How Beautiful She Must Have Been
“How beautiful she must have been, he thought, reflecting at the same time that this was truly a dreadful thing to say of a woman, as if beauty were necessarily and invariably confined to youth.” — Ruth Rendell, The Monster in the Box
How can a woman first feel her own beauty, know it, live in it, before the witnesses, known and unknown, begin to parade their more or less appropriative gaze across our bodies? Culture designates that the appearance of a woman exceeds all else, and it is our youthful beauty that is most prized. Eyes latch on, grasp, grip, grind. We are invited or rejected. We ‘work’ this or don’t, but it is impossible to avoid. Eyes stealing beauty, steal soul as well. It is a serious though common offense to steal a woman’s beauty, and for a woman to let it be stolen. We go hungry. (Another stealer/spoiler: the average camera. It doesn’t do so well with sags and wrinkles, but neither can it catch starry skies, nightscapes, or wavering seaweed under the water. It misses some very beautiful things. )
In Dancemeditation, we close our eyes and move, feeling what we are doing, and tune our awareness to an eyeless world. Our other four senses resuscitate. We relocate. We root. As we digest self as sensation, motion, texture, scent, the visual and cognitive aspects recede, becoming proportionally smaller in our identification of self. Simultaneously, this non-visual, elongated, un-judged experience magnifies the alterior aspects of self. We are the sensation of ourselves, not only what we think or see that we are. (Or for that matter, what others think or see that we are.)
Most important, as our own beauty becomes associated with a filled-out interior world — our beautiful inner state, a touch that we find beautiful, or scent, taste, sound — beauty belongs to us, and beauty is where we belong. We reclaim stolen beauty. If it was a land we weren’t allowed to inhabit, we are now in perfect residence. Beauty is our home.
A woman’s beauty must always be, first, a subjective discovery and, second, a witnessed corroboration. Discovering her beauty is a journey involving all five senses and a reflective mind. Being witnessed thereafter is a delicate honor.
What is your beauty?