"Besides, it happens fast for some people and slow for some, accidents or gravity, but we all end up mutilated. Most women know this feeling of being more and more invisible everyday." -Chuck Palahnuik, from his book Invisible Monsters
Good quote. I love it actually. I've never read this book, but this is a good little bit of truth. This concept of women becoming more and more invisible as we age is spot on. Is it not, ladies? As I get older, I find myself face to face with beautiful women who are making every effort to remain "beautiful", to hold on to their youth, to be seen. Botox, plastic surgery, fake tans, eyelash extensions, manicures, teeth whitening, cellulite creams, wrinkle creams, hair dye; a $160 billion-a-year global industry (source: the economist).
I certainly am not judging anyone who partakes in the above. I'm wearing whitening strips as I type this actually. If you are a woman and claim to never having tried any of these beauty trends or others, I'd venture to say you are lying. It ain't easy being a woman. Never has been, in fact. Our world's obsession with conventional beauty and youth is not a new thing. Women in the middle ages would use the urine from young boys to try and erase their freckles (source). Right now some of you are wondering if that might work and are even possibly considering trying it. I know you. I know me.
Being face to face with my own new wrinkles and weird body stuff, and watching my fellow ladies claw and fight to remain "visible" has me thinking a lot about our concept of beauty these days. And I think this quote from Invisible Monsters really hit me because, through all of my consideration of beauty, I keep landing at this idea: No one cares what you look like. No one cares if you have wrinkles on your face or if you look your age. NOBODY CARES! Think about it. Do you really care if your friends have wrinkles? Do you really care if they aren't a size 4? No? Me either. Aside from your spouse, and I fortunately have a spouse who doesn't bombard me with unrealistic expectations, nobody really cares. Being invisible can be freeing!
Nobody caring how you look is drastically different than being invisible, however. If our entire self-worth is in our appearance, then, yes, as our looks change, we won't feel free but will feel completely invisible, unnoticed, unseen.
For a few years of my life, my looks actually paid the bills. I've been with a modeling agency and have done local work for most of my adult life. While I am incredibly grateful to have had that opportunity, to have been able to pay the bills, when it came to self-esteem, modeling kinda sucked. When you are the subject of a photo, everybody cares about how you look. Your boobs are too small so you gotta stick some padding in there so you look "right" for the photo. Don't have an ample enough back side? They have padded undies for that. I wish I were joking. At the age of 25 I was given some cream for the puffiness under my eyes, encouraged to take it home and try it out. I would see edited photos of myself that looked nothing like me. In reality, I have a face full of freckles, and oddly enough, in the edited beauty shots I would appear to have this flawless, milky skin. So then I'm left feeling that it's apparently a bad thing to have a face full of freckles, something I'd always been fine with before being the subject of the "perfect shot." Then I'm resorting to dousing my face in the urine of young boys. No, I never really did that, but you get the point. As you can observe from the above images, what you see in magazines is far from reality.
I worked with traditionally beautiful women from all over the U.S. who were the most insecure ladies I'd ever met. I watched them get older and fight for their place amongst the new crop of younger desirables. I hated it, the cesspool of insecurity, and I, too, typically left jobs feeling worse about myself. I left wishing to be invisible.
I am aware it's pretty irritating to hear about what a burden it is to be beautiful. It's like getting a lecture on hard work from someone who was born on third base. I get it. But it can be an interesting perspective, someone who was visible, becoming more and more invisible. I feel it - the invisibility. But so far I don't hate it. In fact, it's nice that nobody cares what I look like. So far, I'm happy to let someone else take that spotlight. I'm happy that I don't feel the pressure to be a size 0 or 2. And I recognize this is going to get harder. I recognize that it's much easier for a 33 year old to say these things than it is a 43 year old or 53 year old. And I've definitely felt more beautiful in my life than I do right now. But with growing invisibility, with the realization that no one cares how I look, comes a stronger focus on what I do, on who I am, on my true purpose, on what matters in this brief life. I'm not invisible. The focus has merely shifted.
Truth is, we shouldn't become invisible as we age. Nobody caring how we look isn't the same as being invisible. Being completely invisible would be a terrible feeling. We should be seen and recognized, but for things that last longer than 10 or 15 years. We should be seen for our character. Our spiritual depth should overshadow the depth of our wrinkles. I think that's what sucks about physical beauty. Too often it's where we find our worth. The challenge is to look beyond the here and now, beyond the beauty that is sold to us, and search for truth and beauty in places it's often forgotten and ignored. And it is certainly a challenge. It's a challenge because our culture tends to worship an unreal and unattainable ideal of beauty. It wants to see plump and beautiful breasts in bikinis rather than have to witness saggy milk bags feeding babies. Which is true beauty? The Photoshop-enhanced sex toys or the breasts giving life, doing what they were made to do? I can get really up in arms about this issue so I'm going to now digress.
We all want to be "beautiful." We've all done stuff to feel more beautiful, whether it be buying new clothes, getting our hair done, or putting pee on our faces. Truth is, few is exempt from the enticing $160 billion industry that is beauty. And, again, no judgment. I'm not saying it's wrong. I'm merely trying to say, and I repeat, TRYING, that I am working to keep it all in balance. I am working on my perception of beauty. I am working to be noticed for things other than my great abs. (I couldn't think of something more absurd to mention than my abs since my abs are buried in stretched out baby mush.)
The concept of beauty is a broad and deep one, an issue that requires more than I can give it in a petty blog post. Smarter folks have been discussing it since the beginning of time, and I know nothing I've said is original or new, but it's my first time here, in this time of life, so I'm feeling these things for the first time. I'm feeling more and more invisible, yet more and more truly seen. Now if you will excuse me, I need to remove these whitening strips.