The Ancient Art of Being Fabulous

We’ve seen it all, expressed in the luxurious lifestyles provided by Gossip Girl or Sex and the City, where a devotion to fabulousness was seen as the cure to all womanly woes and weaknesses: from having a man leave you to being diagnosed with cancer. It’s a “put on a glamorous dress, have a martini, and watch me go” scenario.

On a lighter note, it is a cautious use of the superficial to counteract the serious. You must think that the very word superficial is already horrible enough. It originally meant what was apparent or visible on the outside. And although the expression says, “Don’t judge a book by its cover” can be applied now in our day to day lives, it took about a hundred years for it to reach the meaning when applied to thoughts or perceptions. It then carried on its unsteady way to reach its most common application as we know it now. It has also, oddly, come to have its most damning meaning when applied to women. It is in the fabled female obsession with lipstick and shoes that superficial rises to its cruelest. After all, it is the women who dye their hair and paint their faces while the men go about their serious business.

I think the way we should see it, we shouldn’t let the superficial be removed so easily; what is on the surface does, in fact, matter. A sensible dose of fabulousness will not solve the Middle-Eastern conflict or poverty, but it can shine a ray of sunlight in this sometimes dull and dim world. A bright scarlet lipstick from MAC is not just a mixture of wax and pigment but a statement, facing down the odds. A little blush, a little eye shadow, an inky black mascara mean nothing when broken down into their basic parts, but they have an extreme psychological effect to any woman. . It is no coincidence that makeup is often called “war paint” of a woman. They can arm you for the world and bring back the bloom of youth when you are feeling old and worn. Applying makeup is a subliminal sign that you have not given up even though sometimes you feel like giving altogether. Used carefully, its a tiny but potent addition to the general aesthetic.

I learned once, that the ancient Egyptians would not leave home without applying a reddish purple plant dye called fucus to their lips (and the Egyptians were all about the fabulous. They invented eye liner for crying out loud!). In the seventeenth-century England, an English pastor called Thomas Hall called the painting of the face the “Devil’s work”. And a hundred years later in the English Parliament, they actually passed a law against the use of lipstick, stating that women who seduced men by cosmetic could be tried for witchcraft. Yet during World War II, it was a regarded as a patriotic duty to “put your face on”, the application of powder and paint expressing power in the face of potential destruction. And soon, the Pan-Am stewardess were the forefront of the generation establishing a standard for beauty. Tall, made up, and just all around glamorous!

Of course, makeup, shoes and clothing all play a part in fabulousness, which is essentially a state of mind. It’s posture, both literally and metaphorically: standing up straight and marching out to meet your destiny. As Coco Chanel once said, “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.” It’s good jokes and what the hells. It’s allowing the eccentric and celebrating the impossible. It’s understanding that not everything must be about the normal or the practical and even the trivial. It’s sometimes pretending that you are starring in your very own movie.

Fabulousness is as they say, poetry rather than prose. It’s not for everyday, or for solving the deep questions or solving economical problems. But it adds a little to the sum total of human happiness. And that’s the end to all the norms I guess, happiness, pure and utter happiness.


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