Tuesday, August 23, 2011

"Don't do it. Don't get old."

An older woman stopped me in the hall yesterday. "Don't do it," she said. "Don't get old." Then she hobbled towards the elevator.

I didn't tell her what I saw. I could tell she looked at me with remembrance of her own youth. A woman who, though her face bore lines, they were marks of kindness and smiling. I thought she was beautiful, her face shining with affection as she stopped to hear about my day and share hers.

In our society, beauty is power for a woman, but it is a power which inevitably leaks away with age. I wanted to say no, I don't subscribe to that. You are still beautiful to me. Even moreso, as I see your layers of wisdom and I want to learn from them. That's the kind of beauty I want to bask in.

I remember my grandmother at 70 looking in the mirror. "My eyes used to be beautiful," she said sadly. I was only a 'tween then but I stubbornly planted myself in front of her and replied, "Grandma, they are STILL beautiful." And I meant it. I hadn't known her 18-year-old self. I knew her at 70 but she was kind to me. She smiled and this made her beautiful.

I hate the idea that we are so influenced by beauty in our society that we discard more important traits; those that must be cultivated and not just part of a genetic lotto. People magazine lists the 100 best people of the year, why only the symmetrically-blessed? Why no scientists, authors, inventors? The public face of America should include those that DO, not just those that ARE.

I have complicated feelings about plastic surgery. I support the desire to restore oneself to a previous state or repair damage, ease pain, solve a problem or correct something but if someone is doing it because they think they're not pretty enough, it makes me sad. It's even more aching when it's obvious, it's like wearing that insecurity on our redone faces. I wish people could know how beautiful they are when they smile and laugh and feel content. Nothing else matters.

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