The Most Beautiful Girl in Nepal

"A face like a symphony with a bulldog's bite."

Quick+Dirty!

There's only one person in this picture who truly cares about the way she looks

My thoughts turn to the boy from last night, Deepak the Good. I smile sadly as I think I won’t hear from him, and how stupid it was of me to get my hopes up and think he might have actually liked me.

I’m too old. Too fat. Too old.

He probably has a stunning Nepali girlfriend who’s impossibly tiny and has skin like Brazilian caramel and manages to be both sexy, mysterious, and great wife material, all at the same time.

Maybe he’s dating the beautiful girl who works at The Lemon Tree with him. She has a face like a symphony, the kind that just takes your breath away.

I have this admittedly awkward habit of telling pretty girls that I think they’re pretty. I’m of the opinion that beautiful women are the most insecure, perhaps because a huge portion of their entire identity is built around something that time can’t wait to take away.

So I try to make them feel better by praising the exact thing that shouldn’t be important in the first place. I’m sure it all has to do with some deep-seated psychological issues with my own appearance, but that doesn’t stop me from doing it.

My parents took great care to devalue physical beauty as I was growing up. This served me well, since sometimes I was pretty and other times I wore braces and had eyebrows as thick as caterpillars.

I was not praised for being beautiful so much as for being intelligent, for getting good grades, for working hard. What feminists Pat and Margie were!

And yet here I am years later in Nepal, a veritable misogynist.

“You are very beautiful” I said to the beautiful waitress.

She shook her head fiercely, embarrassed. But since I’m intent on maintaining my title as the world’s most socially awkward person alive, I pressed further, attempting to force her to appreciate her own beauty as I did, and to comprehend her own loveliness right that second.

“You should be a model.”

Why do I do this? It’s not that I was hitting on her – I discovered long ago that I’d make a dreadful lesbian.

I think it has something to do with beauty being the ultimate achievement of the Western woman – whether we want to admit it or not, it is the thing that is prized above all other things.

“Nobody objects to a woman being a good writer or sculptor or geneticist if at the same time she manages to be a good wife, good mother, good-looking, good-tempered, well-groomed, and unaggressive.”

– Leslie M. McIntyre

Which is what I was trying to relay to this poor, trembling Chihuahua of a girl: “In my culture, you’re a success! In my culture, you win! In my culture, any of your failures would be forgiven instantaneously!”

It was then that the little Chihuahua proceeded to say something that transformed her into a bulldog before my very eyes.

In response to my suggestion that she was missing out on a lucrative modeling career in, say, Poland, she stared me dead in the eye and quipped “I have no interest in this.”

She went on to tell me that she was studying to be an accountant, but I didn’t hear much of what she said. My mind was racing. She didn’t care that she was beautiful. She didn’t care that I thought she was beautiful. She didn’t have any interest in earning money because of her beauty.

Every cell in her body spun in its place, keeping time with the spinning of the earth and the stars, just as mine did.

And yet her entire view of herself and the world was an inverse of mine. She may have been imprisoned by poverty, limited by the traditions and educational system in her country, forced to perform familial roles that she’d never think to question.

But as she grows older, as her beauty fades, she will allow it to pass like a friend into the foyer of her home. Her face, her body did not define her self in any way.

And it was surely that confidence, that sense of self, that rejection of ideals that made her truly beautiful in the first place.

Wow. I almost hope that if Deepak the Good has a girlfriend, it’s her.

This post is an excerpt from My Week With Deepak: A memoir of Nepal, available February 2015 from THP Publishing. To pre-order your copy, click here!

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Quick+Dirty Takeaway

The parallel universe that exists in the quietest chamber of your heart, buried deep beneath years of conditioning and Cosmo magazine covers, isn't a figment of your imagination.

There is a place where it really doesn't matter what you look like. And not just in a lip-service, that's-what-I'm-supposed-to-believe kind of why.

In an honest way. In way that's impossibly free. In a way that's truly beautiful.

Want to dig deeper? Go for it!

4 comments on “The Most Beautiful Girl in Nepal

  1. Paul Latta

    I am of the opinion that in Western culture Beauty does what it pleases — Intelligence does what it must. But as rocker Robert Palmer used to sing: “A pretty face, don’t mean a pretty heart.”

    Praise the beautiful spirit. A woman’s looks may fade, but her beautiful inner self will never age.

    Though the real beauty is what’s inside the robin’s egg, there’s nothing wrong with admiring how pretty is the shell.

    Your words reflect how lovely you are both inside and out. Thanks for sharing your journey.

    Reply
    1. Rebekah Voss Post author

      Paul, I just love this comment because it does three things all at once: it recognizes the power of physical beauty in our culture, it posits that perhaps that is not the type of beauty that should be valued the most, and it still leaves room to appreciate physical beauty when one encounters it.

      It’s tempting to say “the way I look doesn’t matter” but until it truly doesn’t, it does. And that’s ok. And even wonderful. What I learned from this girl, and from my time in Asia so far, is that a person’s appearance is just one aspect of them – it might be nice to look at or not, but it’s not who they are.

      That’s why people, especially in Vietnam, tease each other so openly about being overweight or too thin or having a weird nose. Because the physical attributes are detached from the human who has them – a husband can tease his wife for being chubby and she laughs about it because she doesn’t identify with her body as fully as we do in the West. She HAS a body, but she is not her body.

      Thank for you for the kind words. Had I a refrigerator I’d print them out and put them up with a sparkly magnet of some sort. (:

      Reply
  2. Ville Valtonen

    Hi,

    I’ve been digging through sites where people who refuse to accept the path paved for us by the society share their thoughts. So I discovered you’re site by accident. I like the way you think and your positivity. Keep it up!

    It’s sad that our looks have such a high impact on many aspects of life. It’s sad because many of the few lucky (fortunately not all) have grown to be complete aholes. And everything just because they got the grand price in the gigantic draw also known as human reproduction. People who are beautiful both externally and internally are unfortunately difficult to come by…

    Reply
  3. Rebekah Voss Post author

    Thanks so much for your comments, Ville, and what an interesting topic indeed? It seems to be a paradox of humanity – we desire to be beautiful, glorify the beautiful, hate and resent the beautiful. We hate celebrities but keep buying the magazines. Such a strange love/hate relationship with beauty and its many definitions. The girl this post is about was one of the rare examples of both – her exterior was definitely a reflection of the beauty inside.
    Rebekah Voss recently posted…Solo Travel Challenge: How to eat alone without feeling awkwardMy Profile

    Reply

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