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What Determines Beauty?

“Beauty is eternity gazing at itself in a mirror.
But you are eternity and you are the mirror.”
Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet

Three years ago, at a get-together of eight former classmates (and a few spouses) I met Tania Cong.  Tania is married to François, not only one of the said classmates, but the one who organised our reunion.  It was a wonderful happening and one that I felt extremely privileged to be a part of.  You see, I only briefly hung out with but a few of them back in the school days and yet, I was included in this, what turned out to be, fortuitous event.

Class of ’81:  Marc H, François, Tania (welcome intruder), Chantal, Martin, me, Sylvie. Marc G., Dany

This first get-together gave birth to a desire to keep it going and not lose touch.  We have reunited, minus or plus a few, depending on people’s schedules and health, many times per year since then.  François and Tania were part of quite a few of these.

You know that image of a smiling, laughing little Oriental we have been fed through TV and the movies and various other media?  Well, you cannot help but add Tania to that image.  Please note I am by no means denigrating this lovely lady at all when I write this.  She is a beautiful woman, born in Vietnam, who has found her way into François’ heart and thereby, into our circle.  And we are all blessed for it.  I have yet to see a frown mar her pure face.  This little video I taped in error shows that…

While I have met Tania a handful of times over the past three years, this past Saturday, at Giselle and Dany’s annual BBQ, we really got a chance to chat more than usual.  Or rather, she was even more talkative than ever.  It just so happened all the women were at the same end of the table and subjects morphed from one subject to another.

Sonia, Deirdre, Linda, Tania, Gisele, Caroline, Me

Other than that youn’un Sonia (who’s I think, not even forty), we are a mighty fine looking group of fifty-somethings, don’t ya think? 🙂

Talk turned to twins – Deirdre has twin girls – and we learned that Tania is a twin.  She was saying they are so connected that when her sister gave birth, she felt her sister’s pain.  We marvelled at that.

Talk turned to Tania’s wedding to François about ten years ago. For the first time in her life, Tania was being coerced into putting make-up on her face.  We all looked at her in disbelief.  No way!  “Yes,” she said in her very heavily accented English.  She was informed she needed to get a facial and have her brows plucked and her ‘stache waxed and for heaven’s sake, put some lipstick on! She said that stuff felt weird on her lips and she was made to feel that maybe she was not enough.  And she resented that.  And refused to look at herself looking like this.

She then shocked us even more.  She informed us that she never looks at herself in a mirror.  Ever.  As a matter of fact, other than the one in the bathroom – which she won’t use – there are no mirrors in her house.

Stunned?  Not strong enough to describe our reaction.  Dumbfounded.  Astonished.  Stupified.

Surely, she was joking!  She shook her head. “I don’t need to look at myself when I wash my face, brush my teeth, comb my hair.  Although I wasn’t sure with that make=up on how to remove it!”

Yes, but….We clearly, all six of us, still cannot comprehend.  It is beyond us to even contemplate the absence of a mirror in our lives.

“Why would I look in a mirror?  What will I see?  Will I find fault with my appearance?  Will I think I am not good enough?  Not beautiful?  No.  I don’t need to look in a mirror.  François tells me I am beautiful.  So. I believe him.”

Happy birthday, Tania!  You are a beautiful light to all of us who have had the privilege of meeting you!



51 thoughts on “What Determines Beauty?

  1. This was wonderful. And I have me a suspicion that the lot of you are, too! 🙂
    (Reality is, most of history, humanity did not use mirrors. Other than the occasional reflection in water, people didn’t much see their own visage, and counted on others’ perceptions of them to ‘see’ themselves. It is interesting how in not that many centuries of mirror-ship and glass-windows and so on, we’d come to rely so much on our reflection, and to seek it, even as we walk past shops’ windows, let alone in cameras and selfies and what not. Truth is–our face is going to be there whether we inspect it or not … 😉 Tania is a wise woman.)

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    • Thank you, Na’ama… for your suspicion, too 😉
      I agree. It does make you think just how much we rely on our reflections instead of just being ourselves.
      She is indeed!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. It is always nice to get in touch with old friends, Every three years, our batch mates in high school organize reunions. Sometimes it is a formal affair, sometimes we come in jeans and have lots of laughter in between.

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  3. Q,

    It’s obvious that Tania gets it. Why look in the mirror indeed! Just be who you are and the rest really does take care of itself. The sad truth is that superficial beauty has always been a prized possession, and really that’s ALL it is . . a possession. And like anything of the material nature, it will go away eventually. And then what?
    Brava to her for getting it, and to you for this wonderfully thought provoking post!
    Peace and beauty on the inside

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  4. That’s a wonderful story, and it raised several thoughts. One was that while my sister ( four years my senior) attends all school reunions and has kept up an as-an-when friendship with several of her school-friends, I have totally lost touch with mine—except, one night at the theatre, full house, I was helping out on the doors, and who should hand me her ticket but but best friend from school days! She was on a girl’s night out with work mates (the show was the Chippendales.)
    And, like your friend, until a few years back I never used a mirror except to brush my hair and apply make-up (back in the day before it became obvious I was allergic to it). I felt guilt to look in the mirror. As a child both my mother and grandmother would me, that I was being vain. I can’t say I grew up not knowing what I looked like, but I only knew it from photos. I was approaching 50 before I took a good look!

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    • I’m really glad you enjoyed it.
      I know many peeps who have totally lost touch. There was something about this school, I think… Chippendales, eh? Uh huh!
      Wow… to be taught that. It is vanity, for sure. It is a hard one to lose, I think…

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      • There are advantages to not knowing how you look. I tool myself to be plain and ordinary. So when I was half hour in the uniform cupboard with one of those Chippendales I didn’t think to flirt, He was leaving the troop, and he’d performed at our theatre many times so he wanted a keepsake, but I had trouble finding his size — yea, not many poeple believed that)
        BTW, it’s only these pasy five years I’ve discovered my eyes aren’t brown. They’re amber. That’s how little notice I took of what was looking back at me.

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        • I guess so. I frankly feel I am ordinary. Others tell me differently but I shall remain thinking I’m just ok. Come on now! Mind you, I probably would have done the same. He’d be like a “celebrity” and I don’t fawn over them…
          Well now, that is just cray-cray. You do appear in pictures once in a while? I call mine “brun ca-ca” – shit-brown 😉

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          • Mostly the photos date to teenage days and before, and most of those my daughters snuck away when they left home. I do not like having my photo taken. I have some from when I left the theatre, and my leaving party, but they’re the old type of photo. You know, on paper. Digital cameras were still expensive and hadn’t yet become part of a phone. I keep saying I’m going to get them scanned but … yea.

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  5. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder ….

    (yes, … that one… in that great post !)

    Dale, on our next get-together, we should focus on your great writing skills.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Dear Dale,

    I agree with Francois. And I’ve watched your writing skills improve over the past four years. Four years, really? Lovely piece that makes me want to jump into the photo and get acquainted with your circle of friends.

    Shalom and lots of hugs,


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