Exotic

Exotic Exotic_sml1 introduced from another country :  not native to the place where found <exotic plants> 2 archaic :  foreignalien 3 :  strikingly, excitingly, or mysteriously different or unusual <exotic flavors> 4 :  of or relating to striptease <exotic dancing> ____________________________________________________________________________________ Red Ants aka Fire Ants are Exotic. I base this on the fact they are not indigenous to this nation, rather they were brought here by some genius farmers to kill a pest. Now they are here to stay. You cannot kill them easily; they have no natural enemies here. Thus, based on the above Fire Ants are Exotic.

Having read the above are you thinking to yourself, what in the hell is she talking about now? I don’t blame you; I have thinking about beauty lately. How we as a society define beauty, what is beautiful to our eye versus what we are taught about beauty. These are more often than not very different, whether we are discussing art, nature or the beauty of a person. What doesn’t fit into narrow definitions we find other terms to describe, Exotic is one of those terms. There are others of course; some are not as kind or puzzling.

There are many things we have splashed the label Exotic on, things like Cars:

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Or Flowers:

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And animals too:

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However, the thing that most intrigues me, is people. We name people who don’t look like us, who don’t fit into our box of standardized and normative ‘beauty’ as Exotic. We do this when we find ourselves unable to define their beauty or our attraction to their beauty.  The truth is, if those others who were not like us, those others who were from other lands, other cultures were not in their own right beautiful we would not now be talking about new labels of beauty or new definitions for who we are. Were it not for our attraction to the Exotic, we would not now be trying to stretch our understanding beyond the westernized symmetry of what makes a man or woman attractive to be more inclusive of all the other standards of beauty.

My best-loved mother of my heart said to me many years ago, I was exotic. She said this trying to be kind, trying to lift my heart as we talked early one morning over coffee. You see I didn’t understand why my adoptive mother rejected me so out of hand, why my cousins-sibling-sisters were so very standoffish, why I never really had girlfriends growing up. She said this trying to explain why I felt not just like a black sheep within my adoptive family, but within my peer group as well. She wasn’t trying to be cruel, instead she was trying to explain what she believed was a very real and simple concept.

Everything about me, my features, the tone of my skin, the deep color of my eyes, my natural hair color, my body shape, even my intellect; everything about me was slightly off and thus slightly off-putting. I didn’t fit within my adoptive family or later within my extended family, within my social peer group. I was Exotic I was different. People didn’t know quite what to make of me; they didn’t know how to label me. I could be almost anything, except what people were comfortable with, no one at the time considered this of course they simply knew I made them uncomfortable and acted accordingly.

I have over the years given a great deal of thought to this long ago conversation. I have realized many of my actions, everything from using ace bandages to strap my breasts closer to my chests, to trying to starve my body into submission, to coloring my hair blond and staying out of the sun to keep myself as pale as possible. Each of these were either conscious or sub-conscious acts to fit into a beauty standard defined by a society that had already labeled me ‘different’ or Exotic. My smaller rebellions, ear piercings and tattoo’s, these were me trying to exert power over my personal space and self, especially when I felt denied.

This brings me to our social standards of beauty and the exotic. America, the melting pot; isn’t that what we call ourselves? Over the centuries, our love of the exotic has resulted in a true blending of cultures and people. Our history of intermixing, whether with willing or unwilling partners, has resulted in a people who may wish to lay claim to purity of bloodlines dating back to the landing at Plymouth Rock, but how likely would most of them find more than one interesting skeleton in their closet should they choose to look. So what is beauty? Are we really so very narrow that we will allow the few to define a standard that adheres only to the European regularity, forgetting the beauty of all else. Surely, we have come further than this after so long.

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Comments

  1. Reblogged this on Tiffany Belle Harper and commented:
    Thought provoking. Crafted with such insight.

  2. What a wonderful thought provoking post Val… You have found us some very exotic images as examples to illustrate your topic..
    You know it all boils down to our perspective.. We are all exotic.. All unique, when I pull out a weed from my garden.. as common as they are, when you look, really look, they are no less a marvel than those exotic blooms… A Daisy, a Dandelion, each one perfection..

    We observe nature and each feather, each hair within a coat of fur, each eyelash, each scale, perfect in every way.. I keep tropical fish, and I marvel at how their scales dance in the light casting rainbow hues that glisten and reflect as they swim..

    That old lady down the supermarket.. her weather beaten face, the wrinkles on her hand, each perfect.. each line, etched..

    Yet we as a society very seldom look beneath the skin.. We seldom look what is inside the package..
    What is under the bonnet of the car..?? inside the heart of the beautiful photographic model..
    What is inside the heart of a Nation.. And how do we define ourselves when we give labels to everything.. and Judge them accordingly..

    Would that we could all be stripped back, to the colour and contents of our hearts.. I wonder how the exotic breeds within society would fare??? 🙂

    Brilliant thought provoking post Val.. xx Hugs Sue

    • Sue, I know. I have found the exotic everywhere I look. I have had magnificent garden spiders this year and have protected them as best I can. These are the exotic to me. Yet my heart mother trying to explain my differences from my family, that unsettled me. Strange, right?

  3. I always thought exotic was someone with eyes the shape of a cat. I’d even say Sophia Lauren was exotic. Though exotic, beauty on the exterior can house a lotta ugly and that changes how a person looks for me.

  4. and I am called the friggin loon why? Blahahahaah Val, because friggin exotic doesn’t have the same ring to it 🙂

  5. Interesting! I think we’re all exotic in our own way. Conversely, one person’s “exotic” is another’s “ordinary,” e.g., certain culinary staples across the globe. And the definition is always evolving, isn’t it? Not so long ago a simple thing like a taco was considered exotic. Funny how times, and mores, change.

    • Very true. When thinking about Exotic, I hadn’t thought about food and how we have expanded our diets and tastes to include so many new things.

      More food for thought.

  6. When I first heard the term “exotic” applied to animals that were not native to the territory in the National Park Service, I was confused because I always thought of the word “exotic” to describe something or someone that was beautiful in essence, above the norm. I still do, although I also consider each animal and each person an original, not to be compared to others. We all seem to have our different interpretations of the same word.

  7. I believe today our society is only different from the exclusive, elitist, patriarchal puritans who only talked bad about others after supper in its audacious declaration all those who are not homogenized and the same are ill-suited for inclusion and targeted for ostracism.

  8. I suspect that as long as we let society as a whole dictate what is/isn’t beautiful, we’ll always miss out on seeing beauty in other faces.

    Someone made the point about attraction (preferring blondes, etc.), and that’s not quite the same, is it? Attraction is, in many ways, the biological things that draw us to a potential mate – the reproductive desire that draws many together. But, that’s not the same as seeing beauty in all it’s forms. Maybe that is the part that is ‘taught’ … we so easily dismiss people that don’t ‘attract’ us, in a biological way; we dismiss people that don’t fit the commercial/consumer driven ideals of beauty … but, we don’t really ever teach people about beauty in a ‘real life’ way … I’m not sure I’m saying this very well.

    I think of it as comparable to how I look at my photography: I think that everything has an intrinsic beauty – I just have to stop and look at it more closely. Sometimes I need to stand at a different angle, or see the object in a different sort of lighting – eventually, I find it. I have always believed that to be true of people as well (caveat: not everyone has beauty inside – some people are just assholes). I think on the outside, though, we all posses something beautiful – even exotic. We just might not notice it with only a passing, dismissive glance. We just need to learn to stop and look long enough.

    I agree that we have flawed notions of beauty; although history has shown that different times and places have different ideals. Not that that is an excuse – perhaps it’s proof of our flaw: that we need some ‘ideal’ to compare people to. Perhaps that’s how many people learn to feel good about themselves. If they live up to the ideal, then they must be okay.

    I do, however, think that there is more openness among some of the younger people these days – more people are speaking up about the silly ideas of ‘normal beauty’. More people seem to be willing to challenge the notion of what is/isn’t the ‘norm’. I hope that the idea takes hold … that we learn to see all the beauty (I know, I know … sounds like a Dr. Phil moment….) 🙂

  9. Exotic would be a compliment. A very thoughtful post, Val! I won’t look at fire ants the same way! We can’t change the world’s perception of beauty but we can each accept our own self as an exotic version of nature’s beauty.

    • I think we have to look at each thing within a category as Exotic in its own right. By doing this we begin to broaden our categories. Changing our perceptions, our definitions of beauty is happening slowly, but it is happening. I know Exotic might be both a compliment and a category, isn’t that odd?

  10. Exotic – a convenient label for something we don’t understand or that doesn’t fit neatly into prescriptive categories.

    I’m not sure the intent of the person who uses this word is ever malicious, but it is certainly not what anyone likes to be called; it is often exploitative. There is a tendency to manipulate what people don’t understand, what they deem exotic, inconveniently ascribing an “other” status – a narrow construct that that person spends almost all to his/her life to unravel as a result. Ah…Life.

    • Exactly, you have hit upon it exactly. While I think it might be a broad definition for what we don’t understand or what doesn’t fit. I know when my beloved step-mother brushed me with that label I was taken aback and have indeed tried for years to understand it.

  11. I’m with Peg … that is exotic is a compliment. Your examples in all your pics are wonderful examples, and it definitely applies to people. I wonder if other parts of the world see Americans as exotic … after all, we would be different than their norm. Cheers to biological diversity … including that in humans! …. and Hi Val!

    • Hey Frank, nice to see you. Hope your break is doing you worlds of good.

      I think exotic is likely intended to explain how we see beauty through different lens, even when we don’t necessarily understand or know how to describe it. Perhaps, that diversity that makes some so crazy begins to set a new standard?

  12. I think exotic is a compliment. I have always felt as white-bread and boring as tapioca pudding and longed to be exotic. I think that beauty IS in the eye of the beholder, though, and there are different strokes for different folks.

    • I suspect Peg, it is intended to be a compliment but we use it to describe what is different so it is taken to have such a broad meaning. I know my beloved step-mother intended it as a compliment, but to also help explain why others saw me as ‘different’, most certainly within my family.

      You are so right, beauty is in the eye. This is true across such a broad spectrum from art and architecture to humanity.

  13. Reblogged this on The Militant Negro™.

  14. You’ve started a very interest conversation here. Reminds me a bit of the Dove commercials where they use ordinary women to show that they too are beautiful and you don’t have to be a European or white female model to be considered beautiful. I’m so sorry for the insensitivity of your adopted mother as well as your peers. Your story reminds me of an article I read in a recent issue of People about a woman named Lizzie Velasquez. Google her. She doesn’t allow others’ perception of beauty define her.

    • I know who Lizzie is, she is a fascinating speaker. Once called the ‘ugliest’ woman in America she has turned the bullying around.

      Honestly, I don’t know that it was insensitive Monica. I think instead it was simply normal.

  15. Just love yourself. Trust me when i say that at almost 66, when I look in the mirror, I start thinking about taking drastic steps.. But then, I look at people who have gone trough the plastic surgery process, and in my mind they look worse. They no longer look like their true selves.

  16. Reblogged this on It Is What It Is and commented:
    I simply live this post … Please, stop and find some definitions for “EXOTIC” … Well done!!

  17. I, for one, love the term “exotic”, because it’s pretty much the only word that describes something that’s alien or different or not conforming to the generally accepted form in any kind of positive voice.

    • I don’t hate the word. I have always taken the word out and looked at it from side to side, ever since my much loved step-mother used it to describe me. I simply never understood it, not as it applied to me, or others frankly. But recently I have been looking more deeply at it.

  18. As my old Grandma said “beauty is in the eye of the beholder” and as my Grandad held her hand until the day she died I think they were both each other’s beautiful

    • I think that is it, exactly. But we have these public values of what is beautiful. What we accept as beautiful. They seem to be very standardized, science has even tried to define it. Oddly, it is a very western ‘sanitized’ value set.

  19. I think what we see in the media as examples of beauty do not mesh with our individual preferences. People are attracted to different types of people. Some find thin beautiful; others prefer curvy. Some are attracted to blond hair, others to brunet. Some find pale skin alluring; others flock to darker skin tones. You wouldn’t always know this by looking at the media’s selections. But when we look around in the real world, we see people loving all sorts of people, regardless of shape, size, or color. That’s because when we get to know and love someone, they are beautiful in our eyes, on a level that surpasses the sheer physical.

    • Oh, we all know this is true. If our attractions complied with what we were told to find beautiful we certainly wouldn’t have the conundrum we have today of all the ‘mixed’ we have. We certainly wouldn’t constantly be wondering, ‘what are you?’

      But, still we have this flawed version of what is beautiful.

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