The First Gift Given

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It wasn’t until the movie “10” came out in 1979 that the previously fairly subtle system of men rating women’s looks by assigning them a number from one to 10 was blown completely out of the water. “10” changed all that and suddenly even women were describing themselves as a number.

Very few, if any, made it to Bo Derek’s status–and I suspect most women never wanted Dudley Moore obsessing over them–but the majority of women of that era were comfortable calling themselves a five or a six on an average day with an upgrade to a seven, possibly an eight, when the stops were really pulled out.

Most of the time I felt average in the looks department or a millimeter above, especially when I had just gotten my hair cut or was wearing an especially deceptive outfit that took off ten pounds below the waist and added a few inches above it. I never felt the need to wear a bag over my head although I never had the confidence to run along the beach in a maillot and corn rows either.

For many years I was too wrapped up in my kids and my life to give a whole lot of thought to how I looked and the words “low maintenance” described my approach to beauty perfectly. If I remembered to slap on some moisturizer before bed, great. If not, no big deal since I was sure all the Twinkies I’d consumed over my lifetime were going to preserve my youth well into my nineties.

It wasn’t until recently when I had my picture taken for a work I.D. that I realized something that most likely had been apparent to the rest of the world for quite some time: I had peaked. About twenty years ago. The woman in the I.D. picture looked tired and definitely middle aged and no amount of moisturizer or hair styling or skinny jeans was going to change that fact. As a matter of fact, the whole picture had a smudged, almost erased quality to it, as if it had been sitting in the bottom of my purse for a few decades. Looking at it, that’s exactly how I felt. Faintly erased, as if I didn’t quite exist anymore. The Youth Train had left the station and I was no longer on it.

For a few days I was a little bothered by the fact that I was no longer the sweet young thing I thought I was. For those few days I tried a little harder to dress younger, brighter and tighter. I took pains with my hair and put extra eyeliner around my puffy eyes. I thought I was succeeding in my quest for a youthful glow until one of my new co-workers casually asked me a question that told me I was fooling no one but myself.

“I don’t suppose you know what Facebook is, do you?” she asked, not at all maliciously but with the bluntness of a twenty-five year old who has yet to find her first grey hair.

That simple questioned opened my weary eyes once and for all. Although I’m well acquainted with Facebook and have a passing flirtation with Twitter, to my co-worker I am Over the Hill and as old as Methuselah’s mother. It stung for a few seconds before a revolutionary thought crawled into my head: Who really cares?

The best thing of all is that the answer to that question is absolutely no one. My family loves me not for my no longer shiny hair and once trim thighs but because I’m the wife and the mom. They love me for the part of me that will never change even after my teeth fall out. They love me even when I’m not very lovable.

There’s a huge relief in letting go of vanity. Sure I want to look neat and groomed and smell good but long lashes and a smooth decollete? Not going to happen. And that’s just fine since the time, even though it was always minimal, I spent on primping can now be spent on other more pleasurable pursuits like reading and walking the dog. Being with my husband, kids and friends. Enjoying the moment, not obsessing over the wrinkle.

Someone once said that beauty is the first gift given and the first one taken away. I agree but only the outside beauty. The real beauty, the stuff inside that all of us have, lasts a lifetime.

 

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