How do you feel about getting older? Is your formerly adorable figure hidden under 20 extra pounds? Are your previously perky breasts sagging from their lost job as baby feeders? Are the lines on your face deepening with every year? Me too. But I love aging and I love that you are aging too.
At this point, you expect me to say how we are all beautiful just as we are, and that age is only making your beauty more distinguished. This is true, but that’s not where I’m going first. To be honest, I love our aging for very selfish reasons.
As a childhood burn survivor, the worst part was the bullying and mocking I received. Kids used to pretend to throw up at the sight of me. Strangers yelled, “Yuck!” in my face when I walked to school. It was devastating. It was excruciating. But, once they got to know me, kids were usually nice. So, I learned to ignore the taunts, I focused instead on the kind kids, and I thought I had this burned problem covered.
Then came high school. Even though I had plenty of friends, I didn’t have boyfriends. It was rare that a boy was interested in me. This was also true in college, in graduate school, at work, and so on. All my friends dated, fell in love, got engaged and got married. Not me. Well, eventually I did. But it took a long time to find someone who wanted to be with me, despite my severe scarring. I have felt somewhat “less than” for decades. But no longer!
Now, my beautiful girlfriends are getting older. Men are no longer turning their heads to gaze at them. My friends are now eclipsed by their own daughter’s loveliness, just like I am. But I’m so used to it. In fact, I’m beside myself with relief to be at the age that no one cares about my attractiveness. When you are in your fifties, people care that you are clean, neat, and your underwear isn’t showing. That’s about it.
Many women are sad to be losing their beauty. They bemoan their wrinkles, their fat rolls, their sagging skin. I want to be sympathetic, but truly, I am overjoyed. Welcome to the land of no one cares how you look! Welcome to the land of men aren’t even looking at you! It isn’t so bad here, especially now that I have so much more company. Now we get to focus on what should have been most important all along: kindness, character, and remembering all the lyrics to “American Pie.”
I love my women friends, not for their beauty, but because they show up for me. If I am sad, I have friends who comfort me. If I have a problem, I have wise friends who help me think through the issue and come up with some strategies. If I have a parenting disaster, I have friends who are experienced mothers, whom I call for emergency consultation. I have a bevy of wonderful women, with whom I am overjoyed to share my life, not because they are cute, but because they are incredible.
So my pretties, welcome to your aging. Think of it not as a loss, but a gain. Now you can just be you, with your brilliance and snarky sense of humor. You don’t also have to look good in skinny jeans. I think you are beautiful, because your inner light radiates through your squinting eyes and somewhat wrinkled face. That inner light has always been your truest source of loveliness.
Given my history, I might just be an embittered, lousy judge of beauty.
Or maybe… not at all…
Lise Deguire's multiple award-winning memoir, Flashback Girl: Lessons on Resilience from a Burn Survivor, is available for purchase on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Newtown Book Shop and The Commonplace Reader.