Tag Archives: natural beauty

Am I Beautiful?


Perhaps the better question to ask is, “How do we each reach our definition of beauty?” Standards of beauty have varied radically over the centuries and are more a statement about our cultural values than our actual physical beauty.

Beauty is a visible symbol of socio-economic status. In ancient Egypt, wealthy men and women shaved their heads and wore wigs. At parties, they removed their wigs and set scented wax cones atop their heads so that they dined with a beautiful scent wafting around them. (There are no tomb paintings showing wax falling in the diner’s eyes, unfortunately.)

During the Renaissance, a bit of plumpness meant your family was wealthy enough to eat on a regular basis, unlike poorer people who often starved. That’s why Titian’s female models are, how to say it politely, fat, by modern standards.

In the 17th and 18th centuries, higher income people tended to be pale.  Pallor separated them from the ruddy-cheeked farmers and other hoi polloi who did manual labor. After the Industrial Revolution, the beauty standards reversed. Poorer people were pale from long hours on the factory floor, while higher income people discovered the joys of nature and got a tan.

Today, our standard of beauty dictates that we must be wrinkle-free, slender and physically fit.  Higher income people can afford the Botox and cosmetic surgery to look young. They also have the disposable income to pay for a healthier diet and for the exercise programs to maintain a “healthy” weight. Meanwhile, poorer people have wrinkles, eat a less healthy diet and probably lack the time, mental energy and money needed for a regular exercise regimen.

Our modern standard of beauty also addresses our fear of dying. If we work out constantly, we will look and feel young and hopefully avoid chronic diseases that lead to “premature death” as the TV ads euphemistically put it. This is not a new obsession. Fear of growing old and dying was chronicled 4000 years ago in the “Epic of Gilgamesh.”

So what can we do if our personal beauty doesn’t match (or even come close) to society’s standard? Find an historical era where the standard of beauty matches your body type. Then buy some chocolate and a bottle of wine and salute your beauty. Am I beautiful? You bet!

About Norma Shirk

Norma started her company, Corporate Compliance Risk Advisor, to help employers create human resources policies for their employees and employee benefit programs that are appropriate to the employer’s size and budget. The goal is to have structure without bureaucracy.

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In the Middle of Nowhere

Letchworth State ParkLetchworth State Park is in upstate New York in the middle of nowhere. It can only be reached via secondary roads from Rochester or Buffalo.  I first visited the park on a school field trip.

I love the park because I’m a history buff and there’s plenty of history in the park.  On our school trip we visited the pioneer and Seneca Indian museum and the restored Seneca Council House. Near the Council House we saw the statue of a truly remarkable woman named Mary Jemison.

Mary’s family emigrated from Ireland in the early 1700’s. After her family died in a frontier raid, a common occurrence in those days, she was adopted by the Seneca tribe. At the time of her adoption into the tribe Mary was about 15 years old. She spent the rest of her life as a member of the tribe and her descendants can still be found among them.

Mary farmed land that is now within the borders of the park.  Traces of her life and farm remain, including a log home built for one of her daughters. Mary is buried in the park near the land she used to farm.

Of course, not everyone cares about history as I do. So if history is not your thing, there’s plenty of natural beauty on display in the park.  The primary natural attraction is the waterfalls on the Genesee River.  The river is shallow but it narrows into a deep gorge that descends through a series of three waterfalls. At the lower falls, a stone bridge spans the river gorge allowing a wonderful view upstream of the middle falls.

If you ever find yourself in the middle of nowhere near Buffalo or Rochester, consider taking a side trip to Letchworth State Park. You can eat lunch at the Glen Iris Inn, formerly the home of William P. Letchworth who donated the park land. Then take a stroll to the nearby historical and natural sights in the park.  It’ll be worth the trip, I promise!

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