When a friend told me her story of reconnecting with her college sweetheart after forty years, I had to ask: “What did you remember most when you first saw each other after so many years?” She laughed and said, “He remembered the tiny scar on my face above my left eyebrow and asked me again how I got it. His long Slovenian nose still captivated me.”
Their encounter reminded me that beauty has no standards. It is often the unconventional or traditionally perceived flaws that often attract us to people and things. In Japan, this aesthetic is called Wabi-Sabi. It’s a way of appreciating beauty and the impact nature and time has on it. In Wabi-Sabi, the beauty ideal can be found in the imperfect, unconventional and incomplete.
We can see the popularity of unconventional beauty icons throughout the ages whose imperfections are what captivate us. Bette Davis’ eyes, Grace Jones’ jawbone, Barbra Streisand’s nose, Uma Thurman’s forehead, Lauren Hutton’s gapped teeth, Lady Gaga’s asymmetrical face, and Mexican painter Frida Kahlo whose self portraits include facial hair. For men, take a look at Mick Jagger’s mouth, Adrien Brody’s sleepy eyes, and Gerard Depardieu’s flat, broad face. Each of the above features has created interesting faces.
What some may view as mistakes or flaws, the Wabi-Sabi aesthetic highlights. Rather than concealing cracks or in discussing one’s skin, fine lines (wrinkles) it’s okay to acknowledge nature’s role. We need to ask what those lines represent. Is it lost youth or a full life? When we see ourselves as part of the natural world, our skin is transient, a creation of nature, a mark of time, organic. In fact, skin regenerates every 27 days. We can always help nature along with proper skin care, including natural skin care products that hydrate and moisturize and support skin elasticity, but time will have its impact. In the world of Wabi-Sabi such impact is to be celebrated and appreciated.
Wabi-Sabi is practically the opposite of the Greek ideals of beauty and perfection. But there is room to find beauty in all of its essence wherever we can.