Is beauty skin-deep?

My dear Billy, Beauty may or may not be skin-deep. But fashion quite often is sin-deep. When you see the type of clothes that some people wear, you often wonder whether they are inside trying to come out, or outside trying to get in.


Sometimes I feel a pressing urge of telling these people that their right to wear this ridiculous thing ends where it meets my eyes. But it seems that the epidemic is spreading like wildfire as more and more people exhibit a morbid desire to be in. For what purpose? Only to do like one’s peers and not to be considered as square.

However, in the process, with all their tattoos and piercings and eccentric hairdos and indescribably ridiculous dresses, many a young one ends up looking like something stationed in a cornfield to scare crows.

A dress has no meaning unless it makes a man want to take it off, says French novelist Francoise Sagan. But should a dress have meaning, in the first place? English writer Oscar Wilde, on the other hand, found that looking good and  dressing well are essential, while a purpose in life is not. As for American writer  Mark Twain, he finds that clothes make the man naked; people have little or no influence in society.

And here he echoes your own view on the matter, my dear Billy, when you said in Hamlet that “Apparel oft proclaims the man”, although the  French clamour that  “l’habit ne fait pas le moine” (a man should not to be judged by what he wears). Should he be judged by what he doesn’t then?

Sophia Loren, the famous Italian actress of the 60s had a good one: a woman’s dress, she said, should be like a barbed-wire fence, serving its purpose without obstructing the view.

It’s all very well to follow the fashion of the time, my dear Billy. But one should also pay heed to hygiene. I’ve been told of somebody who takes a bath every year, whether he needs it or not. But of course, he may just be an exceptional case. I remember having once told somebody, “You’re welcome to take a bath. You look like the third week of the garbage strike.” But I must admit that we were then in the midst of a severe drought.

Then there are those who spend a hell of a tough time trying to get rid of dandruff. They apply all sorts of shampoos that may or may not be advertised, they go for herbal solutions, but their dandruff always pursues them. In such a case, going bald may provide a way out, and the other good thing about it is that it is neat. It is also helpful to those who have hair like badly turned broccoli. The French are reputed to have invented the only known cure for dandruff. It is called the guillotine.

Many go for face-lifts, my dear Billy, and some of them may be doing the right thing too, because they have faces that convince you that God is a cartoonist.

People have died in pursuit of white complexions through the concoctions of white lead and mercury salts, despite clear warnings from doctors for hundreds of years. Both are cumulative poisons, with extremely nasty effects both on appearance and health.

Closer to me, one woman came up and said, “Look at me. Do I need a plastic surgery?” I had an irresistible compulsion of replying “Yes. Get your mouth sewn up.” But of course, the thought never materialized into words.

The adage that there’s nothing new under the sun is demonstrably true for aids to beauty. For although motives for applying cosmetics to the face and to the body have varied over the centuries, such practices date back to prehistory. Cave paintings show priests with their bodies painted and in masks to simulate animals. Such body paintings acted as camouflage when the wearers went hunting, and the cave painting served both as sympathetic magic and as a practical aid in catching animals. 

But in historic times and in civilized societies, the main purpose of painting the face and body is to enhance beauty. Desirable features are emphasized - usually the eyes and the mouth - blemishes are camouflaged and the ravages of age are hidden.

The idea, my dear Billy, is to simulate the bloom of youth or to be “in the pink of fashion,”

The ancient Egyptians have left vivid records on wall paintings and in tombs of their make-up habits, and it is remarkable, if we look at the cosmetics and beauty aids they used, to find how few things we have been able to add to the list. They had skin creams of all kinds; rouge, eye shadow, eye liners, a large range of perfumes, and coloured foundation creams. They stained their nails, the palms of their hands and the soles of their feet with henna. And they accented their veins on the temples and other parts of the body.

Your own Hamlet, in pettish mood, remarked to his girlfriend Ophelia that “God gives you one face and you make yourselves another”. So it was then, so is it still; and we make ourselves the face that is the pleasing image of our time. But some women who look for fashion designers in fact need structure engineers. Beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder, it is said my dear Billy. My own definition of a beautiful woman is one who loves me.


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