Let me make a confession right up front. I have a little streak of vanity.
Put a nicer way, I take pride in my appearance. I never leave the house without some makeup and I practice a morning ritual of styling my hair. I file my nails and moisturize my skin. I shave and tweeze and primp. I check myself in the mirror before heading out into the world. I’ve always been that way and suspect I always will.
A streak of vanity? Guilty as charged. Foolishly attempting to live up to the narrow standard of beauty set by our culture? Not on your life. Not when I was 20 years old, and certainly not now that I am 50.
Do you ever get the feeling that somewhere out there is a mold of what a woman should look like… and that what you see in the mirror bears no resemblance to that mold? However our standards of beauty have come together, I’m not falling for it.
The lure of beauty is strong, and we’ve got ample tools at our disposal to achieve it. Some even jeopardize our health. Tanning beds, teeth whiteners, Botox® injections, nose jobs, facelifts, tummy tucks, liposuction, breast augmentation, self-starvation, expensive designer clothing… it boggles the mind.
What is it that we hope to achieve by worshiping at this altar of physical beauty? Perhaps self-esteem… attention… happiness… success? There are far better ways to achieve those.
Physical beauty, even the ultimate shining example of it, changes as we age. Time and gravity serve no master. They do what they do regardless of how much we are willing to suffer to slow them down.
In the end, it’s all about you. YOU — the human being who resides within that slightly less than perfect and continually aging body. Then again, who gets to decide what is perfect? Nobody but you.
Next: Taking a good, long look in the mirror.
Every morning I spend a few minutes looking at my reflection in the mirror. Sometimes I like what I see, other times not so much.
I’m 50 years old and I have multiple sclerosis. There are great fluctuations in my health status and, therefore my appearance. Sometimes there is a spring in my step, sometimes I need to use a cane, sometimes even the cane is not enough; sometimes I am physically unable to complete my morning beauty routine; sometimes I could pass for 10 years younger, sometimes 10 years older.
I’m not a classic beauty. I don’t think of myself as pretty and no one has ever accused me of being cute. Still, I can honestly say that I am an attractive woman — and I’m not even going to say, “for my age.” I’ve never caused anyone to scurry away in horror. I look just the way I’m supposed to look. I look like me.
I view myself in much the same manner one would view a piece of fine art. If I were to concentrate on nothing but the individual parts that make up the whole, I could make quite a list of the flaws. My nose is too big, my skin is too pale, and my thighs have lost their former firmness. My weight is just right for my height, but I take only a smidgeon of credit for a healthy lifestyle and thank my ancestors for their genetic gift.
I know that I am not alone in my resistance to the standards and gruesome hard work of acceptable beauty. There are others – many others — who believe as I do.
We ask ourselves why other women continue to subject themselves to torture. Is it peer pressure? Is it for the men? I think a lot of men are as perplexed by it all as I am. Do the insecurities of adolescence remain with us forever? Is it because “they” say we should? That’s the worst reason of all. Who the hell are “they” anyway?
We must come to terms with our inner beauty — our intelligence; our sense of humor; our wild and crazy and passionate selves.
Young women, please take note. Life is an accumulation of our experiences. I’ve lived the good, the bad, the ugly, and even the ridiculous. Hopefully, there’s a lot more to come. It all shows in my face, in my mannerisms, and in the way I carry myself.
Rather than attempt to cover my tracks, I prefer to embrace all those experiences that got me here. Physical beauty is fleeting. I primp, but the mold I use is purely my own. I’m satisfied with that.
Photo: copyright PhotoXpress.com