women today are both unrealistic and lacking genuine diversity, irregardless of how that affects all women everywhere.
While riding in a NYC cab on Thursday, my bestie observed that I may not have a “small” nose but the one I have fits me and if I ever changed it, I would be something worse than unattractive, I would be ordinary. I listened, of course and contemplated the idea with a sense of doubt that I was perhaps being kindly placated, (as only a true best friend can do skillfully) but it wasn’t till I read this article and looked at the pictures of China Machado that the “extraordinary” element of what she was saying resonated.
There is something about claiming your own particular beauty, of not being beautiful in a standard way, that can make you, even more striking.
I try as much as possible to find the upside and beauty in things, to see the divine in the every day, and even on a tempestuous weekend like this one, it’s important to note how rare and extraordinary the spectacle of nature is and how very much WE are all a part of it – beautiful, powerful, and glorious just like a huracán.
Stay safe, everyone
* This post is dedicated to my best friend Z, on the occasion of her birthday (you have to be pretty badass to get the gods to stir the winds and make the ocean surge for you) and every other extraordinary woman who’s ever felt anything less than beautiful