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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