Beauty Is In the Eye

Insomnia has been my nighttime companion for several years. Normally, a sleeping pill and 30 minutes reading will cure it, but recently, even these reliable helpers have been unable to ease me into sleep. I toss and I turn, then I finally turn on the TV. Nothing great is on during the middle of the night, because, let’s face it, if it were great, it would be on during prime time viewing hours. But I do catch some interesting shows, at times. Like the time I saw on the viewing guide that The DaVinci Code was on, but when I turned to that channel, it was two naked women (ummmm) enjoying each other. Having watched the movie with Tom Hanks once before, I knew that I didn’t remember that scene, so I double-checked the guide. I was watching The DaVinci Co-Ed not Code. See, interesting, but not great TV. And I’ve learned to read carefully.

Last night I was flipping late into the night and I came across a show about little girls and beauty pageants. I assume that they were little girls, but it was hard to tell under all the make-up. They could have been 3 or 33….the anklets with the patent leather Mary Janes were what made me first suspect that they couldn’t buy their fake eyelashes by themselves. I was immediately hooked–I think it is called “fascination with the abomination”.

Let’s be clear–none of the little girls that I saw were abominable. They were actually all quite cute, but they in no way resembled little girls. The big hair and the make-up and (I kid you not) spray-on tans masked the things that I think make little girls beautiful–pony tails, missing front teeth, chocolate milk moustaches and skinned knees.

More than being a little disturbed by miniature versions of Joan Collins, circa Dynasty, I worry about the emphasis we place on physical beauty. Anyone who has access to a computer, a TV, a Smartphone, or just waits in line at the grocery store is inundated constantly with images of what is considered beautiful. Tall, painfully skinny, sun-kissed, clear-skinned, big breasted, no hips, women. We are bombarded with ads for products to help us lose weight, firm and tone, get rid of cellulite, pouf up our hair, fill in wrinkles and whiten our teeth. There are TV shows dedicated to turning the ugly goose into a swan, such as Dr. 90210, Extreme Makeover, What Not to Wear. We see images of unattainable looks (let’s face it, not even the model attained those looks in real life, it’s all due to air brushing and Photo Shop) and then get hit with the double whammy of all the things we need to make us acceptable. Could your self-esteem sink any lower?

I am having some self-esteem issues right now. Most of them, I think, stem from the fact that I am not dealing well with aging. Getting older never seemed to bother me until the last year or so and maybe I’m now having a problem because I’m staring down a birthday that ends with a zero. In our world, young is beautiful….hence, my self-esteem issues.

And the thought that has been running through my head a lot over the last few months has been “What’s great about getting older?” I am developing new issues, like cholesterol problems and the inability to eat onions (oh, the heartburn). My joints sometimes hurt; I can’t stay awake during a movie, I NEED coffee in the morning. Tell me–what’s so great?

The answer hit me out of the blue while I was talking to one of my younger co-workers the other day. What’s great about getting older can’t be seen on the outside–it all resides on the inside. My life lessons, my bruises, my failures and successes, my experiences that translate into the wisdom that only comes with age. I had book smarts as a child, but only as an older adult have I found a modicum of wisdom.

I know my limitations, I know my abilities, and I know when to ask for help (and not to be ashamed). I know my priorities and I know what really matters in the long run. I know how to say “Thank you” and how to say “I’m sorry”. I know when to say that I messed up. I know when to take a stand and when to lose a battle in order to win the war. I know about diplomacy and office politics, I know about telling my husband that I love him every day. I know that I am not perfect and that I will fail, but I know that doesn’t mean I am a failure.

Thus, when I’m worrying over my weight, or my not-nearly-so-perky boobs, I remind myself that on the inside things are pretty good. I may not be happy with my looks, but on the whole, I am content with my decisions and my actions. I am beautiful because I acted as beautifully as I could, or as my mama always said, “Pretty is as pretty does.” She was so right. So, instead of What Not to Wear the real show should be called How Not to Act, because in the end, who remembers what you were wearing? But everyone remembers how you acted.

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