The other day I found myself asking a man a version of this cringe-worthy question. As soon as the words left my mouth I privately wondered, when do I get to be done worrying about this?
Beauty is such a fraught issue. Every woman has to listen to a lifetime of critiques on her looks. It’s a real challenge to sift through all the input and figure out what is beautiful to ourselves. Even when we have parsed out and resisted outside influences, we have to face the scrutiny of others who have not.
It’s one reason I am enamored of stylish, older women. Everything about our culture tells them to shut up and sit down. To my delight, they persist. Unshackled of the expectation of pleasing anyone, they present themselves with skilled insanity
“I look forward to being older, when what you look like becomes less and less an issue and what you are is the point.” Susan Sarandon
I call myself a ‘city beauty’. Meaning the raw materials are fine but a good haircut, well cut clothes, exercise and some expert grooming (eyebrows!) help me move up the hotness scale a few notches. I know this is true because when I stand next to an actually beautiful woman, well, there’s a difference.
That troubles me less than it used to. I like that beauty can be figured out. You don’t have to accept being bestowed with it, or not. Getting older has given me the time to do that, all the while cultivating a rich, internal life.
Besides, I only need to be pretty enough. All I need is a foot in the door and I let my warmth, intellect and wit do the heavy lifting. They rarely fail me.
I’m not one to rustle up a date for the sake of appearances so I happily went stag to a good friend’s wedding last year. I ended up being seated between two interesting, accomplished men who were also unaccompanied. As the evening unfolded I chatted with everyone at the table but both men stuck around to talk to me, in shifts. One would offer to freshen my drink or say hello to a friend and like clockwork the other would sit down next to me to resume our chat or offer to dance. This went on all evening.
It was about the best outcome I could think of for a woman attending a social event unaccompanied, and would not have been possible in my twenties. The situation required an ease with men and myself I didn’t have until much later.
It was a good reminder that being engaging is still far better currency than simply beautiful. Were I to speak to my younger self I would encourage her to keep doing the internal deep dive, and to make peace with her own ideas of beauty. Others buying in is not needed validation.
Still, I won’t pretend to have it all figured out. Below is a photograph of my complicated skin regimen. I’m glad to have the sort of charm that comes with getting older, but could we go ahead and freeze it all in place right this very minute?