On beauty: A narrative poem.

Why shouldn’t I find myself beautiful?

I can think of a million reasons. Some of them are physical: the parts of my body I have been trained to hide, the hair that grows where it shouldn’t, the flat chest, the scrunchy belly skin, the dimples on my upper thighs. Some of them are moral: I shouldn’t be so full of myself; women are more relatable when we are self-deprecatory; it is more expedient to point out one’s own flaws than to feel the sting of someone else point them out.

But I do find myself beautiful. And I don’t just mean in a beautiful-on-the-inside-way. I mean physically, artfully beautiful. I do not think I am a perfect looking person. I’m keenly aware of the features that are off-center, of the parts that are “too” something and “not enough” something else. That doesn’t make me any less beautiful.

The more beautiful I find myself, the more beautiful I find others. And the more I learn to find the beauty in other bodies, the more I learn to find the beauty in my own. 

My nose

My nose is one of my favorite facial features. It is not that I find it pretty. It is that when I see my nose, I see something remarkable. My nose has weathered dust storms and allergies, has been broken and repaired. It is exactly like my father’s is exactly like his mother’s is exactly like her father’s – long, slightly bulbous at the bottom, round in the nostrils, and more and more off kilter the older I get. It is a feature so strong that it has been passed unto the generations, planted squarely on my face and on those of my children.

I have generally been sensitive about my looks, but never about my nose. This one time I had somehow annoyed a boy in high school with skin the shade of mine. He looked at me and said, “I hope you don’t suck me up in your big ol’ nose.”

 “Huh?” I said.  He repeated himself louder and with better enunciation, but I still didn’t understand. It was like he said the sky was blue and expected it to be an insult. My nose was big. And?

I could see the disappointment in his face when my expression registered confusion and not hurt. “Never mind,” he muttered as he walked away.

I shrugged my shoulders and kept on moving.

Every now and then I look at my nose in profile and remember that boy. I try to look for what he thought was so wrong. Still, I cannot find it.

My body

I find it strange how bodies can be considered trendy. How the same body can be considered beautiful in one society and inadequate in another. 

When I used to teach balancing poses in yoga, we always told our students to train their Drishti, or line of vision, on something fixed. Find a spot on the wall, we would say, or on the floor. When your sense of balance becomes very developed, you can close your eyes and find a sense of balance internally. Until then, under no circumstances should you look at someone else. If they wobble, so will you. Better to find your sense of balance from within, and, if you must look outward, look upon something constant. 

People are not constant. I have been told that my body is beautiful, too skinny, curvy, not curvy enough, desirable, not desirable. 

Training my Drishti means working to see my body not as a function of what it can induce in others, but instead as a glory all its own. 

My hair

I have never felt more beautiful, more confident, and more myself than when my hair is in its shortest and most coily state. This is hair that refuses to be tamed and laughs in the face of edge control. This is hair that relishes humidity and dances in the wind. It is a thicket of coils that snaps all but the strongest of combs.

My skin

I got a cavity filled the other day and had to get part of my face numbed. I smiled in the mirror and stared at my lopsided face. On my feeling side, I saw smile lines and creases. On my numbed side, the muscles were relaxed and my skin was smooth and supple. I looked 40 on one side of my face and 30 on the other. I laughed using the muscles on the 40-year-old side of my face.

A couple of hours later, the numbing medicine wore off. My 40-year-old face was back. I smiled, checking that all the lines showed up where they were supposed to. They did. I smiled again and touched them to be sure.

I used to consider it a compliment when someone told me I look younger than my age. It’s probably a good thing that I’ve become less attached to this particular declaration; the older I get, the less people say it to me. It’s easier this way. My lines and wrinkles tell folks that I wasn’t born yesterday so my voice doesn’t have to. 

On beauty

What is it like to look in the mirror and think, “I wouldn’t change a thing” or “Damn! Is she beautiful or what” or “Holy shit, I’m amazing”?

I will tell you in ten years, in fifteen, in thirty. I will tell you when arthritis has made my knuckles knotty and my skin is creviced with wrinkles. I will tell you in a year, in a month, in two weeks, when my skin still springs back when I press my finger into it, when my face is dotted with pimples, when I lean over to pick something up and the skin on my stomach unfurls then waves back and forth like a flag.

I will tell you, I will tell you, I will tell you.

13 responses to “On beauty: A narrative poem.”


    Thank you for this, Irie. It’s one I needed.

      1. Thank you for this note!

  2. What a great poem!

    Btw, I noticed that you posted this in the wee hours.

    I hope you have a good day.

    1. Thank you, Beth! I schedule the posts, so I’m not actually posting in the middle of the night, thank goodness!!

  3. Beautiful poem! “ This is hair that refuses to be tamed and laughs in the face of edge control” is my favorite line 😇

    1. Lol I love that one too! I’ve accepted my fuzzy edges lol

  4. You are truly beautiful! Not only in the outside but also in your gifts. We all beautiful. Physical beauty changes but inner beauty that we share with others grows to more and more every day.

    Thank you so very much for these thoughts and inspirations. Marleta

    1. Thank you, Marleta!

  5. irie,a beautiful story. as ryon says let your light shine through! love you

    1. Thank you, Connie ❤️

  6. Kids and uncles used to tease me for having curly red hair and freckles and quick ire and tears. I look back at my beautiful red curls and wish I had noticed how beautiful I was. I wish I had known the ire and tears for their kindness they revealed. Thank you Irie.

    1. Oh Nancy I love this. How beautiful you were and are!

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