I grew up with a beautiful mother. KABLAMMO, man, she was insanely gorgeous. Like Hollywood starlet gorgeous. Like men might weep in her presence gorgeous. Like strangers would compare her to Jackie Kennedy and Audrey Hepburn gorgeous. Gorgeous. Except, she never really thought so.
You see, she grew up hearing she was skinny and had bad teeth. It was a different era, pre-war/depression America. Plump was where it was at beautywise, as it denoted status and enough wealth to have an abundance of food, and my Mom was never plump. She was naturally thin and couldn’t keep weight on until her middle age set in. Ha! None of her daughters were blessed with that genetic trait.
Once or twice my Mom and I talked about the poor self esteem she had related to her looks. It was painful for her to talk about, this mindset that had its roots in her childhood, and so she didn’t. My Grandmother is both revered and beloved in our family, too, so speaking the truth, that she had unkind words for her youngest daughter at times, is not something my Mom wanted to dwell on or publicize. Truth be told, I feel a bit like I’m talking out of school even writing these words.
But my Mom’s story is directly related to my story, just as my Grandmother’s is, too. It’s called “motherlines,” and with most things related to womanhood, our mothers impact us like few others.
I, too, grew up with poor self-esteem related to my looks. Mine was nothing related to anything I heard from my folks. To the contrary, my Mom would often tell me I was pretty. Well, in college she would encourage me to wear more blush and unbutton a button or two at my collar, but she was never ever unkind in any way.
I was such a squirrel of a girl, that my natural inclination was always to cover, withdraw, blend into the background. That, I think, is something my Mom and I had in common.
Another thing my Mom and I often discussed was that 30 was her hardest birthday. She was fairly convinced in 1964, the year she turned 30, that it was all downhill from there. She described a sad transition into her third decade that I found hard to relate to. When I turned 30 I was working at a job I loved where I was recognized and respected. I was not yet engaged, but in love with the man who I would go on to marry. The world was my oyster, you know?
Honestly, I had a lot of time to make up for. It wasn’t until my mid-20s that my poor self-esteem improved. At 30, I was just getting started.
At 44, I no longer feel that way, but, with a qualified “for the most part,” I like what I see when I look in the mirror.
There is an endless litany of women who complain about their looks on this here Internet. Women think nothing of disparaging their thighs, their hair, their waists, their unwanted hair, their everything, in excruciating detail.
Let’s stop doing that, okay? Let’s have a collective call for enough!
At 44, I look as good as I will ever look for the rest of my life.
My hair is enviable. My eyes and lips are full and expressive. My skin is well cared for from years of fleeing the sun and moisturizing — something my Mom taught me was important. The breasts are top notch and still perky. The view from behind, my husband says, is still enjoyable. I’ve got good style and know the value of a scarf tied just so or what a difference a well plucked eyebrow can make.
Is this conceited of me to say, or empowered?
If I were younger, I might care what you thought, but now, at 44, I don’t quite give a fig what you think, because I know the truth. It’s important to like how you look. And if you don’t, well, for the love of guacamole, change it, but don’t complain about it online.
The truth is, I work a bit to like the way I look. Moisturizer and hats and sunglasses are some of my best friends. And I now sit in a chair for three hours four times a year to get the hair color that used to come naturally to me. Not so much anymore. I glance at magazines to see what the youngsters are wearing these days. I dance in my kitchen when the spirit moves me. I don’t and won’t stress about eating a brownie or a cheeseburger. I choose hope. It’s free and not always easy, but damn does it improve most everything in life, including the woman who stares back at me in the mirror.
Because of that, too, I won’t dwell on the things about myself that I wish were different. Suffice it to say one of them rhymes with hate. Or fate. Or wait. (See what I did there?) I know, too, that when the resolve is there, when my dissatisfaction outweighs my pleasure in a neatly plucked brow, I will tackle my flaws, but you won’t hear me bitch and moan about it online, or in person either, for that matter.
I am 44 and I like the way I look. My 12 year old self should be so lucky. And I think my Mom would be proud of me, too.
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