Monday, October 12, 2015

ACHING FOR BEAUTY

by Kate Collins

What we won't do to make ourselves feel beautiful. Or at least attractive. But we have nothing on the Chinese women of a few thousand years ago -- up to a few decades ago, when foot binding was the custom. You can see the photo here of their tiny shoes. Why did women deform their feet? For beauty, of course. Deformed "lotus petal" feet were consider signs of status and men thought them erotic.   But first, the backstory.

I had the good fortune to sit beside a young Chinese woman at a book signing following a writers' conference this past weekend. This remarkable woman, whose name is Wang Ping, came to the US with $26 in her pocket. She had graduated from Beijing University and wanted to get her masters here, which she managed to do at NYU. Now she's an author, poet, editor, translated, and academic.

She has put her considerable talent to work on this book of her heart, peeling back the layers of fear, desire, and social climbing behind the ancient Chinese tradition of foot binding. As I thumbed through her book, ACHING FOR BEAUTY, and saw the photos of what feet looked like after being curled under and taped for years throughout childhood, I was both appalled and fascinated. The photos were so gross that I decided not to post them here.

The women mutilated their feet because it was the fashion. But isn't that what people here do when they pierce their skin? Get tattoos? Have face lifts and breast implants?

What does that say about humans? That we are insecure being our natural selves? I don't have an answer to that. I color my hair and slather on anti-aging cream all in the hopes of staving off the effects of aging so I can feel attractive.  I can, say, however, that I would't mutilate my feet.

My question for you is, how far would you go to feel beautiful, or does that matter to you? Would you have body work done? Do you feel comfortable in your own skin?

I think we have a way to go before we stop trying to make ourselves feel more attractive and just be ourselves. Or maybe it's just me.