The old saying “Beauty is as beauty does” was a phrase my mother used often when I was a child. Naturally, she desired to impress upon me the maxim that outer beauty is mostly irrelevant (or worthless) if there’s no inner beauty. In my teens, I might have offered this observation about the rose. It doesn’t do anything. A rose is beautiful simply because it is.
Today, we have beauty consultants, beauty tips and trends, spas and wellness clinics … all these and more revolving around the pursuit of beauty. In fact, according to one source, the $532 billion beauty industry is “growing faster than ever before.” Indeed, multiple market forces combine everyday to expand this already-significant effort at satisfying consumer demand.
A SELF magazine post from 2017 indicates women spend amazing amounts on beauty products: $15,000 during an average woman’s lifetime, including $3,000 on mascara, another $2,000 on eyeshadows, and a whopping $1,700 on lip colors to match the multiple shades contained within one woman’s makeup bag! These are averages; some women will spend more. Ah, the pursuit of beauty does come at a hefty price.
My mother’s sage advice resonated with me … perhaps more than she expected. As a young adult, I dabbled with this or that makeup – mascara and eyeliner, most days; eyeshadow occasionally and lipstick (mostly gloss) when I was “dressing up.” These concessions to the notion of “beauty” required more effort than I cared to indulge. Eventually, I scrapped the facade (literally, the outward appearance) and went au naturel.
Turns out, au naturel proponents are starting to speak up in beauty industry circles, urging a more natural approach to looking one’s best – without the necessity to conform to societal expectations for what glamour is (or isn’t). These voices come from women who believe brands should expect and project honesty with their products. Ultimately, they wish to change unrealistic standards of beauty, turning away from airbrushing, Photoshop and other techniques.
How refreshing! Not only do women come in all shapes and sizes; they also come with a unique presentation of natural beauty. Instead of setting an industry-wide protocol for painting (face-painting) them all alike, allow the face to become a palette for beauty’s infinite possibilities!
Note to self: I’m aware women should have the freedom to express their personalities and individuality, so looking askance at the pink-haired, azure-lipped person standing nearby at the corner drugstore is probably unwise. (One of these days, you might wish to try pink hair for yourself!)
There’s another saying about beauty: it’s in the eye of the beholder. This speaks to the subjectivity of beauty. In my frame of reference, a certain object (or person) may be striking or stunning or intriguing and I don’t use the term beauty (or beautiful). Your frame of reference will differ. We’re free to look at the concept of beauty subjectively.
The magnificence of a rose, however, yields to a different standard (in my most humble opinion). On Juliet’s lips, Shakespeare observed: “a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” For Capulet and Montague, the issue was love, not a family name which was driving them apart.
For myself, the rose represents perfection, a microcosm of the full Creation. The outward unfolding of soft, velvety petals (intricately intertwined with gentle interdependence), the aroma ( a brilliantly sweet perfume), and yes, even the thorns (underscoring the tragedy of Creation undone) instruct and inform us. With all its natural beauty, the rose exists … just because. It requires no explanation, no justification for its existence. Beauty is reason enough. As Spring emerges again, breathe in the beauty!
Remember though, beauty fades. The multi-billion dollar beauty industry continues to grow but the riddles connected to aging remain. A mythical Fountain of Youth (for which explorers have long hunted) has yet to be located. I’m okay with that. The sonnet below expresses my contentment knowing age has its own unique rewards.
And the next time you view your reflection in a mirror, close your eyes and thank God for the sweet aroma of a beautiful rose He is creating inside you.