Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Perspective

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I was winding my wispy blonde-going-on-gray hair on bristly rollers this morning (an exercise in futility since it's raining out and the moisture will take out the curl before I get from the door of my cottage to the door of my car), and contemplating the unfairness of certain aspects of my persona. For instance, instead of having thick, shining, naturally curly locks that tumble in reckless abandon to my shoulders, I have thin, fine, stick-straight hair much the color of mouse fur. I was a tow head as a child, a color I carried right up to the birth of my first child. With each successive pregnancy, the color was leached from my hair follicles and deposited in my child's. All four were white-blonde as small tykes while my own hair began to take on the hue of a winter-dead tree. I've sought in vain for a haircut that is flattering to both my face and my hair texture but hair style magazines limit face shapes to oval, round, heart, and square. Bovine is not listed. Sigh.

Where I've been limited in the hair department, I've been burdened with excess when it comes to my nose and my mammary glands. Photographs show my great grandfather's nose holding a prominent place in the middle of his face, balanced with great bushy eyebrows and an equally bushy mustache. I have been spared the latter two features but my nose is decidedly similar, i.e. too big for my face. And what I wouldn't give to have my blouses and shirts fall straight and smooth to my waist without first stopping to leap off a cliff.

I mention all this because I have been going through old photos for a senior history project at the local senior center. Pairing a senior with a middle school student to talk about what life has been like for the past 60+ years, the project covers nine weeks of memory digging and culminates in a scrapbook of student writing illustrated with pictures of the senior from birth to the present. I keep finding photos of myself as an infant, a toddler, a school girl, a young wife - and I don't look at all like the image in my mind. I do remember, however, bemoaning my looks even then. What was I thinking? And why was I thinking that?

I'd like to think of myself as wiser since I'm so much older but old habits die hard and once I'd fallen into the habit of seeing myself as flawed in face and figure, it became almost impossible to think of myself any other way. Looking back now, I see all my worry over how I looked to others was useless. I wasn't half as bad looking as I thought and most likely, when I look back on photos taken now, I won't be quite as awful looking as I'm imagining now. It makes one wonder when we, as humans, started judging our worth by our beauty and our beauty by someone else's standards.

My mother was forever admonishing me that pretty is as pretty does. I wish I'd paid more attention to her; I'd be stunning by now!

12 comments:

JeannetteLS said...

And perhaps you ARE stunning to others now!

Boy, what we do to ourselves. I would say television and the advent of so many fashion and beauty magazines. Coupled with the technology to "touch up" photos and apply what I call the "Donna Read halo filter." On her show there always seemed to be a little glow of light around her face...

From shows like "The Mod Squad" on, we were told that we had to look a particular way, and because TV got into every living room, so did the image of beauty. We did not know that pictures were retouched in those magazines. And Julie was so thin she nearly disappeared when she turned sideways.

Our parents no longer had the impact on us they probably wanted. My mom could tell me I was pretty all she liked, but society saw crooked teeth and gigunda hips, even when you could HANG something off my hipbones, they still measured 37 inches!

And it is worse now, in some ways.

I wish I could listen to the voices that tell me I am fine as I am, but I don't. At almost sixty myself, I STILL know I am fat. (I truly am very overweight now, and I judge myself for it, even though most of the weight gain was beyond my control.) I have a chicken neck. My hair is thinner and I am NOT.

But once in a great while, I look in the mirror and say, "You're FINE. Just like this, you're FINE."

Not often, though...

So I end where I started, perhaps you truly ARE stunning!

Pauline said...

Jeannette - thanks for you comment. I agree, the media certainly has had a huge influence on how we perceive ourselves and how we try to fit into the current take on what is beautiful. But I bet humans started using physical attributes as judgement way before that. Perhaps we're hardwired to weed out potential mates based on physical characteristics but that leaves a lot of worthwhile connections when that's the focus. My children and grandchildren love me despite my shortcomings - that's stunning enough for me :)

Tabor said...

We all take this journey. Looking back at my photos I am amazed at how stunning I was...I had imagined I was a skinny bony scarecrow of a woman. We are so harsh and spend far too much time on surface issues!!

Friko said...

This is so funny! Bovine? with straight, wispy hair?

I have no way of judging how true that is but your sense of humour definitely makes up for any aesthetic shortcomings.

I am certainly not the person I think I am when I look in the mirror, so i only look very occasionally. It's better that way.

But, in case you were wondering, I'm ravishing on the inside!.

Elizabeth Grimes said...

So true! I'm always knit picking my own appearance. I describe my natural hair color as mousy brown...which is why I dye it! Thanks for visiting my blog. Come back again. :)

Pauline said...

Tabor, too true! Why do we keep doing it, even when we know better?

Pauline said...

Friko - I know you are stunning - it shows in your writing! I avoid mirrors, too and am always surprised when I show up in one.

Pauline said...

Elizabeth - but you are lovely! When you reach my age you will look back and see that :)

Madge @ The View From Right Here said...

I think we all judge ourselves harshly... I always think I am too much this or that for others to truly like me...

lockwoodseasons said...

Oh!!! what I would have given to be tall, willowy, with long straight hair and a face resonant with a calm madonna. Instead I was short, with curly hair (arghh!) that thickened into a witches birch-broom as it grew.And I wore spectacles. Nothing fitted with notions of beauty advertised in the public domain in the 70s. Menopause helped with the hair ( it straightened and thinned a bit) - but dumpy is as dumpy does. That is forever. But like Friko, I am a ravishing and sensual being with long willowy legs, and long pointy fingers on the inside...

lockwoodseasons said...

Oh!!! what I would have given to be tall, willowy, with long straight hair and a face resonant with a calm madonna. Instead I was short, with curly hair (arghh!) that thickened into a witches birch-broom as it grew.And I wore spectacles. Nothing fitted with notions of beauty advertised in the public domain in the 70s. Menopause helped with the hair ( it straightened and thinned a bit) - but dumpy is as dumpy does. That is forever. But like Friko, I am a ravishing and sensual being with long willowy legs, and long pointy fingers on the inside...

Pauline said...

Madge - it's a pity we judge ourselves so harshly when we preach non-judgement of others but you're so right.

LWS - and I longed for curly hair and any kind of figure when I was a teen-in-waiting. Instead, I looked like a stick figure drawing. Now, I'm wishing that stick figure wasn't so well padded!