…and I want to stop caring about that!
We are two weeks away from heading back to sunny (well, actually quite rainy this coming week, according to weather.com) Southern California. I am excited to see my girls, and all our dear friends. However, as I sit here in my cabin by the propane heater with my contented poodles, watching snow flakes fall outside my window, I can’t help reflecting on the past three months here at the Clearing.
Here’s the thing. Moving to Vermont to live at the breathtaking, humbling Clearing, at 61-years-old, has given me plenty of time to ponder my belly-button (which isn’t as easy to spot these days), my increasingly salty, salt-and-pepper locks, the five-plus pounds I’ve gained eating all the yummy meals Eric and I cook each day for each other’s delight, as well as what a waste of time it is to be concerned with looks and aging. As an actress I admire mentions in a blog post on her website, women in our society are conditioned from a very young age to believe that our appearance “matters most of all.” The majority of compliments we women give each other tend to have to do with our looks. It’s true. Even my own dad told me when I was in my early twenties that I should take advantage of my looks to get ahead in life. (Okay, he was biased and thought I was kind of cute.) But what message does that impart? Would anyone ever say that to a man? Unless he wants to be a Haynes underwear model, I am thinking, no. I am not saying we aren’t all influenced on some level by a person’s appearance, and yes, we should eat well, exercise and try to stay in good shape, but every one of us can take exactly zero credit for our genetic lottery.
Yesterday I read on CNN that everyone is obsessed with the fact that Carrie Fisher looks so much older in the latest Star Wars movie than she did in the first one, forty years ago. ??? She IS older! By forty years. Help me here. Read what Ms. Fisher had to say about being asked to loose weight for the film:
“They might as well say ‘get younger,’ because that’s how easy it is. We treat beauty like an accomplishment, and that is insane. Everyone in L.A. says, ‘Oh, you look good,’ and you listen for them to say you’ve lost weight. It’s never ‘How are you?’ or ‘You seem happy!’”
“‘Oh my God, she got so much older,’ Fisher said when asked how the princess-turned-general has changed in the latest Star Wars installment. ‘I tried to stop her, but apparently that includes death, so that didn’t seem like a good solution.'”
I have always admired Carrie Fisher for her intelligence, courage and wit. I think I can forgive her for not figuring out how to look 25 forever.
I am not saying I have let go of caring about my appearance—hardly. How I would love to be like my husband, who doesn’t give a rat’s rear-end what his hair looks like, if his pants are baggy, if he’s bow-legged, or if his eyebrow hairs are unruly. And his confidence only makes him all the more attractive. Unfortunately, I have been deeply conditioned to feel that my appearance is of vital importance—if I’ve gained a couple of pounds or I am having a bad hair day, or whatever, it can actually take way from the enjoyment of my day, which is crazy. None of that should matter. Oh, how I wish we would stop brainwashing our girls and women to believe young, gorgeous and skinny is the ideal. Being brainwashed myself, I spent many years comparing myself to girls and women who were “prettier” than I was, and feeling lesser-than because of it. I was pretty tough on myself when it came to my physical features. I hated my broad shoulders, I hated my head shape, I hated my square face, I hated my large ribcage, and on and on. It’s actually embarrassing to admit to being so insecure, so vain. But there you have it. Guilty as charged.
At 61 (and not getting any younger), I have to find a way to let all of that go. Sadly, since our society reveres youthful beauty, aging becomes a terrifying prospect for so many women. Terms like “old bag,” “all dried up,” “frumpy,” “dumpy,” are often used to describe older women. These are not sexy terms. Not only does this mindset make many women unable to enjoy their lives, but it makes them less attractive than if they would simply let it all go and allow themselves to age gracefully and normally. Otherwise, the “fixes” become endless, and the result can be pretty scary. We’ve all seen the crazy Cat Lady. (And I’m not talking about the lady next door with all the cats.)
We can’t stay young forever. We need to not only accept this, but our society needs to stop putting youth and physical perfection on such a high pedestal, and start appreciating the beauty of who we are, not what we look like. I know a lot of “pretty” people who are very unattractive. In fact, when I was a server at a nice restaurant in the 80s, I waited on a very gorgeous, fairly famous actress, who was one of the ugliest and rudest human beings I have ever encountered. She treated me like a lowly serf that she wanted to scrape off of her shoe. Even her husband (a well-known actor at the time) looked embarrassed. (They have since divorced. I’m not surprised.)
Cliche topic, maybe, but on it goes…
Meanwhile, I (along with my square face, broad shoulders, giant rib cage and extra five pounds) will just enjoy some delicious Douwe Egberts coffee in my little cabin, work on my novel, maybe do a little tai chi, and look forward to a delicious meal with a yummy glass of wine this evening, with my dear, loving, funny, messy-haired, bow-legged, brilliant and baggy-pantsed husband.