Who decides what's beautiful?

Dearest reader,

How are you doing today?

Have you ever seen one of those movies where there’s a bespectacled girl who is not considered beautiful by anyone, and then one day, she takes off her glasses and that makes her absolutely gorgeous? The message is resoundingly clear. People who wear glasses are ugly. Girls who wear glasses are doomed, when it comes to their romantic prospects.

I was taking a stroll with one of my uncles, when he pointed out to a shimmering billboard at quite some distance and asked if I could read it. I could make out something vaguely. A few days later, my parents took me for an eye test. And at a young age of seven, I became the first person in my school to wear spectacles. If there was another introverted, bespectacled nerd in some other corner of the school, I was definitely not aware of them.

There are some memories that are forever etched into the brain. I was late to the school, the day after I got my prescription glasses. My school had an open quadrangle in the middle, and all the students would come out into the corridor in front of their class for the morning assembly. I stood near one of the corners of the quadrangle and looked up to the second-floor corridor where my classmates stood. I was smaller than average. And now I was wearing glasses, along with strings to hold them in place. I might as well have been waving a fluorescent red flag, saying, “Come, bully me”.

I don’t remember if my classmates ever bothered me much about the glasses. Some senior kids in school (and some even after), definitely picked on me. But it wasn’t the direct confrontation that bothered me as much as the other subtler effects. It wasn’t the act of wearing the specs itself that troubled me. It was the feeling that I was unique in my predicament. And not in a good way.

When you are visibly unique, everyone is drawn to your plight. And some try to offer simple solutions as well. Relatives and family friends were always ready with their well-intentioned tips and tricks. Eat more carrots and spinach. Don’t watch TV from up close. Walk barefoot on dew-laden grass early in the morning. Do eye-exercises.

When I was ten, we moved to a different house, and thus I switched to a different school. I saw more bespectacled kids. Could it be that this school is nerdier? Or was the world slowly becoming more myopic? An idea took root in my head. I don’t need to get rid of specs. I need more people to join my side. I would fantasize about being the leader of bespectacled nerds. My power kept increasing with age. The power of my specs that is. When the people with glasses will choose to form their own nation, I would be their de facto President. I had no doubt about that.

I got into the habit of quickly calculating the ratio of bespectacled people to the total population, whenever I entered a new room. As the years passed, I saw our numbers grow. The spectacled students could fill an entire classroom by themselves now. A classroom which would excel in studies, and suck at sports.

Walking around in my large rectangular frames had its benefits too. It was presumed that I am a studious and disciplined child, by anyone that laid their bare eyes on me. Wearing specs had become an integral part of me. Some of my friends, especially girls, took Lasik treatment or started wearing contact lenses. I experimented with contact lenses too but found it too much of an inconvenience.

I once saw a four-year-old, wearing thick-framed specs – the kind I used to wear when I was a kid. These looked ugly to me, but they were more durable. Light frame glasses are more suitable to adults, who do not jump around aimlessly throughout the day. My first thought when I looked at the kid was, “Ah, poor kid”. Maybe, that’s what every adult who looked at me growing up felt.

I didn’t find people wearing specs uncool or ugly. Of course, I was biased. But weren’t people not wearing specs biased towards their own notion of what is beautiful? And if they are advocating and actively promoting a definition of beauty that excludes me, then should I just take it lying down?

When we encounter something new, that goes against our general conception of the world, there are two ways in which we can respond. We can call the new observation an anomaly/aberration/error and preserve our definitions. Or we can adapt our definitions to make way for the new observation. We can preserve our idea of what it means to be a beautiful human and chuck out a few faulty bespectacled people in the process. Or we can be more inclusive towards a seemingly “flawed” human being, as our civilization slowly steers towards a new direction.

A couple of years ago, I noticed this trend of people wearing gigantic frames. Eyeglasses had finally become cool. Even people without prescriptions are found wearing anti-glare glasses while driving or working at computer screens.

It doesn’t look like I need my own nation now. The world is shaping up to be how I used to imagine it in my childhood. We are more accepting of differences, and I am not just talking about eyewear.

How is it that the same thing that was considered ugly up until a few years ago, and definitely so in my childhood, is totally cool now? Makes you think that beauty is not absolute and concrete, but just a perception of a particular group in a particular place at a particular time.

I have always been annoyed by the fairness cream advertisements I have seen on television. The ads are so blatantly manipulative and detrimental to the esteem of the viewer, especially younger ones who are still trying to understand how the world actually works. One of the theories is that since we, in India, have had fair-skinned colonial rulers in the past, light skin is subconsciously associated with wealth and power. Beauty or our physical appearance is just an indicator of our physical and material well-being.

The same companies that sell fairness creams in countries with dark-skinned people, go about selling tanning solutions in countries with white-skinned people, under different brand names. The perception there is that wealthy people have time to get nice tans, while being on luxurious vacations to some sunny, tropical islands. So, it seems that the skin color isn’t a problem here. And such companies aren’t in the business of changing skin color either. They are in the business of negging their customers, to get them to buy their products. Imagine a person standing on top of Eiffel Tower with a giant megaphone in hand, pointing to you and shouting, “You are ugly. Buy cream from us. Otherwise, no one will love you, and no will give you a job”. That is exactly what these companies do, when they broadcast these advertisements to the general public.

There are a ton of attributes, on the basis of which you can be considered flawed – weight, hair thickness, acne, scars, body shape, face proportions, eyelids, eyebrows, eyelashes, nose, lip size or color, skin pigmentation, body hair, etc. It’s difficult to ignore the fella, who’s shouting from the top of a tower that you are flawed. But the message is not just for you. It’s for everyone. Everyone is flawed in their own unique way. And everyone is beautiful in their own unique way too. Find your people in the crowd. What you need is not a fairer skin or thinner waist, or a Lasik surgery. You need to find the right people.

There is safety in numbers. There is a psychological safety in numbers too. We feel protected when we are part of a larger group. Of course, some people are more at peace with themselves than they can ever be in the presence of others. But if you are the kind that needs the company of others, then go seek that. There are other uniquely beautiful people, sometimes stuck in their own self-doubt spirals, wondering if they are good enough for the world.

A while ago, I found one such person. I am sure you guys know her. 😊

Over the years, we discussed about things that we used to consider as our flaws. Turns out she doesn’t care about glasses. I don’t care about skin tone. In the end, worrying about whether someone would accept us for who we are was useless. This letter is for the person, who is in a similar situation. I hope you find your partner, your tribe, your people.

Thank you for reading! If you want to share your thoughts on this, feel free to email us.

We will publish the next letter on 5th June! Have a great time till then!

 - Big Boo

P.S. - We were planning to use Shopify email to send out the letters to everyone. But it has several restrictions. Many emails start bouncing, when we try to send to more than thousands of subscribers at a time. Also, the emails have a character limit of 7000. And I exceeded that in this letter. So, going forward, all the letters will be posted here, and you are free to read it at any time at your convenience. :)

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Sounds like adversity guided you to right where you needed to be :)


Got my glasses in 3rd standard. Quite an experience for that age.
Loved the initiative. Keep it coming.

Shubhendu Amitabh

Reading this letter and all the letters in the future will create a more profound and stronger bond with you guys. So, looking forward to all of them in the future.
Also, I was never bothered if anyone around me was wearing glasses or not. I always
adjudged people based on how they behaved rather than how they appeared to be. I always considered glasses as a vital part of people as they enabled the wearer to see better which is essentially the most important thing.
So I would like to give a tap on young Big Boo’s head and recite some famous words from Bruno Mars “You’re amazing… Just the way you are”.


I am loving your blog


This was such a heart warming post 🥹
And so relatable!!!
P. S. In the end we made a world full of spectacled people

Surupa Mukhopadhyay

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