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Op-Ed: The Subjective Nature of Beauty Over the Years

Growing up in a Pentecostal household, there were a lot of beauty trends that passed me by that I wasn’t a part of. For those who don’t know what Pentecostal is, it is a Christian, Protestant-based religion. It also, depending on the church, follows some strict rules when it comes to a women’s appearance. Whatever each church’s case may be, I did not partake in makeup, dyeing my hair- and cutting anything except the ends of it- plucking my eyebrows, wearing certain jewelry, etc. This was of my own doing; of course, I wasn’t forced, but it was something that was introduced to me pretty early on. Therefore, I underestimated the effects of not partaking in the, at the time unknowingly, yet still fleeting beauty trends of my high school.

When the ombre look came along, I was one of the only ones with full black hair. When it was normal to have bangs and hair ending just above your chest, I sported my long, wavy, bang-less hair almost reaching my hips. When girls started to pluck their eyebrows, Cara Delevingne had not yet changed the world with hers; therefore, my bushy brows were not yet cool. And so on.

Had you asked me back then whether I wanted to dye the lower part of my hair blond in a waterfall-like way that would showcase effortlessness or if I wanted to pluck and shape my eyebrows into an almost nonexistent horizontal line that would have me begging for those plucked hairs back a few years later when the thick eyebrow trend came into place, or if I wanted to cut my hair into bangs that I could swoop to the side into the resemblance of a waterfall; I would have probably said yes. Because it’s what was normal in that period of my life. But ask me now, and I thank God that I didn’t ruin my hair with bleach only to dye it back to my no longer natural color later, or that I didn’t shave my eyebrows off of existence because it showcased femininity since doing that now means something entirely different.

However, my mom wasn’t always Pentecostal, and she actually did go through the myriad of beauty trends that changed over the years. I was with her from the ‘better have my hair straightened every day, or I’ll die’ phase to the ‘so much concealer around my eyes my face will shine’ phase. I remember them all up until my 8 years of age when she gave in to the religious mandates of the church; and, in turn, coincidentally stopped being a slave to the ever-changing nature of beauty trends.

These changes in beauty that I’m sharing, however, only go back a few years, which is why it may be hard to tell how subjective beauty is when we look through the lens of these recent generations. However, do we dare go back to the 1900s? What awaits us there should allow us to see the subjectivity in beauty, the non-one-dimensional perspective of it. What awaits us there is Persian beauty, princess Zahra Khanom Tadj es-Saltaneh, the ultimate symbol of beauty in Persia. So sought after that, it’s rumored that 13 men killed themselves because she rejected them. If you set eyes upon this woman, you will notice that she defies every one of the universal rules of beauty that this decade lives for. She did not meet the unrealistic weight standard of women now, not even close. She had facial hair and wore garments that covered every inch of her body. Some would even say she had semblances of male features. Yet she was admired, adored, and sought after. If this doesn’t make you doubt the importance of beauty trends in a life of millenniums of them, I don’t know what could.

When I finally realized it, I was scrolling through the bottomless pit of unrealistic beauty standards that are on Instagram. I saw a picture I will never forget. It was a younger Angelina Jolie; a woman considered one of the most beautiful beings of this century; side to side with Steve Buscemi, who often plays the role of the disgusting and dirty weirdo we all know. What was so extravagant about this picture is that they looked so much alike; for one brief moment, they were the same person.


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