Body Image

We women have bodies in every size and shape. The range of hair color is amazing. Eye color, too. So why are we never satisfied with what we have, with the way our bodies look? We are short and tall, thin and not-so-thin, have hair that is blonde, brunette, black, red; that’s wavy, curly, or straight. Our eyes are brown, blue, hazel, green, violet, black. Whatever we have we want something different. If we’re short, we wish we were tall; if we have straight hair, we wish it was curly; if we have curly hair, we wish it was straight. Some of these things we can change; colored contact lenses, perms, straighteners, hair dyes. But our bodies are something different. We can’t be what we are not, even though there are those out there who tell us we can.

And I’m not totally blameless here, either. I’m short and wished I were taller. I’ve never, ever, had a perfectly flat belly. I’ve fought my weight since puberty. Then somewhere around the age of 50, I began to truly understand that I would never have the body I thought I wanted. My body is determined to stay the shape it is and nothing I can do will change that.

I came of age in the 60s, when Twiggy was the latest thing in fashion. Her boyish body made all of us feel fat, even if we weren’t. Fashion model figures are unobtainable for almost all of us, so why do we still try? The few top fashion models are fortunate that they have the body shape and bone structure to look the way they do. And they have to work hard at maintaining that famined look. I was happy to see there is an 80 something fashion model who is still working; that there are more models out there with curves instead of sharp angles; and there are now plus-sized models who are well-known.

Change comes slowly to society, and it has to be demanded by the majority, and it has to be sold as absolutely necessary. I often ponder some of the things we women are expected to do and be. Who decided that hair on women’s legs and underarms was a bad thing and should be removed? Who decided that women wearing dresses or skirts had to wear stockings or pantyhose, or tights? And who decided that women’s breasts had to be confined and constrained in corsets and bras? Who came up with the idea that women had to wear makeup to look good? Many of us have bought into these ideas and now can’t imagine not doing some of these things. We were raised to think these were good; not doing them was bad. I admire the women with enough courage to break the mold. They are the women we should appreciate as good role models.

I have learned to love my body. It is the only one I will have in this life and still works wonderfully well considering how old it is. It isn’t perfect by society’s standards, but it’s perfect for me, and that’s what’s important. I have come to terms with the fact that I will never have a model’s body; that I will never be tall; that clothes never fit quite right. But I can also alter clothes so they do fit well; I can carry myself with good posture and grace; I can continue to eat healthy foods and exercise with the goal of being fit. I have this one body, this one life, and feel blessed to have it.

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Age is beautiful

No, I will not hide and fade into the woodwork. I will not meet your expectations of what I should look like, what I should do at this age. This 63-year-old body sags and wrinkles and I refuse to lift or constrain it in any way. My hair is thinning; but that doesn’t mean I won’t continue to color it and wear outrageous hair styles as long as I want. My eyebrows are greying and disappearing, and my eyelashes are all but gone; but that doesn’t mean that I will stop wearing makeup to enhance what is left. My breasts are sagging and not as perky as they once were; but I will not wear bras that ‘lift and separate’, or make them pointy, or make me want to scream by lunchtime because I can’t breathe. My legs are not shapely and they have spider veins; but I will not wear pants or long skirts just because you don’t want to see them. I love my nail art that shows off my beautiful hands with their age spots and prominent veins and wrinkles (who knew you could get wrinkles on your hands?) I have skin tags, and moles, and other things you think are gross growing on my body. Yes, they are gross, but they are part of me; part of my body, and I have learned to live with them. I don’t need to look like the latest top model to be beautiful.

I may seem old to you, but I was once your age, with all the hopes and dreams you have; getting old wasn’t something I thought about as I’m sure you don’t either. But one day, you will be my age, and hopefully, much older. I hope that you don’t have to listen to snide remarks made where you think I won’t hear you. I’m not deaf and can still hear your whispers from across the room. I am living my life the way I want to live it; the fact that I have lived this long gives me that right – I have earned it. I have earned every wrinkle in this face by laughing and loving and losing. And I’m sure that more wrinkles will appear. And yes, I have ‘turkey neck’ and ‘flabby arms’ and a ‘menopot’. But this is the body I have, and I love it. It still gets me where I want to go. I can see and hear and touch and taste and smell. I’m not in my dotage and I still have opinions, and I will voice them.

So you young women out there, and you older ones, too; when will you rise up with us to stop society from thinking we are invisible? When will you start respecting your elders and listen to our wisdom? We didn’t live this long without learning something. We see what is wrong with the world and try to fix it. You think we’re crazy and have no right to tell you what we think. So listen to us; maybe you’ll learn something. We’re not fading away; we’re getting stronger, and we are beautiful, and we will make our voices heard.

Be Yourself

“Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter, and those who matter don’t mind.”
― Dr. Seuss

‘Be yourself’ the sages say, but they don’t tell you how to be yourself. How can you be yourself if you don’t know who you are? I know who I am; I stick to my principles. Sometimes it’s hard to remember what they are when the whole world seems to be crumbling around me. And there are some people who make it difficult for me to remember to love the person even when they are being obnoxious. How does one gain self awareness? How can we become who we are supposed to be?

I don’t have all the answers; I don’t think any one person does. There are enlightened people in this world; they will be the first to tell you they don’t have all the answers. I read a lot, consider, revise, discard, read some more, listen to people, talk to them, then make up my own mind about things.

We have forgotten civility – it’s been a long time coming. Does anyone else remember a time when we could have discussions, debates, on important issues without resorting to name-calling? Without labeling someone a Nazi or a Communist? We don’t respect ourselves, let alone each other. If we have no love nor respect for ourselves, how can we respect and love others?

There are things about myself I don’t necessarily like; some I can change, some I can’t. I’m short – I can’t change that. I’m overweight – I can change that and I am. I hate my hair color – I do change that -regularly. I like my eye color – I don’t want to change that. There are personality traits I have that I inherited from my parents; some I like and some I don’t. I can rail against my parents for making me who I am or I can act like the grown up person I am and work on changing what I don’t like or at least harnessing that trait for positive instead of negative.

I used to worry about what others thought about me; I wanted to be loved by everyone. Then I discovered I was tearing myself apart trying to be all things to all people. I decided that I didn’t like everyone I met so why should I expect everyone I met to like me? I began to change. I started the journey to becoming who I am meant to be. It has been a long journey with many detours along the way. And I expect there will be more detours.

There are people in this world who are negative, who are always complaining, as I used to do. Now, I focus on what I want, on what I have, instead of on what I don’t have and what I don’t want. Although positive thinking wasn’t easy at first, I have found that it is now almost second nature; I don’t have to think about it most of the time. We can find the positive in every negative if we only look.

Being myself is a lifelong journey. And life itself is a journey; a journey I am enjoying more as I become more who I am.