Part 1: Beauty, Price Tags and Jack and the Beanstalk

by joanabagano

I once met a friend who told me, “Wow, I didn’t know you were beautiful.”

His remark caught me off-guard. I was never good at receiving compliments and I knew this one statement was something short of it (or was it?). So I was there, overthinking, left in that little space between gratitude and the lack of it, waiting for something to trip me over to the right side.

He might have seen the question mark all over my face so that he made a quick follow-up: “I’ve always seen you with your (more) beautiful friend and somehow, it was always her that I noticed.”

“Oh,” was the only reply I could muster. I didn’t know him well but had I did, I would have slapped him as a joking gesture. He might have felt that it didn’t quite get across, so he went the distance left to try to explain…

“Let’s just say, she’s this 500-peso bill. And you’re a 200-peso bill.”

…and haplessly failed at it. I took his value analogy and put it in my bag to think about for a later time.

It’s not that I want to be valued more because I’d choose “inner” beauty compliments over physical beauty ones any given day.The problem here is deeply-lodged somewhere else.

Our language shows us exactly.

I once read somewhere that our day-to-day vocabulary is ridden with business terms. We value someone. We cherish priceless moments. We invest in relationships. We are secure.

The problem with this vocabulary is that it’s for business, not human beings. Investment comes with a return and when we do invest in people and don’t get what we expect, we find it hard not to be disappointed. We value someone more, someone less.

Wouldn’t it be better if we just nurtured relationships? Or cherished beautiful moments? Or loved people?

It’s systemic. We are cosmically putting a price on everything as if we were sales staff in our own grocer. This is a world where our minds are conditioned to think that all is capital, from our property to our brains to our family background. Who are we to blame? Everything is an asset we can tap on and utilize to move us up the ladder. My diligence gets me good grades. My money and talents get me more friends. My physical looks get me a higher chance at employment.

There’s nothing superficially wrong with utilizing our resources to get us more because this dog-eat-dog world will only drop us if we don’t compete. And boy, do we feel competitive enough to try to outrun even ourselves. Surprisingly, we do this in all areas, even in those where competition is not really warranted.

Recently, pictures of South Koreans undergoing plastic surgery, have become viral on the Internet. If my friend valued me at 200 pesos, I’d spend thousands just to look like a 500-peso bill. Beauty can now be bought and consequently, self-worth.

(To be continued)