Have you ever heard of “gilding the lily?” It’s an expression for taking something that’s perfect to begin with and embellishing it unnecessarily. “Kinda like sprinkling glitter on daisies?” you may ask, and I may answer, “Precisely.” In fact, this phrase came to mind the other day at the supermarket when I spied bouquets of flowers that had been dyed and dusted with glitter. I was innocently perusing the flower aisle in search of an aromatic lily fix, as I’m known to do on a semi-weekly basis, when these bedazzled flora blinded me; if this wasn’t gilding the lily, I didn’t know what was. Or, so I thought…
The more I considered it, I realized that I encounter numerous gilded lilies every day in the form of women with too much plastic surgery, antebellum houses with McMansion additions, and artists who conform to commercial fads. To make matters worse, we are a culture that often encourages this kind of natural-beauty demolition, so I’d hardly say the poor supermarket florist is to blame for gilding his daisies. He’s merely responding to demand.
It’s no secret that our society is broken in terms of its standards of beauty, but it sometimes takes Technicolored petals to drive this point home. I, for one, could benefit from a glittery reminder like this every time I scrutinize myself in the mirror or edit the same passage of my writing 50 times, and I have a hunch I’m not alone. Recognizing beauty in our own bodies or creative works can be tricky, but we can start by simply questioning our inclinations to adorn things. Whether you are baking cookies, creating a bad-ass pie chart or sugar-coating your lips for a date this week, I challenge you to ask yourself whether simple might be sweetest. If we keep asking ourselves this question, we can slowly save our work, bodies, bellies and all the dasies of this world from too much glitter. To get you inspired, I’ll leave you with a little Shakespeare on this Tuesday evening…
To gild refined gold, to paint the lily,
To throw a perfume on the violet,
To smooth the ice, or add another hue
Unto the rainbow, or with taper-light
To seek the beauteous eye of heaven to garnish,
Is wasteful and ridiculous excess.
– Shakespeare’s “King John”