Friday, May 20, 2011

Ugly Gals Don't Worry About Aging

"I am not a pretty girl, that's not what I do," croons Ani DiFranco, in the song I consider an anthem.  I've never been considered a pretty girl, oh I had my moment in sun in the 80's, but for the most part I've always been, what my Dad descibes as, "a handsome woman."  I did struggle with self-image over this fact for many years.  The high school period where I was desperate to be part of the "Sweethearts" and eventually did get grandfathered in but was never really considered one of them.  Not having the eyes, hair and body of Patricia, Kathleen or Cheryl.  I then had the awesome fate of sharing a bathroom with 2 blonde bombshells considered THE most popular gals at North Central Bible College. There was the proverbial struggle over weight, hair, eye-sight issues, etc. A typical struggle of an average looking girl trying to fit into a society that praises youth & beauty.

Then along came the glorious 40's!  What a blessed decade this has been so far!  Even though I started it with a wicked hot flash while riding the F train (inherited a pre-disposition to peri-menopause); though my body has decided to melt into flesh and looks not unlike the Venus of Willendorf (look it up if you dare); though I have an auto-immune disease that has only escalated and causes severe joint pain, migraines and insomnia; though my hair is thinning and beginning to gray and though liver spots have become a fixture on my hands & face---I am happy as a clam to be me!

I can truly agree with my Mother now, I AM pretty on the inside.  And because of this, I have the freedom to avoid the arduous road that so many Cougars, my age and older, are traveling on.  In horror, I watch the Desperate Housewives of fill-in-the-blank as they spend thousands of their husbands money to recapture their glory days of beauty through botox injections, boob-jobs, lipo, hours at the gym, etc.  It's as if Madame Tussand's wax figures decided to escape to the upper-middle class 'burbs.  Those poor, pathetic former beauty queens, do they know we all tune in to gawk and laugh AT them?  Do they actually think they are cheating death?  That we don't see through it all? 

Ah, but not me and my kind.  We who have been blessed with bad hair, bone-structure, skin, teeth, eyes or body-shapes can simply relax and enjoy the ride over the hill.  If you don't feel this way I encourage you my sisters, give into it, relish every gray hair, wrinkle, spot, body ache and brain fog moment. It means you HAVE LIVED!  We've earned every bit of it!  Let us declare to this vapid world of death denyers, "I am pretty on the inside. I am strong & wise because I have lived life to the fullest, see the signs of that by reading the map of this aging shell.  I am a woman---ot a girl, not a hot babe---but a woman of substance you can actually listen to because you have nothing to distract you from really hearing my thoughts & my heart." Or something to that effect.

The famous passage in Proverbs 31 praises a woman for many things---her diligence, her compassion, her acumen, her faithfulness, her love---but only once does it refer to beauty.  King Lemuel's mother warns, "Charm is deceptive, beauty does not last; but a woman who fears the Lord will be greatly praised. Reward her for all she has done. Let her deeds publicly declare her praise."  I hope the King listened to his mother and picked a nice girl like that.

One of my favorite sculptures at the Metropolitan Museum of Art is this one,

I realize now that it's called Drunken Old Woman, but at the time I first saw it I hadn't realized it's title.  That aside, I loved how the artist captured every wrinkle, waddle, squint, her veiny-hands and drooping breasts.  I thought this must have taken greater skill to accomplish than the Venus de Milo and Adonis that seem to pale in comparison next to her.  On second thought, that is a great title, she has every right to be drunk!  Drunk on wisdom, laughter, love and a life well-lived.  I take from this that we are God's workmanship, His piece of aging art, His poem.  Ugly gals don't mind aging, cause we allow THE ARTIST to mold us, to shape our inner selves in such away that the beauty and skill of The Artist's hands shine through our glorious fading flesh. 

As Ani sings, "I have been working all of my life and I am a patriot, I have been fighting the good fight."  And might I add, look at me, you can see it in the battle scars I refuse to "touch up", cover or dye!  No I don't mind aging that much at all!

1 comment:

  1. "Pretty on the inside." My mom said that, too. Very vexing phrase to a 16-year-old who wanted to be pretty on the outside but who was never quite pretty enough.

    Well, now all of us hairy-chinned, near-sighted (and now presbyopian), lumpy, dentally-challenged women of the world who have consoled ourselves by hiding in books and pretending that we didn't mind going stag to the prom (I didn't really go stag, and the guy I went with was really nice, but he wasn't one of the "it" guys, and we weren't dating--we were both "spiritual pillars" so it made sense that we go to the prom together), who learned to make living on the fringes of the popular crowd look like fun. Who apparently intimidated the heck out of every man we met until that one special someone figured out how to connect--we have hit (and made it nearly all the way through) our 40s and come into our own.

    Our years of training to accept who we are and not try to be something else. Our mothers who, perhaps in their wisdom, tried to instill in us the value that beauty is fleeting. The tools and skills gained over a lifetime of bucking a social system that places the highest value on youth and beauty. All these things now serve us well as we circle around to life's "back nine."

    Just for the record, though, I seem to remember your dad saying something about "borderline beautiful" back in the day.