Look For The Jolie Laide In You

Saturdays With Shivani

I have always felt that what you seek, finds it’s way to you. Between the Universe and Google algorithms that’s taken care of. Last Saturday’s thoughts were centred around self-love and apart from chancing on similar write ups through the weekend, courtesy Google and Facebook, some other signs came my way too.

My daughter’s online art class teacher introduced them to Cubism. I’ve added a wiki link for those who may be curious but to briefly describe it— the objects to be drawn are analysed, broken up and reassembled in an abstracted form instead of depicting objects from a single viewpoint, the artist depicts the subject from a multitude of viewpoints to represent the subject in a greater context.

I was sitting nearby, slicing the lotus root on a madoline slicer to make chips and since the speaker was on, I was privy to the class discussion. The teacher was encouraging the kids to be more adventurous and go beyond the conventional perfection as they made their self-portraits. The end result was definitely interesting and eye catching though it was far, far away from the faces that I used to draw when I was my daughter’s age (sharp features, huge eyes, wavy thick hair; the works)

The portrait reminded me of a French expression, jolie laide and I was grateful to the teacher for introducing the meaning of that phrase to young minds even if they didn’t know the word yet. Literally translated,  jolie laide means ‘pretty ugly’ and the dictionary describes it as a woman whose face is attractive despite having ugly features.

As I mulled over the phrase, I stopped for a second to admire the lotus root cross sections that I had laid out for drying. How perfect they seemed in their perforated imperfection?

The universe was exhorting me to look beyond the conventional and fall for the charms of its oddities. I felt it was challenging me to shed the norms that society had spelt out for beauty.  Jolie laide, to me is an acknowledgement of accepting ourselves in all our imperfections and seeing the beauty in it; an extension of self-love. If others cannot see what I see, it’s not an error of judgement on my part but just a difference of preferences. As Justina Chen says— Maybe we don’t have the same definition of beautiful. She goes on to say, jolie laide, that’s what I would choose. Flawed, we’re truly interesting, truly memorable and yes, truly beautiful.

I love my scars and stretch marks because they make me what I am today and they set me apart. Just like my Pinocchio nose, my unequal thumbs, my quirks and my crazy ideas that people often remember me for. What will be left of me if they are taken away? A much paler and a far less interesting version of me. Why would I want to trade that?

Have you tried going through a catalogue of ‘pretty’ pictures? After a point, don’t you feel you’ve seen one and you’ve seen them all. ‘Pretty’ can only hold your attention thus far. It’s the pits and perforations that entice you into digging deeper.

Be your craziest self that you can be. Look for the jolie laide in you; love it and protect it with fervour because that is what makes you, YOU and that is what attracts others too.

Dr. Shivani Salil

One comment

  • Dimpy

    So true; our imperfections make us what we are so we should enjoy life as it is.
    I love reading your articles and look forward every Saturday 🙂 Keep writing and enlightening us with your wisdom.


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