Forgive me bloggers, it’s been nearly two years since my last post.
I had started out 2012 planning to let go of ideas, things, obligations that were somehow holding me back, keeping me down. Clearly, I didn’t let go of much in 2012. In fact, if our house was the measure for letting go, you would see I accomplished the exact opposite — barely a square foot of space is free of clutter. So in the spirit that I approach most ambitions, instead of admitting failure, I’m extending the deadline: It is the decade of letting go.
And what better of a decade? I’m in my fifties, that decade when women go through the hushed biological earthquake euphemistically known by our mothers as “the change.” Today, I let go of gorgeousness.
A few years ago, a forum to which I belonged discovered a site that takes your scanned photo and matches your face with that of a celebrity. Mine turned up as Brigitte Bardot on what must have been her worst day, scowling, maybe hung over, half her face hidden by disheveled hair, and not looking one iota like her gorgeous self. I took it as a high compliment.
Lots of girls grow up believing they are ugly and carry this perception into adulthood. We could blame the media for this but it is also simply the (in)attention of men to those of us who are not gorgeous. Not all men, mind you. If that were the case, I would never have had a date. But if you’ve ever stood next to a gorgeous woman in a crowded bar, you know what I mean. She is a magnet and collects the gazes of men across the room, and suddenly you find yourself edged out to the wall. And it dawns on you what it means to be a wall flower–not in that waiting-for-someone-to-pick-me kind of way–but literally pressed to the wall, wilting.
As we move into middle age, into menopause and beyond, we are told to embrace our aging bodies. Although this encouragement is framed as finding our beauty within, of learning to love ourselves for who we are–an attitude necessary for survival, I’ll concede–I know what the real message is: it is time to give up the dream of gorgeousness. Youth is in the rearview mirror.
Recognizing the aging woman before me is painful. That’s the secret we rarely talk about: the sorrowful folds beneath the chin, the pillowing eyelids, the weight of gravity are devastating. The changes happened over several years but one day I looked in the mirror and no longer recognized myself. I became my mother. I am the flower pressed to the wall. Soon I will be invisible. Men look past me. Although I never achieved the beauty of a film star in my youth, I can suddenly empathize with Norma Desmond, desperate to undergo beauty treatments. I started wearing makeup on a daily basis for the first time in my late 40s. What I would give for a facelift!
And this is where I let go of gorgeousness. The outside of me, this precarious collection of skin and bone, was always insecure, impeding me from dancing madly, smiling gleefully, giving over to spontaneity and joy, fearful that I would misstep, expose myself to some imagined humiliation, not know how to be. Yes, it has served me well in getting from point A to point B, drew compliments of “cute,” was once muscular and fit, found some athletic bounce. But my inner life was always more reliable.
I have no intention of suddenly wearing purple or joining a club of women who wear special hats. Nor do I intend to save every penny for a chin tuck. I will work with what I have. I will find beauty within. This is what women mean when they say their lives began in their 50s: they no longer have to try so damn hard to be gorgeous–their beauty has always been in the flicker of an eyelash, at the tip of a finger, along the smallest wisp of a curl.