Tag Archives: personality

The Venus Flytrap: Beauty & Outer Beauty

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One of the truest signs I know of a person being untrustworthy is if, after being introduced to someone who they are aware has caused you or another immense pain, they comment on their perceived physical attractiveness. It does not speak well of someone’s character if everything they know about a person and what they have done can fly out of their hearts and heads because their presence so easily dazes them. How can they see anything else, being aware of their nature? What follows for me is that sinking feeling: like has spoken to like, and I’d witnessed a warning.

What are you wired to see first: inner beauty or its lack, or the façade? Even when meeting someone new, you can re-wire yourself so that aura, body language, and above all else the subtle changes in your own energy and emotion are the lenses through which you see. Both an open heart and bitter experience are great co-teachers. But we must keep getting refresher courses in things like this. They don’t call being deeply perceptive as having “second sight” for no reason.

Before you trust a person, do you check that you can trust your instincts? Two friends of mine recently encountered someone I have been fortunate not to have to engage with directly yet, but whose manipulations are well-known to everyone but the person they are with. One was simply unable to extend a handshake even out of habit, no matter how awkward it looked. The other found herself unable to make eye contact with that person, despite their wide grin and eager expression. Politeness and courtesy are the next level of honing that instinct – when you’re able to match façade with façade without absorbing or being influenced by toxicity. Save the winter wonderland approach for the ones who know what they did to you; offer the cordialities to the ones who don’t know that you know what they did to others.

Even the strong allure of initial sexual attraction can be upended when one’s antenna is working. I recently hung out with someone whose good looks had left me slack-jawed on our first meeting. In the interim, however, I’d learned over personal messages and social media that his political beliefs – i.e. an extension of his conscience and values – were highly suspect. I stared at him across the table and wondered why I found him so very lacklustre-looking all of a sudden when I’d gawked over his calf eyelashes and brawny shoulders earlier. I was thankful to have seen past all that prettiness to the actual person, quickly.

But what is inner beauty, anyway? A bit of a misnomer, I think. Why isn’t it “beauty” and “outer beauty” instead? Imagine a value system that isn’t based on one (the inner) being the flip side, or the redeemer of, the other (the outer). So beauty then is judged on who one is, based on what they do, their effect on other people, what connecting with them feels like, and what looking into (or not being able to look into!) their eyes reveals. When you look at someone, do you see the whole picture?

An edited version appeared in The New Indian Express on May 25th 2017. “The Venus Flytrap” appears on Thursdays in Chennai’s City Express supplement.

The Venus Flytrap: Viva La Diva

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True to her reputation, the diva never lets on that she knows how to swim, but shoved off a plank, she’ll stay afloat like a Salem witch. And what’s more, she’ll kick – hard, with resolve, and at anything that tries to keep her submerged. If you think the diva can be drowned, you’re wrong. Even when it looks like she’s gone under, she’s only blowing bubbly kisses to the coral, and you can rest assured the coral is waving back.

The diva is all kinds of cool, of course. She refuses, not straddles, dichotomies. She appraises Picasso’s division of all women into two categories (goddesses and doormats), assumes herself to be in the former, then chews out the master himself for his lack of imagination. She prays for miracles but distrusts deus ex machinae. She’s rumoured to bite, but mostly bleeds. The diva, she cries. Then she puts her face back on and sets her jaw. The diva is best met in mirrors.

Because to own your divahood isn’t just to put on your red heels on a complicated day and parade anyway. To tap into one’s inner diva is an act of resistance. The diva is the one who laughs like a woman with straight teeth though hers are not, the one who doesn’t wear her heart on her sleeve but seared on her skin. The diva learns how to dive eventually – but only because she’s been pushed off the edge so many times.

When I say I speak in defense of the diva, I’m not speaking in defense of the bitch, the backstabber or the beauty queen. I’m speaking in defense of that little flame inside that picks its broken self off the kitchen floor and then makes you do the same after every extinguishing. That flame is your diva, because only something so bulletproof, so deliberately defiant, can endure so much. And that, the diva, for all her tantrums, for all her impossibilities, certainly is. To tap into one’s inner diva is an act of resistance, and the diva herself is by nature irresistible.

My favourite fictional diva is Hedwig from the cult musical-turned-film Hedwig And The Angry Inch. Surviving heartbreak, plagiarism, communism and a botched sex change operation that leaves her not between but beyond gender itself, Hedwig takes the world on with just one wing and an assortment of wigs. “It’s what I have to work with,” says Hedwig, in the film’s most chillingly universal moment. The diva takes what she can get, works her tragedy into triumph, and dares to ask for much, much more.

“Kiss me and you will see how important I am,” wrote Sylvia Plath in her journal, and for this line alone I have forgiven her everything else. I love my Mae West, my Maria Elena, all the multiple goddesses I channel with affection and aspiration. But tonight, I’ll toast to the Plath who wrote that line. I can see her now: open face, determined chin, the eyes of a beggar but the smile of a coquette. The diva who will say it, feel it, write the poem, feel even worse, and publish it anyway. And when they ask why, I’ll answer as myself, my most favourite diva of all: I don’t kiss and tell, I just kiss and write poems.

An edited version appeared in The New Indian Express. “The Venus Flytrap” is my column in the Zeitgeist supplement. Previous columns can be found here.