Currently I am sat outside a halloumi stall in Berlin having just walked from the airport to the city (a tokenistic endeavour from which I gained nothing but dehydration and a sore back). I am the kind of hungry whereby you consume a meal and it feels like the soup before the starter in a swanky restaurant with ungenerous portions. I want a coffee but cannot be bothered to move to get one. In fact, I calculated that it has been 5 days since last I wore a bra because every day the effort of putting one on grows more torturous. This idleness is becoming concerning, although a peculiar pride surrounds it. Clearly, being 20 I am now senile.
I cast my mind to when young Mia was still in possession of the energy of one whom is on the cusp of exiting adolescence: newly 18 and on her first legal night out which happened to be in Stratford. She was in a pub with lots of late twenty-somethings and a drink in hand, which she disliked but sipped anyhow. A man approached her (a MAN!!!!) and spoke to her in a manner that she dubiously identified as flirtatious. She nodded at his almost funny remarks and clutched her drink a little harder. Everyone was older and potentially wiser than her. This she silently acknowledged whilst straightening her spine with hopes of exuding a mysterious confidence to compensate for the fact that she had no idea how to speak.
Rather awkwardly for her, this did not divert the attention from her temporary muteness. What had at first seemed like an evasive interest was now blatantly just timid silence. The man shook his head.
‘I like your face. But there is nothing else to you.’
Yes, that is the true story of the first time I went out and got told that someone finding me attractive was literally the only thing about me that there was. Which makes very little sense logistically, but is also mean. For my 18 years had taught me something that I carry with me always: having surface appeal is insufficient grounds for beauty.
Face beauty is a diluted beauty. You may argue – as do many – that beauty is subjective, and therefore immeasurable. I would certainly agree. My strain of perceived beauty might differ from yours. What we term ‘beautiful’ reflects our unique preferences. But I believe beauty differs from, say, attractiveness or prettiness, because it is not confined to appearance. Beauty sets all senses ablaze. She cannot be known with merely a gaze; she is independent of such scathing judgement. You know beauty when you know feeling. When the hairs on your arm gasp and your toes writhe. When tears fall from your eyes to your lips and they taste sweetly bitter. When someone’s touch makes your skin molten and your breaths jagged. When you don’t know how you feel so you lie there and weep. When sunshine sings you lullabies until you fall asleep in the grass. When someone smiles because of you. When someone cries because of you. When someone dances with you. Kissing in the night. Laughing in the light. Starting a story with a captured gaze.
That is my beauty. But that is not to say that beauty cannot dwell in people. Clearly, disinterested-man-in-Stratford-bar did not see beauty in me. As I say, each to their own (although general advice to the masses – try not to tell people if they haven’t made it to your true beauty list as they will call their mum in the morning angry crying). Superficial traits are beautiful when they capture some silent but significant essence. I love when my cousin’s freckles speckle her cheeks and singe her eyes with sapphire. I love my parents’ drunk dancing together. I love arguing and nudity with best friends that don’t even notice because your friendship goes deeper than bodies and bickering. I love the sun refracting off of the eyes of my tortoise as he patrols his garden kingdom. In these things, beauty’s wondrous fragrance is galore. People may have differing shades or pictures, but beauty meanders through the senses of us all.
It is important to note beauty when it arises. Important but also at times difficult. It is far easier to identify the ugly parts of an ugly day. Keep calm if you can; beauty smiles in the crevice of every footstep and raindrop. It is beautiful listening to the traffic go by as I sit here and wonder how much longer I can stay awake after my overnight flight on one potential cup of coffee and a sandwich. I conclude, not much; 20 year old Mia needs her beauty sleep.