Saturday, February 14, 2009

Redefining beautiful

It is Valentine’s Day and I find myself pondering something I hadn’t in a while. How is the beauty of a woman defined? How does she embody ‘beautiful?’ And how does my personal outlook on the matter match up with a common definition of beautiful?

I click over to an online dictionary to find answers.

Merriam-Webster defines ‘beautiful’ as ‘having qualities of beauty’—yeah, that about clears it up. The online resource also offers these synonyms for the word beautiful: handsome, pretty, fair, lovely. It would appear as though being beautiful is about what’s observed of one’s exterior. But I disagree with the superficial boundaries of this definition.

My redefinition of the term dates back about ten years when I met my wife, Alicia. There’s much to the story of how we began to notice each other, but she was very attractive to me at the onset. Still, it wasn’t until after I took the time to get to know her that I started to really reexamine what beautiful was. Sure she met (and exceeded) the requirements of any published definition of the term, but with every encounter, every conversation, beauty as I knew it was being redefined.

When Alicia and I met as temporary employees at a JFK air cargo company, I was deep into a failing relationship. As I grew away from that situation, I started to allow myself to search my feelings for her. In this, I realized I was far more attracted to the beauty of her persona than her person. There was a genuine, welcoming warmth about her that was not exclusively offered to me. It was just who she was; joyous, empathetic, patient, kind hearted. As we socialized more and more at work together with other temps I began to greatly value her company and friendship. Ultimately, I officially ended the troubled relationship I was in and began my pursuit of Alicia concerned that losing her would be like fumbling the rarest of treasures over the ship’s edge into the open sea (picture Rose at the end of Titanic). I refused to be so cavalier with this find.

As we grew closer together, ‘beautiful’ to me embodied so much more. The term expanded to consider aspects of one’s spirit, mannerisms, personality, integrity; indeed their persona. What’s more, I discovered that these qualities really weren’t marked, marred or modified by the application of perfumes, makeup, jewelry or clothes. I’ve seen my wife’s beauty radiate from under a baseball cap, through a tired glare, behind a dribbly baby. And after nearly nine years of marriage, ‘beautiful’ has become more than a face a woman dons in proper proportions. Instead, I now see it as the blooming of something a woman nurtures over time with faith, love, and humility. It is an unfathomable glow that makes glad a lowly heart. It is that thing that makes men say “when she smiles, the room lights up.” It is warm, it is welcoming, it is natural.

It is the beautiful I’ve come to know as redefined by my wife.

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