About My Baby’s Nose…

Baby 3
Note: This baby does not come with a free Photoshop App

Last week, when we were on our regular walk in the park, an elderly lady came up to us and pinched Lily’s cheeks. We exchanged greetings and as she walked away, I heard her mutter softly under her breath (not for my ears, of course): “She is cute, but her nose is too flat.”

At that time, I didn’t think to react. She seemed like a kindly lady, and she is of course entitled to her opinion. But that night, I found myself telling my husband about it. And over the next few days, it simmers and stewed in my mind.

Yes, the minute they placed Lily in my arms, she became the most beautiful thing on Earth I’ve ever seen. I’m sure other mothers can relate to this feeling. But of course, I don’t expect the world to feel the same way.

Without my special mummy lenses, Lily is a regular baby. Many people still can’t tell if she’s a boy or a girl. If you really want to run a physical audit like that elderly lady, you could also say her nose might be sharper, her eyes could be bigger, and her thighs a little thinner.

But couldn’t you say the same thing for just about 98% of us – non-babies included? If you were to look at me, I know there are at least 10 things that you could change for the better. Scratch that – probably substantially more than 10 things.

And I’ll be the first to admit that throughout my teenage and early adult years, I was fixated on these imperfections. At an unconscious level, I have always felt ugly. If you told me that I could fix my imperfections non-surgically, I’d sign up in a heartbeat.

Thinking back, I realise that ironically, at a time in my life when I was supposed to experience the most freedom, I was instead shackled to this overwhelming sense of imperfection and inadequacy. Before I ran in the rain, I’d worry about whether my dark eye circles would show after my concealer washes off, or if I was wearing the right bra for getting wet.

And I suspect it’s inevitable that my baby will feel this way in her teenage years as well. But she certainly shouldn’t feel this way at the age of ten-and-a-half-months old, not at the age of five, not even at ten!

What I want for Lily is to experience freedom in her childhood. To run till her clothes stick to her back, and she smells of salt, sunshine and grass.

To dash through the rain, splash across the river in our park, and roll on the floor with my chihuahua and cats. To know unbridled happiness, and free-spirited beauty without worrying about what others think of her and the way she looks.

I hope that even when she grows up, and even if the world catches up with her and she’s buried under makeup and corporate politics, she will always keep this sacred space inside her. Somewhere in her heart, she will always remember what true beauty is, and what real happiness feels like. And anytime she gets tired of the flavour of bullshit the world is serving, she can always return to this.

If I do this right (and I really hope I can come close), this is what I wish for her.

So for the moment, I really wish to protect her from debilitating self-consciousness. From criticism on how she might be prettier if her nose were sharper or her eyes were bigger. But I also want to protect her from well-meaning physical compliments – the most common one being how fair and translucent her skin is – which in my opinion, is a totally archaic standard of beauty in Singapore. I don’t wish her to concern herself with such vain and superficial things.

What I wish for her to know is how beautifully her eyes twinkle when she’s happy – like the fairy lights at Christmas; and how bright her laughter rings – like a wind chime just before rain. I want her to know how perfect she is in every way – because I am her mother, and I am allowed to be biased. And with that knowledge and security, I want her to explore the world with more confidence than I had.

What My Mother Taught Me About Beauty

What My Mother Taught Me About Beauty
A Mucha print from http://graduate-extraordinaire.blogspot.sg
A Mucha print from http://graduate-extraordinaire.blogspot.sg

By the age of four, my mother taught me everything I know about being a woman.

As a little girl, my first memory was of her in red lipstick, stepping into a garden abloom with yellow miniature roses, purple orchids and dainty West Indian jasmines – the perfect picture of grace.

A picture of my mother
A picture of my mother

She passed away when I was four.

Later, I learnt from my father that she’d been struggling with respiratory problems all her life. But nobody seems to remember how weak she’d become. Staring into her coffin, what I saw was a poised and beautiful woman. And throughout my confused teenage years, I struggled to emulate her beauty and grace.

Thus I grew up in a confused and complex world, and like so many other, floundered through many moments of fear, self-doubt and heartache, seeking wisdom in books and forgetfulness in films.

But whenever I felt like I’d truly hit a dead end, I’d hit the road again and meet many amazing people through my travels – poverty-stricken India women with the most vivid dresses I’ve ever seen, a 70-year-old Japanese woman with the brightest purple hair, a breast cancer survivor finding love and intimacy after mastectomy…

From www.ericsstudio.com
From http://www.ericsstudio.com

Only through their eyes did I finally begin to see my mother’s true legacy –
her parting advice to me was not merely how to be beautiful, but one of enduring strength and hope in the face of pain, uncertainly and death.

She was the first person who helped me understand that a woman without breasts is no less beautiful, bright purple hair on an old woman can still turn heads, making the effort to wear lipstick when you’re very ill is a final act of defiance, and planting flowers that you may never see is the greatest leap of faith.

Beyond all the designer dresses and makeup, that is what it means to be a beautiful woman.

If you like this, you might like: WanderlustOlfactory Journeys and Bucket List Therapies

Olfactory Journeys

Photography by Tim Walker
Photography by Tim Walker

Beauty writing is really an exercise in synonyms. Read three consecutive issues of any women’s magazine, and you’ll see what I mean – you can almost picture a beauty writer straining beneath a pile of potions and salves, trying to squeeze out a new word to describe season after season of hydrating moisturisers, red lipsticks and blushers – in various hues of pink and orgasms (think: NARS’s famous Orgasm Blusher – http://www.narscosmetics.com/iconic-nars/cult-classics/~/orgasm-blush?d=true).

Sadly for me, 50 shades of seduction later, I still can’t tell the essential difference between chilli red and temptress red. And I’m not sure the equally bewildered man in my life can distinguish between a post-exercise and a post-coital blush either – God save his undiscerning soul.

Well, despite all this beauty blasphemy, I do, however, have an enduring love affair with perfumes – not the bubblegum juice of prepubescent celebrities or the saccharine launches of bargain brands, but those with real Florentine iris, sundrenched bergamot, Grasse jasmine and exotic woods.

Here’s why I strongly believe everyone should choose their juice with as much care as they choose their books…

Photography by Tim Walker
Photography by Tim Walker

It’s like choosing a theme song for the day

I love mornings when I have enough time to run through my fragrance wardrobe the same way I’d scroll through my iPod playlist. It always prompts me to do a mental forecast of my day ahead, set my intentions, and then visualise the perfect notes for it.

Like good music, the right perfume sets the tone for the day right.

Just as I firmly believe nothing great will ever happen when Justin Bieber is playing on the radio, nothing inspired can ever occur when you are wearing Justin Bieber’s Girlfriend – yes, that’s what he calls one of his perfumes…

It’s an inner journey

As skin-deep as makeup is, perfume is profound. Unlike makeup, it will not announce to every other passerby, “I am an indie-chick” or “Nicki Minaj is my latest not-so-secret guilty indulgence”. On the contrary, it is a more subtle language that you have to first discover for yourself, and then divulge to those select few that step into your aura. The goal is not to transform (like makeup) but transfigure – I always find that the best fragrances lend a certain vitality and depth to a woman’s intrinsic beauty.

Every bottle of perfume contains a world

A nose once told me that a perfume has to be worn by a woman, otherwise, it’s just like a dress hanging on an empty rack.

A good fragrance evolves with the woman who wears it – every book she reads, every city she visits, every time she fall in love or gets her heart broken, it gains new depth.

It conjures up subconscious images and forgotten memories, and teleports its wearer to undiscovered worlds only as rich as one’s memory and imagination – cotton fields, beach shacks, a perfect sunlit childhood vacation?

As I grew older, I began to lean towards such timeless scents that were complex and simple enough to age well with me – not those that represented a superficial marketing vision of sensually, as depicted by purring models in their ad campaigns.

…And, every once in a while, I would wear a ‘jasmine garden’ to bed and pray for a magnificent dream.

Photography by Tim Walker
Photography by Tim Walker

More beauty features at: Bucket List Spas and Beauty Beauty Advice From Mum

Wanderlust

Wanderlust
From my trip to Agra, India
From my trip to Agra, India

After visiting 23 countries over the 31 years of my life, I must say that there are only three things I absolutely hate about travel – touts, toilets and packaged tours. Why? Because touts are always make me feel like a money tree, exploring new toilets feels like an incalculable risk, and package tours are really just like watching 18 poorly edited trailers back-to-back when you really just want to see one good movie.

Having said that, these are the five reasons I brave such ‘untold dangers’ to hit the road time and again.

#1 Mental Detox
Packing for a trip helps to un-clutter my life – because unless you are Paris Hilton or her chihuahua, you usually only have one or two bags of luggage space. And deciding what to bring helps you pare the thousands of creature comforts and cool toys you have down to the essentials.

I never realise how many things I’ve amassed and how much time I spend sorting them out until I pack for a trip. And somehow, deciding that I really don’t need to bring another perfume, pair of shoes or gadget helps me clear up mental space, sift the essential from the fluff, and ultimately put things in perspective.

#2 For An Adventure

It’s either the white noise or the plastic chicken, but taking a plane always makes me feel like I’m in some kind of fake temporary limbo, and when I emerge on the other side, I’ll be entering a different world, a new Narnia where I can be someone else for a while, and even vanquish a Minotaur or two. Regardless, I always up for an adventure again on the other side.

#3 For New Perspectives

Remember Dead Poets Society where Robin Williams gets his students to stand on their desks to see the world from a different perspective? I’m starting to think that maybe as we grow older, we start to take ourselves too seriously to ever flippantly climb a table again, or see anything special when we do. That’s why we need to climb mountains, castles, 100 storey observatory towers in search of that same sense of wonder again.

#4 To Find My Pace

Don’t get me wrong: I love travelling with friends. But it also somehow feels like travelling in one big cloud of familiarity. Solo travel is a refreshing change because it helps me discover a new place, discover myself and find my own pace again. In a world where we are always scrambling to keep pace with others, I think everyone should try solo travel at least once.

#5 Because The World Is So Beautiful And We Are So Small

Travelling makes me believe in the magic again.

Taken in Rajasthan, India
Taken in Rajasthan, India