There was no time for a blow dryer. For the past few weeks, my hair has been in braids anyway.
The hours of sorting, packing and otherwise running errands for my upcoming move from Ashland to Austin left me, most days, in desperate need of a hot, soapy shower. My look had definitely morphed to Grandma Clampett, sans the shotgun.
While taking a break one afternoon from the physical and mental gymnastics that only a cross-country move can produce, I took the time to read an article about a 58-year-old actress who was ‘rockin’’ a swimsuit.
Gag. Yes, she looked pretty, and yes, in my fragrant and unkempt state, I was a little jealous. But then I remembered that even at 30, I never looked that good in a swimsuit.
Advertising feeds us a steady diet of what physical beauty is supposed to look like. As I finished the article, I found myself wanting to say to the actress staring up from the glossy pages: “Sure, you look good in a swimsuit, but can you carry 60 full banker’s boxes down from your attic by yourself? ‘Cause I just did!”
How our bodies look to anyone else hinges on relative opinion. Beauty is so much more than how we look. Showing up for myself and others is beautiful. Health is beautiful. Gratitude is beautiful.
Here in the U.S., we talk a good game of diversity, but too often, that diversity is not reflected in our advertising. Quite unfortunately, advertising is a type of cultural mirror that sends the message we’re not firm or thin enough to be worthy of advertising to.
Instead, the 40-something model is paraded around in the swim dress that we want to buy, and, for most of us, our bodies stopped looking like that a few decades ago.
Beauty is not airbrushed. The size of your thighs is not a measure of your worth. What is beautiful about age and aging is an acceptance of the realization that this body is temporal, and the soul is eternal.
Wrinkles are like an album of where we’ve been. They tell a story. Crinkles around the eyes show how much you’ve smiled in life. Hands with veins that look like gnarled roots have played a musical instrument, have washed a thousand dishes, have applauded friends and knit sweaters.
These are the markings of a life well-lived, a life well-loved. We belong to the tribe of the heart now.
Eyes are the windows of the soul. It’s the light that shines from them, not the eyeliner around them, that creates beauty. A smile is beautiful at any age. Being honest and kind with yourself is beautiful. The well-appointed woman wears gratitude like a classic black dress – always perfect, regardless of the occasion.
When I am finished with this move from Oregon to Texas, I’m sure that I will look a little ragged around the edges. I intend to pull on my swim dress and head up to the neighborhood pool.
I will feel the joy of water and sun and warm air and won’t care if my skin is saggy, or that a pronounced vein is climbing like a vine up my right leg.
At the end of the day, I think I’d rather be remembered for my courage, fierce independence and the occasional great hat. When my life is over, I hope I’m remembered for the love that I gave. Now that’s beautiful.
What makes you beautiful in your own eyes? And what makes other women beautiful to you? What qualities take beauty out of the superficial? Let’s all share our stories of beauty in courage, independence and self-respect.
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