Monday, August 4, 2014

A POST ABOUT BEAUTY



"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. 

Growing up, I don't remember my mom ever complaining about getting wrinkles. Now, she had insecurities with her appearance, but she didn't focus on it so much, and honestly, other than joking she had a big bottom or "road maps" on her legs, she very rarely spoke of her physical appearance. She was and is a great example of aging with confidence. I want to be that for my girls. I want to be that for my boys! Not only that, but I want to expand my ideals of beauty and pass on that perspective to my children as well. There is too much beauty to be seen in unexpected places and people for us to all be chasing after one specific ideal. Do I chase it? Yep. Do I like to feel attractive? Yep. Do I look in the mirror less than I did 10 years ago? Yep. Am I going to completely divorce myself from the idea of beauty? Nope. I know me. I like beautiful things. And beauty should be appreciated. But exalted? Idolized? Coveted? I don't want that for myself. I don't want that for my kids. I don't want that for anyone.

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.


23 comments:

  1. Love this! Pretty is as pretty does and you do a great job :)

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  2. Thank you for this. In the past couple of years I've stopped wearing makeup and most days I leave the house without using any hair-styling appliances. It wasn't a conscious decision - it just happened. A few people asked me if I was sick. Ha. At first I worried that maybe I was depressed or "letting myself go" but I don't think that's it at all. I think you are absolutely correct - figuring out our purpose in life is a much better use of our time. And it certainly doesn't hurt to have spouses who don't hold us to unrealistic standards!

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    1. I feel ya! Finding time to do your hair, heck, even take a shower, is tough with kids. I may never feel put together again. And that's okay. Thanks for reading!

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  3. Thanks, Hannah. I needed this today. I might have just had the feeling of being invisible this last week, and it was completely in regards to looks. I chopped off all my hair, so I'm not invisible for a week or so ;) You are right on, sister. And I feel qualified to say this, since I've seen your real face and photoshopped face for many years now...I like the freckles.

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    1. You're kind. I don't have any kind of hang up about my freckles. I actually like them and typically hated how I ended up looking in photos. Tom was looking at these pics in this post and didn't even acknowledge the one on the left as me. Ha! Can't wait to see your hair!

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  4. Great post! I agree that most people don't care. I don't care a wit about anyone else but I sure think they care about me. Yes I know that is dumb and not even logical but my brain tells me that all the time. This summer I have left my scale at home as we stay at the lake. I remember that my body is strong and my little boy thinks I am the most beautiful woman alive. It is enough.

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    1. Oh, it is a cardinal rule that I never weigh myself! Good for you! I hope you and your family have a lovely time at the lake, and thanks for reading and joining the conversation!!

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  5. Wow, Hannah- what a beautiful post! I loved what you wrote about how beauty is sold to us versus seeking truth and beauty in places it's often forgotten. And the part about working on your perception of beauty and being noticed for things other than physical things (the abs! lol.) Thank you so much for writing this, I definitely needed to read it.

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    1. Hey, thanks, Madelyn! I've been thinking about the issue for awhile now. Apparently so have many others! Thank you so much for reading and for getting in on the conversation!

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  6. Agreed beauty is important but beauty isn't everything. I am learning the balance of maintaining my beauty without letting my self go too long without highlights or a hair cut. (I dislike my natural hair color) Because I notice when I do let myself go it's just harder to catch up. It is definitely a balancing act. And it's definitely not about trying to be somebody else's kind of beautiful but your own kind of beautiful. For me that is the hardest part!

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    1. There are those who believe one should abandon all focus on things of a superficial nature. I'm not in that camp. I certainly want to take care of myself and be proud of myself. I want my family to be proud of me. I don't want to look like a slob. But looking like a slob and looking my age are TOTALLY different! It is a balance, like you said. It's important but not most important. And at the end of the day, at the end of life, it really, probably, carries significantly less importance than I give it. Thanks so much for reading and for commenting!!

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  7. From another perspective, the idea of becoming invisible when out with your beautiful 16 yr old daughter. gone are the days of just being known as "B"'s mom at any school function; today, i walk in to the mall with my daughter, feeling frumpy as i catch my reflection in the door, and then realize i am practically non-existent when next to her. disturbing, but also sort of freeing. as said above, though, i don't think she ever thinks of me as embarrasing, i'm "mom". i realize that as a child and early teen, i never thought of how my mom looked

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    1. My daughter is 11 and I'm already starting to see this happen! It's kinda nice, no? Our focus should shift from ourselves to our kids anyway. I mean, not entirely, but somewhat. I think it's a matter of realizing and accepting that there are different stages of life. The struggle for most women (myself included) is accepting the different stages and not holding on to yesterday's. And I'm with you, my mom was just "mom". And I want to be just "mom" too. I'm not trying to be competition! Couldn't if I tried ;) Thanks for reading and for joining in on the conversation! I hope you'll come back!!

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  8. I have noticed feeling alot more comfortable in my own skin now that I am a mid thirties mom. Gone are the high expectations of beauty for young girls. I am no longer a young girl trying to feel beautiful in low cut jeans and painfully high heeled shoes. I no longer have the young girl insecurities. As a woman, the expectation of beauty for me is different. I no longer feel like I am expected to look 'hot'. I am a momma in my boyfriend jeans, sensible flats, and loose fitting tops. I don't think I have let myself go. But I have reached the point in life where my clothes don't require constant tummy sucking in and careful steps as to not twist an ankle. And thank goodness cause I have two kids to keep up with. And they run fast. :) Now my challenge is to raise my daughter to know that beauty is about character and that it has nothing to do with how one looks in low cut jeans. Great post, Hannah.

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  9. I love this. So powerfully true and well written.

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    1. Thank you so very much! Thanks for taking the time to read!

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  10. Love this post and needed to read it! Thanks!

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    1. Thanks, Daphne! I think it's something that is on a lot of our minds.

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  11. Thanks for the fabulous post! I'm nearing my 30th birthday and definitely feeling this way.

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  12. Thank you for sharing this with all of us Hannah!!
    It has really been on my mind a lot lately, not feeling attractive anymore that is. Yes things have changed and they will continue to change throughout life. But there is beauty in all stages of our life, some of us need to remember that instead of focusing on what was and trying to keep it or get it back. I know I do.

    Thank you again. :)

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