If you could freeze time at one certain age, what would it be? Or have you not reached it yet?
I can remember reading one of Sylvia Browne’s books (yes, for whatever it’s worth, I’ve read many of her books) where she described what she knew heaven to be like. I can’t remember the specifics but I do remember her claim that when we get to the “other side,” regardless of our age here on Earth, we’ll all be 30 years old in heaven.
And to that, I say, AMEN.
Whether you believe her or not, it’s this idea of an eternal age that really sticks in my mind. After hearing so many women talk about what beauty really is, I want to look in the mirror and say, I love the way you look, Fadra, flaws and all.
I’m not sure I’ve ever been at that point in my life but I’ve certainly come a long way since the days of young insecurities and wondering if anyone would ever call me pretty. I’m older, more confident, more secure in who I am. And I certainly have a better sense of style. And I love all of those things about me. So what is it about that blasted mirror that still has so many of us loathing what we see?
I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that we don’t all strive to look like Kate Moss. We don’t all dream of having Angelina’s lips and Gwen Stefani’s abs. I mean, sure, I’d take them but that’s not the real issue when I look in the mirror. The problem is that our body always changes.
As women, we go through an awkward adolescence. Just when our breasts start to develop and the boys start to take notice, we’re cursed with braces and acne-laden faces. Some of us fare better than others, admittedly.
Things tend to smooth out in our twenties and look out, world! We realize that we know everything about everything, except maybe relationships. We work on being sexy but not slutty. We find clothes that show off our bodies or hide them, whichever might be the preference. And we might just meet “the one.”
This is how my twenties went. I didn’t realize how thin I was and had no confidence in my body so I spent most of my time trying to cover up. But at the ripe old age of 29, I did meet “the one” and life got exponentially better in so many ways.
I cared about how I looked but not because I hoped somebody would notice me. I wanted to look good for the one person who did notice me. And I gained weight. Well, actually we both gained weight. Love definitely adds pounds.
Initially, love can be an effective weight loss tool. You’re so enthralled and elated and your belly is full of butterflies. Food is not high on the list. But when you finally settle into comfortable love, you enjoy cooking grand meals together and going out to eat or just indulging in a wheel of brie in front of the TV late on a Saturday night.
But things change. As I moved into my thirties, I realized that I actually knew nothing in my twenties but I did look good. I was a comfortable size 6 and ate modestly (mainly because I couldn’t afford much more than a blue box of macaroni & cheese for dinner most nights). I even started running. Oh, how I wish I could go back to that time just to look in the mirror and appreciate my own reflection.
Since that time, I’ve gently moved into my forties. My metabolism is slowing down and my hormones are heating up. Things are starting to sag, including the belly that housed a baby for nine months. And I’m having a hard time with it.
In theory, I am grateful to be old enough to celebrate the gray hairs and wrinkles as it is a privilege that is denied to many. So what’s at the heart of it? What is it about women? Is it really self-loathing or self-esteem? Are we really bombarded with too many images of perfection in the media? Are we trying to live up to an unattainable standard?
I have the answer.
We, as women, reach a point in our lives when we are at our physical best. Whether it’s our skin or hair or body or even the confidence that makes a difference in the way we stand, there is an ideal me and an ideal you. And if that ideal is in the past, we’re constantly striving to be that better version of ourselves. Or at least I know I am.
I once had thicker hair and smoother skin. I once had a smaller (but not too much smaller) belly. I once had firm thighs and defined calves. And I once smiled without regard to the wrinkles it caused around my eyes.
I think it’s okay to want to be the best you that you can be. But perhaps the worst kind of unattainable beauty is comparing ourselves to who we were in the past instead of appreciating the moments that brought us to this point.
I like the idea of someday being eternally 30 but at this point in my life, I’m going to simply try to do a better job of embracing 43 (and whatever comes after).