In my younger years, I kowtowed to all the fashion do’s and don’t’s. But I no longer shrink in shame when someone says, “you look your age.” I’m celebrating midlife by cutting my ties to Maybelline, by letting loose my folds & frills, by cultivating the wisdom that comes with age if we invite it in, and by shifting my thinking about “beauty” toward a higher ideal of healthy radiance and sound character. What am I giving up in my unwillingness to drag myself, panting, after youth?
Skin Care & Makeup. Some women (and probably men too) will plop down $50 for anti-aging anything-in-a-jar, though these “miracles” are most likely common kitchen ingredients like olive oil and parsley. Foundation makeup is really just highly refined spackling or drywall compound, isn’t it girls? If properly applied, preferably with a trowel, one can no longer detect holes, pockmarks, dents and seams. Makeup in general is really just carnival face-painting for Big Girls. And some Big Boys, although most men have the good sense to see through the ruse. If I had the nerve, my preferred method of applying makeup would be a la Pris in Blade Runner—one pass with a can of black spray paint.
High Heels. They were invented (by a man) to keep medieval riders’ (men) boots from slipping out of their stirrups. But why they’re now tilting the pelvic bones, throwing out the spinal alignment, blistering, bunioning & binding the feet of women worldwide, is beyond me. Perhaps with the invention of OB/GYN stirrups (I’ll bet it was a man), someone (probably a man) thought, “Hey! I know what would help these little ladies…” The only other explanation I can come up with is that men secretly want to date upright-walking [insert hoofed animal here]. Seriously, there must be a video of a goat, walking upright and possibly dressed in sequins, on YouTube. Compare this to any video of a runway model in 4” stilettos, and you’ll see exactly what I mean. Flicka—stamp once for YES, twice for MAYBE.
Diets. I understand the health issues associated with obesity and want to avoid these pitfalls. I don’t want to develop the shuffling walk that signals painful joints buckling under too much weight. But if I’m in good health and reasonably active, don’t even think about bringing up BMI. I’ve been a human laboratory for Atkins, Pritikin, Weight Watchers, South Beach, cabbage, Fit for Life, and countless other experiments in depravity, starvation, obsessive selection, and restriction. I’ve worked constantly against my body’s own desire to maintain a certain voluptuous, healthy weight, albeit contrary to the medical charts. But I’m tired of thinking constantly about what goes into my mouth, when we should all be thinking more about what comes out. I’m not falling for the “protruding pointy-boned waif” model of beauty any more. I’m in the fluff-is-fundamental camp. The curves-are-commendable camp. The camp that has Moon Pies and 1% milk ‘round the campfire.
Spanx. This may be the one legitimately lifesaving fashion accessory. It’s not that we want an impossible, unhealthy hourglass figure; we just want our Spanx to contain and steady us, so we aren’t yanked hither & yon by the momentum of unbound curvaceousness. And so we can slide into that blue beaded sheath dress.
Bad Hair Days. Let’s heat an iron rod in the fire, then get it as close to our eyes as possible without actually burning flesh, so we can make these dead protein cells curl. Cool. Better yet, let’s soak our entire heads (and possibly our brains) in toxic chemicals that alter the color and kink the dead cells, THEN let’s torch them with the iron rod. I currently have long red hair. I’ve buckled under peer pressure to cover the few newly emerging white hairs with henna, but that’s as far as I’ll go. I alternate between a messy ponytail, braided pigtails (yes, even at my age), and the occasional crew cut I get in moments of extreme hair exasperation. I understand and occasionally adopt the military haircut, the nun’s concealing wimple, voluntary baldness.
Shaving. Come ON. Really? I don’t know first-hand, but I hear that even men are shaving now. Apparently, hairless is in. It creeps me out a little when they say it’s “sexy”—doesn’t that suggest an attraction to prepubescent children? I think it would be smarter, if we really want to lose the fur (and I’m not sure that’s such a good idea for South Dakota prairie folk), if only people who are naturally hairless through genetic mutation were allowed to breed for the next few generations, until we’re all born smooth as silk. Like the Sphynx cat, or the Chinese Crested dog with just a little floof on top. Then we can get to work on regrowing our vestigial tails.
Wonder/Miracle Bras. Here’s a scoop: we live on a planet with gravity, and gravity pulls everything down toward the earth. Even breasts. There’s something absurd about trying to holster & barricade the girls, keeping them shoved up into our collarbones and tethered to our shoulders against the perpetual force of gravity. And again, isn’t it just a little creepy that our definition of beauty drives us to cut, mold, carve & reduce our own mammary glands to simulate the barely-there bumps of puberty? Let’s go back to “Reubenesque” as a model of beauty. Let’s embrace & reward the inevitable drop—another ounce of respect for each ¼” of descent.
There’s something ultimately liberating about giving up on the popular definition of beauty. I’m not driven (mad) to be the goddess of seduction any more. I want to be the goddess who can turn your pig into a toadstool if you make my children or grandchildren cry. And with the time & money I’ll save, I'll stock my cooler with Belgian beer and Moon Pies, don my comfy flannel shirt and sweatpants, and trek off for some backwoods camping with the coyotes who, unimpressed by taut skin and perky breasts, will sing me to peaceful, unfettered, cronish sleep.