During my university years, someone said “Beauty X brains is a constant.” That is, you (a woman) can’t be both exceedingly beautiful and super intelligent.

While we can get into discussions on what these two terms mean, I can tell the person who made this statement that beauty – at least in the sense of dressing up – requires intelligence. A LOT of it.

Having spent the last twenty minutes of my time trying to force a stud into one of my ear piercings (only to realize I was turning the screw in the opposite direction), I can say with certainty that my beauty-related intelligence is not quite as much as I’d like it to be.

I’ll unabashedly state that I like dressing up. That applies mostly for clothes, sometimes with a minimalist accessory. In my mind, my dressing style is understated, with lots of blacks, but with a dash of hippie, with some floral and bold block prints.

Where I fail is I have less patience. If enough time went into figuring out the best clothes for the occasion, I can’t bring myself to wear the best accessories, shoes, get my hair pretty, wear light makeup, etc. My attention span lasts only for one part of the dressing up – sometimes I force fit that necklace (because I feel like it, not because it flatters the dress), and other times I struggle in wedge shoes because I saw it gathering dust in the shoe rack and felt pangs of guilt.

It’s alright if I were at peace with this. The problem is I sway between frustration at my lack of patience and pride at my ability to not fall into the societal “trap” of “looking good.” This ambivalence is most manifest when I look back at my wedding pictures and feel that I could have looked so much better if I had taken the pains to follow up with the tailor, picked better accessories, and not been afraid to tell the makeup artist that I didn’t like what she was doing to my face.

Which is why I think it takes brains to be good looking, defined purely as what makes you happy – either by societal standards or your own. It needs confidence, an understanding of market trends (if you like going by what’s in), a sense of colour combinations and most importantly, the ability to see into the future – whether this is the best design in which to tailor the fabric and whether this lip colour would look okay given the colour of my skin.

On the other hand, it needs intelligence to show the finger to conventional or trendy ideas of beauty. It takes courage and brains to simply do what you want and feel good in your own skin, the clothes you like and the colours you want on your face and hair.

So while I struggle to figure out which side I’m on (and whether I do need to take sides at all), here’s to the wonderful, intelligent women who have figured out the equation either ways. And to the guy who proudly explained the “beauty x brains” equation, may you please learn the lesson soon.