Our last assignment was to read out a composition that we had begun during class and then fine-tuned during our own time. I chose to take an abstract noun and give it a personal definition, much like C.S Lewis did with the word 'Pride' in his book 'Mere Christianity.' I chose one of my favorite words, 'elegance.'
The walls were reverberating with the gong of incessant chatter. Everywhere your eyes darted there were clusters of sophisticates competing for the conversational spotlight, and there wasn’t a square space in the room that was void of diamonds or Dulce and Gabana. But, all it took was one of her feet to touch down in the room, and every mouth slammed shut while every neck strained to catch a glimpse of elegance. Was it her dress? Surely not, it barely cost more than twenty dollars. Was it her face? No, It couldn’t be, there were lines around her mouth and on her forehead that told tales of a life joyfully spent. Maybe it was her physique? Definitely not, her form boasted to the world that she had mothered many children. What then, was the origin of elegance?
It lay somewhere in the way that she graciously formed pictures with her hands as she spoke and exposed a gorgeously crooked smile when she threw her head back and laughed. It was in the way she had made herself comfortably at home within her own skin and gave others the liberty to do the same in theirs. Elegance never takes herself too seriously, nor does she strive to reflect her name any more than the morning sun strives to make it’s way over the mountains. She is constant. She effortlessly exudes timeless grace as if it is the substance in which she daily bathes.
Elegance is not the catwalk queen with legs that stretch from now until next Tuesday. Nor is it the familiar flawless face on the cover of this week’s Vogue proudly brought to you by botox and photoshop. The pioneer of fashion herself, Coco Chanel even once uttered, “elegance does not consist of putting on a new dress.”
With the definition of elegance vaguely and arbitrarily understood, in my attempt at defining the indefinable, I would call it timeless tastefulness and classic confidence. However, not the kind that begs to be noticed but rather because it is rarely seen, it is seldom overlooked. It is more than conduct. It is a state of being. It is as much a part of someone as an ear or an eye, and they can no more help being elegant than a cherry tree can help bearing blossoms in spring. Elegance is the mother of beauty, and it delights in taking hold of something ordinary and making it extraordinary.
My definition of elegance comes from where I seek to find it. Where do I see elegance? I see it in the “V” shaped formation the birds make as they disappear into the sunset and in the twirl of a little girl’s dress as she dances before daddy. I see it in the pearl on a necklace of an elderly woman who never lost the twinkle of the twenties and in the eyes of a mother that saves the world one band aid at a time whilst still managing to have dinner on the table by six.
Like rays of light streaming through a blanket of clouds, elegance is the element of another world that every once in a while creeps into ours, permitting us to capture a blink of heaven.