The Case for Lovely

The case for lovely

“You’re beautiful too, in your own way.”

“She has an.. inner beauty.”

“You’re not fat, you’re beautiful.”

I think we can all see the problem in the last statement there, but let’s pick it apart. Down to, if you’ll forgive the extended metaphor, its bones. Besides the implicit statement that fatness and beauty are mutually exclusive, it does the same thing wrong as the other two statements: it treats beauty as synonymous with worth.

Let’s take a sharp left turn here: I am not beautiful. I am not “a beautiful person” or “beautiful inside.” My insides are a hot mess of bloody guts. My brain is smart, not beautiful. And my outsides do not conform to societal beauty standards. That’s right. Beauty is (for the most part) a societally-agreed-upon set of visual characteristics. Characteristics that most people find pleasing.

The concept of beauty is not malleable, nor should it be.

Frankly, it doesn’t need to be. Beauty isn’t a measure of intrinsic worth. Acts don’t need to be “beautiful” to be valued. And telling people who – let’s be honest – already know they’re not beautiful that they are? Undermines everything you are trying to do with that compliment.

It’s not beauty’s fault that it’s been overused.

At some point we as a society lost track of all the things we can value about a person. And, you know, let’s not put lipstick on a pig here: I don’t mean “a person” I mean “a woman.” Sure, men have societal standards of beauty that they’re supposed to conform to, but they’re not punished for nonconformity to nearly the extent that women are. They don’t have to insist on their own beauty to be seen as having worth.

But let’s explore a radical thought for a moment: What if instead of listing all the things we find “beautiful” about our friends and family, we listed all the things that we actually value and ascribed value to those things based on their own qualities rather than some imaginary beauty currency exchange? Imagine, for a minute, what that world would look like.

“I’m fat.”

“Ok. Can I get a hand with my sink later today? You’re really good at figuring out stuff like that.”

“She’s so pretty!”

“She really is. And she helped me fix up my bike. Hey, can you show me how to do my hair like yours? I love the way it doesn’t get in your eyes but isn’t just a ponytail.”

What if instead of describing intelligence or interest or intriguing and unusual characteristics as “beautiful” we used words that accurately described those things? Anecdotal evidence: there was a great exchange I witnessed a couple days ago, where a couple friends were joking around about their userpics. “You just like me for this picture – it’s not even me.” You know the style. The conversation took a turn for the real when a friend replied “But I know you’re lovely.”

Lovely.

On the surface, a synonym for beautiful. Yeah? Maybe not. It carries a weight to it, lovely. Worthy of love. It says more about the quality of a person’s thought and actions than it does about their physical characteristics. It sums up the way these friends have interacted, the things they’ve observed about each other without ever seeing a real physical characteristic.

Maybe it’s time for beautiful to go. Maybe it’s time to relegate it to its original meanings, to accurately describe physical beauty. Physical beauty is an incredible thing. It’s a whole lot of fun to look at, for one thing. But there’s no real need to compete with it. Not when it’s only one of many attractive qualities and you probably have other ones that you’re overlooking because you can’t cram them into the framework of the word “beauty.”

Attractive is a synonym for beauty, if you ask the thesaurus. The thesaurus is again only sort of right.

Attraction is the quality of coming together. Sure, physical beauty may create an attraction. But so can a smile, a laugh, a turn of phrase. Attraction can be entirely independent of beauty. And there’s no need to call the qualities that attract you to another person “beautiful” when you mean that they attract you to the person.

“I don’t care – I think she’s beautiful” is a lazy way of saying “I’m attracted to her.” And a defensive one: we’ve built a society where it’s only considered appropriate to be attracted to things that are beautiful, because only beauty has value.

Maybe it’s time to let go of all that.

Maybe it’s time to bring back lovely.

Word count

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In writing an essay, tight word count is most often the author’s friend. While you need to use (Alton Sterling) enough words to convey your (Rumain Brisbon) meaning completely, too many (Tamir Rice) words and you risk losing the reader’s attention. Akai Gurley. The rise of the longform essay, that novella-to-self, has not Kajieme Powell been a particular boon to Ezell Ford new writers. Instead of fleshing out a thought with Dante Parker more information, the longform John Crawford essay has become bloated, padded with Tyree Woodson the writer’s ego, stuffed with paid-by-phrase Eric Garner wordcount.

On the other hand, sometimes as Michael Brown a writer it is Victor White necessary (it became necessary Sandra Bland to destroy Yvette Smith the town to save it) to add McKenzie Cochran a heaviness Jordan Baker to one’s Andy Lopez words. To Miriam Carey weigh the reader Jonathan Ferrell down Carlos Alcis with the Larry Eugene Jackson weight Deion Fludd of what Kimani Gray they Malissa Williams are Timothy Russell reading, Reynaldo Cuevas have been Chavis Carter reading, Shantel Davis are Tamon Robinson still Ervin Jefferson reading. Kendrec McDade. Rekia Boyd. Shereese Francis.

Wendell Allen. Nehemiah Dillard. Dante Price. Sgt. Manuel Loggins, Jr. Ramarley Graham. Sometimes you Kenneth Chamberlain need weight. Alonzo Ashley. Raheim Brown. Sometimes Danroy Henry weight is all Aiyana Jones you have. Steven Eugene Washington. Aaron Campbell. Sometimes Kiwane Carrington words Victor Steen don’t Shem Walker weigh enough. Tarika Wilson. DeAunta Terrel Farrow. Sean Bell.

Henry Glover. Ronald Madison. James Brisette. Timothy Stansbury. Alberta Spruill. Ousmane Zongo. Orlando Barlow. Timothy Thomas. Prince Jones. Amadou Diallo. Jesus Huerta. Noel Polanco. Anthony Nunez. Keith Childress. Bettie Jones. Kevin Matthews. Leroy Browning. Roy Nelson. Miguel Espinal. Nathaniel Pickett. Cornelius Brown. Chandra Weaver. I can’t breathe. Jamar Clark. Richard Perkins. Michael Lee Marshall. Alonzo Smith. Yvens Selde. Anthony Ashford. Lamontez Jones. Paterson Brown. Junior Prosper. Keith McLeod. India Kager. Tyree Crawford. Felix Kumi. Asshams Manley. Christian Taylor. Brian Day. Michael Sabbie. Billy Ray Davis. Samuel Dubose. Darrius Stewart. Albert Davis. Salvado Ellswood. Jonathan Sanders. Spencer McCain. Jermaine Benjamin. Nuwnah Laroche. Bryan Overstreet. William Chapman. Samuel Harrell. Freddie Gray. Frank Shephard. Walter Scott. Eric Harris. Fuck your breath. Phillip White. Brandon Jones. Bernard Moore. Naeschylus Vinzant. Deontre Dorsey. Calvon Reid.

The sheer weight of words can eventually come to feel oppressive to the reader. Readers of long essays often complain “why are you still telling me this?”

Matthew Ajibade. Tommy Yancy. Jerame Reid. Zikarious Flint. Jason Harrison. Gregory Lewis Towns. Ernest Satterwhite. Howard Wallace Bowe. Kaldrick Donald. Robert Baltimore. David Andre Scott. David Yearby. Latandra Ellington. Willie Harden. Rumain Brisbon. Matthew Walker. Stephen Isby. Dontre Hamilton.

I’m still telling you this because it’s still happening.

450 words. And counting.

[Editor’s note: Philando Castile. 452 words.]

Combat Shoes

Put on your combat shoes. We’re going.

Not your combat boots, although I’m not judging you if your combat shoes are boots but when I say combat boots, you hear the bravery of men, to walk toward death, unflinching.

And your combat shoes, your combat shoes are a different kind of brave.

The brave it takes to get up every morning and walk away from death toward life even though you know life is full of sharp edges and rusty nails, even though you are pulled toward drowning by the weight of it. Those shoes will get you through that mire, through the thousand mosquito bites and over the rotting logs, and you’ll look fucking fabulous.

Your combat shoes are the shoes you borrowed from your roommate for the job interview, the job you got, and she said you could keep them after that. The shoes you took to Dorian’s Shoe Repair down on sixth and he asked you lady do you know you’re spending fifty bucks to keep a pair of twenty dollar shoes and you said yeah but they look fucking fabulous.

Put on your combat shoes, the red shoes you bought when you didn’t really have the money but there they were in the window and you could not walk by them One. More. Time. And you ate rice and ramen but you looked fucking fabulous.

Put on your combat shoes and spike-heel swivel-hip down the street past men who want to remind you that you are small but in your combat shoes you are not small. You are not small.

You – Are – Fucking – Fabulous

In your combat shoes you look fucking fabulous and nobody has to know how hard it was to crawl out from under the covers to face this day and shout into the wind of it, into the constant pressure of voices, to be heard, to stand up and to walk with your head held high. In your combat shoes you never give way.

In your combat shoes, they get out of your way because you are walking here, you are taking up space and you are fucking fabulous.

An open letter to my internet wives

When I said “Marry me” what I meant was:

I want to wake up next to your words every day for the rest of my life, to roll over and trap your letters beneath my arm, to tangle vowels in my fingers and taste your sleep-breath when you type. I want to hold your hand in these pixels, to selfie together and Photoshop the parts of ourselves we don’t like with each other’s regard instead of an app.

I want to hear all your voices, all at once.

I am part of this Voltron of Us, one big entity, so big we’re ALLCAPS big, and I want the world to know it. I want to marry you with this bouquet emoji, ring emoji, an 0 for a garter toss. I want to smash our names together into ‘ships of fanfic. I want to smash the patriarchy with you.

I want to speak with your words and hear you speak with mine.

I want us to retweet each other until we reach inception. I want to be your meme.

I would PayPal you five bucks so we can Skype coffee together on our way to work in the morning. I would FaceTime happy hour with you so you never drink alone.

I want to be in love with you. No, I want to be in yuri with you, to slip into your skin and be the cool things you do. I am more of me when I am part of you.

This thread, you guys, this thread. I crack up every time I read it. I am dead. I have died and my ghost wants to marry you still.

Will you?

I do.

Rains I Have Known

I grew up in the desert. Not the desert you’re probably thinking of, with sand and lizards and cactus, but the arid high desert of the West. Ok, we had lizards. We also had a well that produced, at its most generous, 1.5 gallons of water per minute, which sounds like plenty until two people in your family want to take a shower on the same day. Continue reading