beautiful beloved

To be beautiful

6:00:00 AMKaitlin Fellrath

“To be, or not to be - that is the question.”

In Shakespeare’s Hamlet, the Prince of Denmark contemplates the difference between the suffering that accompanies this life and the prospect of eternal suffering after death. He ponders the meaning of being, the difference between existence and nonexistence. Unlike Hamlet, my father has not been murdered by my uncle, who then married my mother. Even then, Hamlet’s existential question is universally applicable. To be, or not to be.

RecentIy, I reflected on this question of the nature of being. My reflection began because of a compliment I overheard in the hallway at my university. A man turned to a woman who was clearly his significant other and told her, “You look beautiful.” She accepted the compliment with gratitude and then walked with him down the hall. I am sure many of us have heard this same conversation - or something similar - many times. 

You look beautiful.

Although I have heard the phrase countless times, for some reason, this time it struck a chord. “You look beautiful.” The man who offered this compliment to his girlfriend most likely did not think twice about the words he chose.  But being the bystander, I had a different perspective.

You look beautiful.

This three-word declarative sentence has “you” as its subject, directing the rest of the sentence toward its intended recipient, the girlfriend. The predicate of the sentence, its verb, is the word “look.”

It was this word that gave me pause.  What does it mean to look beautiful? 

According to the dictionary, the word "look" means "to appear or seem to the eye to possess a certain attitude." When the man affirmed his girlfriend, assuredly, he did not intend to tell her that she only seemed or appeared beautiful. He meant something more.  

I suggest that the man should instead choose his words with more precision. The beauty of the person should not be skin deep.  It is not a mere facade, but something that expresses a quality of being.  Is this just a needless debate over mere semantics?

No, because words matter.

We use them to express our emotions and opinions that would otherwise remain within us. We use them to acknowledge our place in reality. The way we choose our words and the intentionality with which we direct them at others also matters.

Instead of telling his girlfriend, “You look beautiful,” the man should have told her, “You are beautiful.” He would acknowledge that her beauty touches her whole person, rather than just her outward appearance. He would acknowledge that she was beautiful, not simply to him and at the present moment, but in a universal and timeless sense. How much more adequate that is to describe the beauty of one’s beloved.

You are beautiful.


 Kaitlin Fellrath   

I have a passion for classical literature, history and politics and I hope to pursue an academic career in international affairs. I write best while sipping coffee, listening to beautiful music and cuddling my cats. 



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