I have always wanted to write something about this, something to liberate the millions among us who are caught in the hullabaloo over looking good. But somehow it just didn't happen. Not until I spotted a bizarre piece of news on the internet on a sharp spike in the number of women visiting the cosmetologist's cabin as Valentine's Day approached. From Botox to Juvederm, forehead to chin, ear to ear, these miracle makers promise you a skin you wore 20 years ago, never mind the love. Self-grooming and a desire to look good probably predate Narcissus and there is nothing wrong with wanting a few appreciative nods your way. But freezing your facial expressions with those needles and using scalpels to thin that ‘bulbous' nose to a size never satisfying are a different desire altogether, one that is nudging us closer to the approval of an elusive pseudo-self far removed from reality.

And the surgery craze is just an example. Look around you and the chances are very good that you will find people trying to ‘fight' their very basic constitutional make-up in every possible way. The dark-skinned wants to be fair, the fair wants to be fair-er, the fair-est wants to be marks-free, the marks-free wants to be perfect skinned, the perfect skinned wants something that can't be figured out and faithfully awaits a beauty brand to invent some new flaw and dedicate a range for removing it, the straight-haired wants to go noodled, the noodled wants a tame, size 2 wants a size 0, size 0 wants to maintain it. The illustrations can be more comical and perhaps never-ending.

When did this happen? When did we allow ourselves to set insatiable standards of physical beauty while wanting to just look a ‘little good'? Who reinforces this constant act of degrading thyself? Look around again and the answer shouldn't be far off. The aunty who always insists that you wear heels to dwarf your four-foot sad story, the leggy model on the TV screen who feels that marks look better on a Dalmatian than your face, the cousin who just dumped her “matrimony prospects minimising” glasses post a visit to the laser clinic, and many more people with innovative ideas to belittle the most normal aspects of your being, they are all a part of this silent conspiracy against yourself.

Everything in our living world is contaminated with a certain definition of beauty. Even the kids' nursery rhymes aren't spared. Puzzled? “Chubby cheeks and dimpled chin” are ok but why the colour is “very fair,” and “eyes are blue.” Very interestingly in our country, the genesis of this idea precedes a child's birth itself with ‘kesar milk' drinking advice from relatives, and continues on matrimonial pages as ‘Wanted Fair and good looking bride/groom…' and even beyond. It is that unavoidable, the peril of beauty.

Most of the history has seen beauty as being a female psyche-specific burden but not anymore. The ‘metrosexual male' and fairness creams for men have shown how this onslaught has transgressed conventional boundaries. But really, when we are talking of ‘designer babies' that license gene shopping, this seems passé in comparison.

Can we tackle this Frankenstein's monster? Is there hope for our shedding the myth of beauty and wearing our ages on our faces and stories in our marks? Perhaps there is, but a lot depends on whether we really want that. With the beauty business boom, the high stakes for the companies involved and millions under their spell, there aren't going to be many takers for this change.

The change, however, doesn't mean that the ideal is a ‘beauty-rejection' culture; it should rather be an ‘all inclusive beauty acceptance' culture where stereotyping beauty and torturing yourself under knives and chemicals are not encouraged. It should teach how a person's colour is just a colour and the real self lies much deeper. It should teach us to take pride in how god made us and to look for beauty in the correct places. Only then can we redeem ourselves.

(The writer's email ID is monalisharma126@gmail.com)

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