The Shocking Truth About Beauty

 

‘The idea that beauty is unimportant is the real beauty myth.’Nancy Etcoff

Egypt

Queen Nefertiti, Ancient Egypt, ca.1370 – ca. 1330 BC

Beauty is something very personal that you sense and respond to on a deep level. It’s hard to define, but when you see it, you feel it very strongly and are moved by it. The beauty I love is in people who look real. A beauty that is pure, natural and not glamorized.’Calvin Klein

Well, thank you, Mr. Klein, for this inspiring saying which seemingly opposes everything we know. Isn’t is funny, really, that today more than ever images of fabricated beauty are forced upon us. With all the filters and airbrushing and perfect lightning how can we even know what a real human being, and not woman only, actually looks like? The standards are cruel and unyielding, yet no one dares to say this perfection we are supposedly aiming at is nothing but simply boring, lacking personality and uniqueness.

Greece

Sappho, Ancient Greece, ca. 630. (612?) – 570 BC

‘Some people prefer to look as if they hadn’t experienced life. My questions is why?’Diane Keaton

Quite.

Medeival

Paris Bordon, Venetian Women at their Toilet, about 1545.

Ironic as it seems, but in today’s day and age, when we have all the information of this world and it is no more a challenge to learn anything and improve oneself, we remain blissfully ignorant to the beauty myth created by corporations with one aim only: to keep us obedient consumers. Indeed, the story of perfect weight – which is, actually, unnatural – is not the story of beauty but one of obedience. Corporations are keeping us hungry – and instead of accepting ourselves for what we are – imperfect but unique and special, we tend to force ourselves to conform to unrealistic norms in attempt to reach the fleeting ideal of perfect beauty – which is not existing. When we strip off the makeup and undo the imaging, what remains is the average, yet underweight, human.

Today, when we have such an abundance of food, why do we starve ourselves?

Twiggy

Lesley Lawson, a.k.a. Twiggy, famous sixties’ English model, born 1949.

At the same time, men are not supposed to be beautiful. Charming, yes. Masculine, yes. But not strictly beautiful like women are. Moreover, the standards of masculine beauty have not changed dramatically through ages, and are only beginning to happen recently.

1940

Forties’ beauty pageant

Why is it that a woman not being mainstream beautiful goes invisible?

And why is it that mainstream beauty is ever changing, so we end up never being beautiful enough?

What is it that makes us feel so insecure and forces us to conform to the unnatural norms?

What is it that we aim to achieve by streaming to attain beauty?

19th century

Portrait of Olimpia Losiowa, 1818-1820.

We realize just how ridiculous these standards are when we explore them through history: from curvalicious renaissance women, to twiggy and today’s Victoria’s Secret models whose only secret is that they are hungry. Really hungry.

Rennaissance

Titian, Venus and the Lute Player (1565–1570)

Besides, isn’t it funny how the image of beautiful men has not changed over time – as opposed to constant transformation of female image.

Are women better buyers or are we simply more self-conscious? 

nineties

Supermodels of the nineties

What is beauty, in its core?

‘ I don’t know why we narrow the definition of beauty so much that we are all reduced to having complexes and feeling inadequate.’ Isabella Rosellini

It was once said how beauty is in the eye of beholder and I cannot agree more. Once we distinguish visually pleasing from beautiful we get on the right page, because more often than not we have been drawn to people who might not have been as visually pleasing as the standard we have been succumbed to. Beauty is, in the end, not about symmetry, shape or color, but rather the attitude we have and energy we radiate.

Monica Bellucci

Monica Bellucci, Italian actress, born 1964.

It is how you feel about yourself that shapes and creates your beauty. 

 

Love Gina Wings

 

 

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Uncanny Life of Unknown Niece: Dolly Wilde

On this day, one hundred and twenty years ago in London, Dorothy Ierne Wilde, known as Dolly Wilde, was born as an only child of Willie, known only as Oscar Wilde’s older brother.

She looked, said everyone who knew them both, remarkably like her uncle Oscar. She had the same artfully posed, soft, white hands, the same elongated face, and the same air of indolent melancholy which Aristotle insisted was always the natural accompaniment of wit.

    She spoke remarkably like her uncle too or, rather, like a brilliantly female version of Oscar — for there was nothing parodically male about Dolly Wilde. And although she would occasionally dress up as her uncle in borrowed, too-tight pants, a great flowing tie and a famously ratty fur coat (perhaps it was Oscar’s favourite coat after all, the one Dolly’s father Willie was supposed to have pawned when Oscar was imprisoned), she looked most like Oscar Wilde when she was dressed up as herself: a beautiful, dreamy-eyed, paradoxical woman — wonderfully stylish and intermittently unkempt, spiritually illuminated and clearly mondaine. She stares out at us from her few significant photographs with a distinctly contemporary gaze; conscious of the camera, casual about her audience.”

Truly Wilde, The Unsettling Story of dolly Wilde, Oscar’s Unusual Niece; by Joan Schenkar

dolly-wilde-as-oscar-wilde

Dolly Wilde as Oscar Wilde

Having lost her father early in childhood, Dolly became uncanny connected with her uncle Oscar whom she never met and therefore idealized, sharing his brains and wits she used to make her life a work of art. Indeed she was known for her conversational abilities she, unlike her uncle, seldom used in writing, but rather in socializing she was a master of. She was one of the Beautiful Losers: a legendarily gifted speaker whose talent was large, whose expression was private, and whose friends, lovers, and enemies all ended by wringing their respective hands over her squandered gifts and lost opportunities.

“Her conversation was, from the accounts that survive, funny, lyrical, flowing, intimate, interested, penetrating and frequently acerbic. The most tantalising and frustrating part of trying to understand Dolly Wilde is that the hypnotising experience of being in a room with her is lost forever now. Even those who experienced it struggled to recreate it, those grey morning afters having rubbed the edges off the memory, and her essence stubbornly refusing to be separated from herself. While Oscar left a body of written work that would make his wit immortal, Dolly never managed to distil her great talent with words into writing, and so it died with the last person who remembered her.”

Culture & Stuff, November 13, 2011.

It was a peculiar time in Paris in which she arrived in 1914 at the age of nineteen, soon after the World War One it became the time of salons, parties, socialites, the time when one half of the world felt guilty and not wanting to celebrate ever, and the other half having nothing else to do. Peculiar and unique, Dolly belonged to the latter, making her life a work of art and becoming the dream of many women in her social circles.

“Charming herself, she could be charmed into putting off anything, even the narratives she loved so much.

    `Go on,’ Dolly would say to her friend Victor Cunard, the LondonTimes correspondent in Venice, as he hesitated between the irresistible desire to pour out his secret life to her and the fully justified fear that his secret would be instantly betrayed. `Go on,’ she would saw disarmingly in her `bird-charmer’s’ voice to the New Yorker magazine writer Janet Flanner, who was telling her a particularly violent fairy tale, `but tell it slowly, tell every word so that it will last longer.’ Dolly Wilde’s life was full of such interesting, unfinished, delayed relationships through which she was sometimes tempted to try and fulfill herself.”

Truly Wilde, The Unsettling Story of dolly Wilde, Oscar’s Unusual Niece; by Joan Schenkar

Dolly’s was generation that lost its men: some of them slaughtered in trenches of war, and others returned war heroes but forever scarred by battle experience.

Women took over the role of men, and did it quite directly. Dolly was no different.

Women loved Dolly, while Dolly loved one woman, the love of her life, Natalie Clifford Barney. Dolly loved her till the day she was found dead for never completely revealed causes in her flat in London in 1941, at the age of 45.

Natalie_Barney_in_Fur_Cape

Natalie Clifford Barney painted by her mother Alice Pike Barney in 1896.

“Although she could only have been produced by the follies and grandeurs of the 1920s and the 1930s, Dolly Wilde seems sensationally contemporary. Her tastes for cutting-edge conversation and `emergency seductions’ (as she called the sexual adventures which she applied like unguent to her emotional wounds), for fast cars and foreign films, for experimental literature and alcoholic actresses, are still right up to the minute, and it is too easy to forget that she has been dead — and deader still for being unnoticed — these sixty years.”

Truly Wilde, The Unsettling Story of dolly Wilde, Oscar’s Unusual Niece; by Joan Schenkar

Lived extravagantly and passed mysteriously, Dolly was undoubtedly one of most peculiar infamous persons of twentieth century.

The least we can say on this day is: Happy birthday, Dolly!

Love Gina Wings

Coco Chanel on Character: Kick-Ass Advice From the Queen of Elegance

Coco Chanel, the fashion icon of modern age and a role model for a contemporary woman did not ignite only fashion revolution, but a switch in role of a woman in society. Fabulous and unique, her path was not always the easiest one, but thanks to her stubborn persistence and dedication, she has greatly contributed to women being glorified, independent and proud.

“The most courageous act is still to think for yourself. Aloud.”

Coco persisted in her vision to create fashion for women instead of creating fashion women should obey to, as if fashion was her weapon to show the world how women are free to choose and create the life to best suit them. And she did it with style – clearly depicted in her famous quotes:

“A girl should be two things: classy and fabulous.”

“A girl should be two things: who and what she wants.”

It was beginning of a century and beginning of a new era: in the uneasy midst of war women got their right to vote and left safety of their homes to work in factories. No longer they were dependent on marriages and support of their men. With this newly established freedom, Coco gave them the right attire, stripping off the rigid corsets and dressing them up in comfortable dresses to follow the natural beauty of a woman clearly defined in her simple saying:

“No one is young after forty, but one can be irresistible at any age.”

This was not welcome at the time at all, but Coco stubbornly refused to act as a conformist and has conquered the rules in the end. And she did it like no one else could.

“I wanted to escape, and to become the center of a universe of my own creation, instead of remaining on the margins or even becoming part of other people’s universe.”

 “For a woman betrayal has no sense – one cannot betray one’s passions.”

Coco understand the time, understood women, and knew their power.

“If you’re sad, add more lipstick and attack. Men hate women who weep.”

It is not by chance that it was her business, maybe the only big business, that survived the Second World War, and continued to flourish further. Coco used style and gave women elements of seduction, and by doing this, she was encouraging them to feel free as they were, aware of their real powers neglected for so long.

“In order to be irreplaceable, one must always be different.”

By refusing to match the norms she has become the building block of the modern world, for the first time allowing women to be both comfortable and fashionable. Indeed, through her creations she was creating new dreams for women, dreams of freedom and equality, bringing entirely new way of thinking.

“Adornment, what a science! Beauty, what a weapon! Modesty, what elegance!”

Importantly, she pointed out to a crucial direction which makes women’s life easier and utterly exciting…

“I don’t understand how a woman can leave the house without fixing herself up a little – if only out of politeness. And then, you never know, maybe that’s the day she has a date with destiny. And it’s best to be as pretty as possible for destiny.”

In addition, her perception of beauty and allure is everlasting…

“You can be gorgeous at thirty, charming at forty, and irresistible for the rest of your life.”

She was a creator her entire life. We lost her in January 1980. of natural causes, while she was working on a new collection for the upcoming fashion show. By providing encouragement, individualism and hope to women,Coco indeed lived as a queen, and died as a legend.

“It’s probably not just by chance that I’m alone. It would be very hard for a man to live with me, unless he’s terribly strong. And if he’s stronger than I, I’m the one who can’t live with him. … I’m neither smart nor stupid, but I don’t think I’m a run-of-the-mill person. I’ve been in business without being a businesswoman, I’ve loved without being a woman made only for love. The two men I’ve loved, I think, will remember me, on earth or in heaven, because men always remember a woman who caused them concern and uneasiness. I’ve done my best, in regard to people and to life, without precepts, but with a taste for justice.”

 

Coco… really was one of a kind. She lived up to her saying, created an empire and continues to live in the beauty of her creation.

“You live but once; you might as well be amusing.”

Quite.

 

Love Gina Wings

 

 

Can We Really Trust Ourselves? The Art of Lust

We all know it… the whip of lust, adrenaline rush of wanting all at once or, as was seductively described by Maureen Medved in The Tracey Fragments

“One day you fall for this boy. And he touches you with his fingers. And he burns holes in your skin with his mouth. And it hurts when you look at him. And it hurts when you don’t. And it feels like someone’s cut you open with a jagged piece of glass.”

or perhaps Saul Williams in Said the Shotgun to the Head

“Have you ever lost yourself in a kiss? I mean pure psychedelic inebriation. Not just lustful petting but transcendental metamorphosis when you became aware that the greatness of this being was breathing into you. Licking the sides and corners of your mouth, like sealing a thousand fleshy envelopes filled with the essence of your passionate being and then opened by the same mouth and delivered back to you, over and over again – the first kiss of the rest of your life. A kiss that confirms that the universe is aligned, that the world’s greatest resource is love, and maybe even that God is a woman. With or without a belief in God, all kisses are metaphors decipherable by allocations of time, circumstance, and understanding”

 

We have all known it, since the moment we have transformed into adults, pretty young back then but still… adults.

Lust… the word first used before twelfth century and defined as a strong feeling of sexual desire – makes you wonder – is it a constant occurrence in our lives, or we tend to grow out of it, as if it were a pair of worn-out jeans?

Furthermore, are we entitled to the feeling, even upon passing the so-called ‘young age’, even upon reaching certain life milestones: establishing long-term partnership, having a house, a garden, maybe kids, and a dog?

Surprisingly enough, once we reach all the goals we realize: nothing ever changed. The spark we had within us is still there, burning, now even more fiercely, persistent and strong. With maturity we become confident in what we do want and what not, so sparking that fire within us may not be as frequent yet once it happens, fireworks are sure to follow.

So… here I was, thirty-nine, committed, life established on solid grounds… was it for lack of excitement and wanting to feel alive again, or perhaps reasons more frivolous, wanting to escape the defined path into unknown, for mere pleasure of expectation, that I have found myself prone to this rush and jitters of feeling lustful again?

There was nothing unusual in what I was feeling constantly, C. JoyBell C. describes it perfectly when she says…

“I don’t know why people are afraid of lust. Then I can imagine that they are very afraid of me, for I have a great lust for everything. A lust for life, a lust for how the summer-heated street feels beneath my feet, a lust for the touch of another’s skin on my skin…a lust for everything. I even lust after cake. Yes, I am very lusty and very scary.”

Each age carries its peculiarities within, and the most important one in the mid-life and its crisis, is that all of a sudden, you become irresistibly comfortable with the person you have become, with no need for approval, justification or explanations. You simply – are.

And I was. I am. And am irreversibly in love with myself. And that is liberating.

Are we all in quest for liberation?

C. JoyBell C. wraps it up perfectly when saying

“I’m not in search of sanctity, sacredness, purity; these things are found after this life, not in this life; but in this life I search to be completely human: to feel, to give, to take, to laugh, to get lost, to be found, to dance, to love and to lust, to be so human.”

 

But maybe the best description of lust in maturity is found in a confession by Catherynne M. Valente in Deathless

“Koschei smiled. His pale lips sought hers, crushing her into a kiss like dying. She tasted sweetness there, as though he still kissed her with honey and sugar on his tongue. When he pulled away, his eyes shone.

“I don’t care, Marya Morevna. Kiss him. Take him to your bed, and the vila, too, for all it matters to me. Do you understand me, wife? There need never be any rules between us. Let us be greedy together; let us hoard. Let us hit each other with birch branches and lock each other in dungeons; let us drink each other’s blood in the night and betray each other in the sun. Let us lie and lust and take hundreds of lovers; let us dance until snow melts beneath us. Let us steal and eat until we grow fat and roll in the pleasures of life, clutching each other for purchase. Only leave me my death — let me hold this one thing sacred and unmolested and secret — and I will serve you a meal myself, served on a platter of all the world’s bounty. Only do not leave me, swear that you will never leave me, and no empress will stand higher. Forget the girls in the factory. Be selfish and cruel and think nothing of them. I am selfish. I am cruel. My mate cannot be less than I. I will have you in my hoard, Marya Morevna, my black mirror.”

 

So here I was, mature enough, and lustful as ever… it was not that feeling that excited me as much, as knowing that the newly found lust is not necessarily to be kept secret. So maybe this not-so-innocent musing can be best wrapped up by a uncanny toast by Patricia Highsmith for New Year’s Eve, 1947…

“My New Year’s Eve Toast: to all the devils, lusts, passions, greeds, envies, loves, hates, strange desires, enemies ghostly and real, the army of memories, with which I do battle — may they never give me peace.”

 

Love Gina Wings

 

 

The Art of Love: Virginia Woolf and Vita Sackville-West

Virginia Woolf and Vita Sackville-West have met on a dinner party in 1922, dinner party then being a Bloomsbury equivalent of hipster’s house party which is nothing but booze and sex disguised by surface sophistication. What started as a work relationship – Virginia offered Vita to publish her novel with her small press – soon developed into a passionate friendship. Passionate it was, indeed… as in deeds, so in words.

Maybe the best depiction is the letter to Virginia, written on January 21, 1927…

I am reduced to a thing that wants Virginia. I composed a beautiful letter to you in a sleepless nightmare hours of the night, and it has all gone: I just miss you, in a quite simple desperate human way. You, with all your un-dumb letters, would never write so elementary a phrase as that; perhaps you wouldn’t even feel it. And yet I believe you’ll be sensible of a little gap. But you’d clothe it in so exquisite a phrase that it would lose a little of its reality. Whereas with me it is quite stark: I miss you even more than I could have believed; and I was prepared to miss you a good deal. So this letter is just really a squeal of pain. It is incredible how essential to me you have become. I suppose you are accustomed to people saying these things. Damn you, spoilt creature; I shan’t make you love me any the more by giving myself away like this – But oh my dear, I can’t be clever and stand-offish with you: I love you too much for that. Too truly. You have no idea how stand-offish I can be with people I don’t love. I have brought it to a fine art. But you have broken my defences. And I don’t really resent it.

To which Virginia passionately responds…

Look here Vita – throw over your man, and we’ll go to Hampton Court and dine on the river together and walk in the garden in the moonlight and come home late and have a bottle of wine and get tipsy, and I’ll tell you all the things I have in my head, millions, myriads – They won’t stir by day, only by dark on the river. Think of that. Throw over your man, I say, and come.

 

In this day and age it might seem even surreal, having the art of letter writing developed to that level that each word is perfectly placed to depict the depth of emotion. And that was who Virginia was, as she describes in her own words…

I love with such ferocity that it kills me when the object of my love shows by a phrase that he can escape.

Vita never escaped. In her own words, she never resented it, either. She was there to be given eternity by becoming Orlando, once described by Vita’s son Nigel as

the longest and most charming love letter in literature, in which she explores Vita, weaves her in and out of centuries, tosses her from one sex to the other, plays with her, dresses her in furs, lace and emeralds, teases her, flirts with her, drops a veil of mist around her…
 

Which leaves me breathless.
Thank you, Virginia, and thank you, Vita, for sharing your unique story of friendship, love and lust.

Love Gina Wings

Don’t Be Fooled: It Is Not Only Humans Who Do Sex For Fun

Meet bonobo apes: along with chimpanzees human’s closest relative, the three species sharing 99% genome.

Chimp_bonobo_Darwin

 chimp & bonobo & Darwin

image credit: National Geographic

Bonobos and chimpanzees diverged some 2 million years ago and have developed in quite different directions. While chimps are male dominated, strictly patriarchal society with alpha males and increased aggressiveness, bonobos live in a matriarchal society, are peaceful, calm and, to humans’ greatest surprise, quite sexual.

Bonobos have sex for sex’ sake and do it quite often with quite many partners. They are creative in it, too: performing oral sex, changing partners regardless the gender and… oh, well… you get the idea… sky is the limit, and bonobos, similar to their human counterparts, are quite imaginative indeed.

“The greatest difficulty which presents itself, when we are driven to the above conclusion on the origin of man (evolution through natural selection), is the high standard of intellectual power and moral disposition which he has attained.”

Charles Darwin, The Descent of Man (1871)

But, is it really so?

Is Mr. Darwin right, or he simply did not know better?

Now we know bonobos: emotional, emphatic, sexual and peaceful. It is important to point out that the species was first distinguished in 1928, and described in detail in a study by Eduard Paul Tratz and Heinz Heck published in the early 1950s. Yet, with this knowledge, I can not help but wonder:

Are we – humans – more intelligent and hence more advanced, or have we only not understood, or did not know our bonobo relative that well?

It is believed that sexuality has created humans: the moment we had raised on two feet, making our private parts not so easily attainable and quite concealed, sex has become an endless game of romance, seduction, pleasure and deceit. The game is so irresistible that we are prone to submission our lives to it, we live for it, we drive our zest for life from it.

In case of us, humans, is it derived from the simple biological imperative of reproduction so the show must go on, or do we do it for pleasure’s sake only?

And, if we do it for pleasure, how has it come in the picture in the first place?

We may check our relatives, bonobos, again… peaceful in nature,they are real animal hippies. It is believed that such calm nature of bonobos is the result of their sexuality: for them, sex is a way of reaching and experiencing pleasure, relieving stress and bonding. Considering they have sex quite often, it is no wonder they indeed are calm and cool. The developed sexuality is presumed to be a result of the abundant living environment they live in. Bonobos’ habitat is a 500,000 km2  (190,000 sq mi) area of the Congo river basin in the Democratic Republic of Congo: rain forest area with plenty of food within one’s reach. Therefore our relatives, unlike chimps, have never had the need to search for food, or have experienced the lack of it. Knowing not of scarcity has provided for spare time they can use to develop other interests – sex being one of the main. This further provides for possibility to create alliances and connections which is more attributable to females. Maybe this best explains why bonobos are matriarchal.

Musing further on this, a thought comes to mind: maybe we, humans, are not as advanced and superior as we like to see ourselves, but rather are unaware of other species and their ways.

It might be sex, it might be woman power, but bonobos indeed are one of the most interesting animal tribes.

Love Gina Wings

How Mr. Selfridge Reinvented Shopping

What London needs is a good shaking up.” – was Andrew Carnegie‘s observation that distant 1900 as he found himself appalled by the simple fact that the shop people had been considerably better at driving away customers than at attracting them.

Back then, shopping was not necessarily an entertaining activity, but merely a rather difficult and time consuming chore: a woman, since it was prevalently women’s duty, was supposed to go to the store searching for specific, desirably not out of the ordinary, things, carefully order them and wait for the delivery.

Highly likely, if you were upper class, shopping was the main – if not the only – duty you had. Being it in time before the radio, TV, mass media, internet, and the only entertainment available, at least for women, being Sunday church, no wonder the same women, in search of their share of life pleasures, did something about it – with a little help from their male counterparts who understood this quite well.

The nineteenth-century passion for fashion, rise of buying in bulk on credit, and general lack of entertainment had provided the perfect conditions to develop department stores as we know them today.

Harry Gordon Selfridge opened his first department store in then unfashionable London Oxford Street on 15 March 1909. 400,000 Pounds Sterling, equivalent of one billion today’s US dollars, were invested into this grand and revolutionary project.

This border-ludicrous, amazing venue has inspired Lindy Woodhead, more than a century later, to write the words in her ‘Shopping, Seduction & Mr. Selfridge‘:

A man light years ahead of his time, a true accelerator of change, he deserves to be remembered as the man who put fun on the shop floor and sex appeal into shopping.

Indulge in this great read, and next time you visit London, make sure to visit Selfridges. It is still there, in the same place.

Love Gina Wings