Wednesday, February 1, 2012


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!