Archive for June, 2009

I Felt So Purdy

Monday, June 15th, 2009

The Beautiful Like Me Project has another question to ponder today. WickedStepMom wants to know when I felt most beautiful so far on my journey in life. The true answer plays right to the point of this project. I wish I felt the most beautiful when I was the natural me. Not so though. I know for a fact the time I felt the most beautiful was when I was heavily costumed as a young adult. It could have been a costume for a show I was in or a costume for work. Layers of fancy clothes, makeup and fake tan decorating my too thin body made me feel perfect. Add to the mix permed curls and gold streaks to transform my normal bone straight and unremarkable brown hair and I was smoking! I clearly remember several moments in my life when I received some oohs and ahhhhs that gave me a great sense of satisfaction and self-worth. I felt powerful. Why wouldn’t I? Beauty and power often go hand in hand. At least, this seems to be true when speaking of material beauty.

Looking back at old pictures of myself I have a hard time relating to the girl who was me. The 37 year old sees so many layers that didn’t have to be there. The face looks proud and confident. I imagine the confidence was genuine, but can you really call it that when it was only present after countless hours of primping and prepping?

I spent years keeping up the rituals of makeup, elaborate hairstyles, tans and fashionable clothing. The rituals came to an abrupt end with my first pregnancy. I was one of those women you hear about who spends the entire nine months puking her brains out. I was too sick to care about rituals. Getting through the day took all my effort. The same thing happened with my second pregnancy. Those were a combined 18 months of Lisa in her most natural form. By the time I was done with pregnancies and had more energy to invest in my appearance, and some investment was definitely needed because I know for a fact I looked like hell, I couldn’t bring myself to don all the makeup and fancy clothes. I found myself satisfied, even if not impressed, by the less glam Lisa. Eyeliner and mascara made me feel ridiculous. The thought of adding a tan was insane. Why get people used to seeing me all bronzed up again? Now I could be my chalky white self without people asking me if I was feeling okay. Life was just easier without all of the chaos of beauty. Clean skin, a touch of lipstick, a decent hair cut, clothes that weren’t too mommyish and a healthy dose of color to hide my gray was all I needed to feel good about myself.

You’d think that what I just shared would bring me to a point where I could say I felt beautiful now. I don’t. Not really. Not in terms of how we’ve been groomed to assign beauty. It’s true I feel satisfied, however. There are times when I wonder if feeling satisfied might be more valuable than feeling beautiful. It’s all encompassing acceptance, after all. Satisfaction seems more durable and better able to stand the test of time until society gets its act together and stops using the idea of beauty as a means to marginalize, harm, profit and promote.

Who Done It? The Beautiful Like Me Project

Monday, June 1st, 2009

It’s Monday and another Beautiful Like Me question is waiting to be answered. WickedStepMom wants to know, “What person or people are the most influential about how you feel about yourself? Who influences you the most to feel beautiful?”

In simple terms, I have no earthly idea. I think that’s what makes it hard to get my head in the right place when it comes to my own self-image. I’m not all that clear who it is I am trying to appeal to or what message is resonating at the moment. Was it something I heard/read recently or events and words from long ago? That’s the big mystery. So much of how we feel about ourselves in the present has been shaped through the course of time and it is difficult to know what is inspiring my take on myself.

With the “Beautiful Like Me” project I’ve been forcing myself to take a closer look at who and what have shaped me so I can be a better parent to my kids. It bothers me that I don’t have a solid answer for this question. I know as an adult the primary person most responsible for how beautiful I feel is me. It’s my mental strength and open-mindedness that reigns supreme. Who gave that to me though? I’m not sure that it came from my family. My husband contributed, although he also put his foot in his mouth enough to negate the positive. My friends have also given me a mix of good and bad, so it’s just hard to know. WickedStepMom, I might have to think on this some more.

I’m not sure if it’s directly relevant to today’s question, but I was thinking about something this morning I’d like to share real quick. With a little bit of luck I can make it relevant. We shall see.

Those of us participating in this project haven’t been too kind towards the fashion and entertainment industry. We’ve been quick to point out how the messages coming from magazines, television and such have made it hard for us to feel good about our natural selves. Something hit me this morning though. I realized something that shocked me, quite frankly. The fashion industry as a whole has put a lot of effort into making the unique beautiful. It celebrates the odd. In the past I’ve suggested the industry makes us feel if we are different than what is being sold as the ideal we are lacking. That may have been off the mark and rash. Ever seen pictures from a runway show? Women proudly walk the catwalks with clothes, hair and makeup that most of us would be laughed at and ridiculed for if we attempted it in our normal lives. It’s easy to focus on the Gisele’s of the industry, but we shouldn’t forget the others whose confidence with nonconformity is truly amazing. If beauty can be found in and felt by women who are altered to the point of being freakish, what is the obstacle for the rest of us? If a woman with chocolate brown triangles painted above her eyes, a gold snake slithering down her cheek and what looks to be a green bed sheet dress draped around her can pull off beautiful, why the heck can’t I? Maybe if we followed the fashion industry’s lead as a whole, and not just the parts about body fat and wrinkles, we’d be able to see and feel the beauty in ourselves and others more easily. Beauty really is whatever we want it to be. It’s a state of mind.

Today’s topic leaves me feeling I have some work to do. For one, I need to take a closer look at what is motivating my mindset and who is contributing to my positive self-image. Those people are the ones I want to surround myself with the most. Secondly, I need a bit of an attitude adjustment. I didn’t expect the tangent about the fashion industry. It came to me as I was thinking through today’s question. I’m realizing that I am guilty of proclaiming the uniqueness being sold as ugly. I’ve made no effort to appreciate. I’ve judged and I’ve criticized. How is that any different than what we’ve been challenging others and ourselves to avoid doing?