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Tuesday, 31 March 2009

In the Mood to be Beautiful

By Mary E. Davies of Mary's Real Life

“Robin,” I say, as my hairdresser comes around the partition at the back of her shop. “Stop right there. Can you see my mustache? You’ve got to tell me - no one else will.”

But will she tell me? Because recently Robin has been saying things like, “What if you’re perfect exactly the way you are?”

Oh, I believe I’m okay. I’m trim and strong and probably at least once a day I’m thankful for it. At no expense whatsoever, I’ve provided myself with the one thing, appearance-wise, that gives me the most pleasure. I pinch my waist, and there’s no real excess. I flex my arms and you see muscles.

For my age, I look good. But how bitter are those words, “for my age.” Time pulls at my skin and there’s nothing to be done about it. Single as I am, you might think I’m worried about attracting the guys. It’s not that so much as this: I’d like someday to please the man who takes my heart. I’ve read that people who’ve been together a long time never quite see the beloved’s face grow old; they continue to see the young faces they knew at the beginning. That’s not going to be an option for me.

So I do what I can. I weewaw between hairstyles: my old, short, chic one where my cheekbones appeared to good advantage, or the longer style I wear now, with a softness I like. Or I did like, until this morning when nothing about me is looking that good.

“So? Can you see it?”

“You look great,” she says.

“Wait a minute,” I say. “Don’t you want to cover up my gray? Give me curls? Wax my lip?” “Lip,” of course, being what they call the mustache in the beauty trade. “Robin, aren’t you shooting yourself in the foot here?”

“No, no,” she says, “I’ll do whatever you want. I want you to be happy. I’m just saying...”

She’s much younger than I. I don’t believe she would remember the first time women were considering whether we might be perfect just the way we are.

At the time, back in the early ‘70s, I ran the legislative office for California’s Employment Development Department. I testified before committees in Sacramento and even in Washington, D.C. I did it braless, in Birkenstocks, not even blusher on my face.

I asked an old friend recently how stupid I looked then, there among the suits and high heels, and he said, “No, you looked earnest. You were earnest.”

Feminism, as I grew up with it, was about valuing women for something more than our looks. And we’ve come a long way, as they say. But appearances aren’t nothing. I’d like my whole package to be appreciated: my brains, my heart, my spirit and my butt. But how to find the balance, neither to pander nor to hide?

As you see, I’m earnest still. That’s probably my signature style motif, and you know how they go for that in the fashion spreads. But it’s started to dawn on me that when a man says how nice I look, maybe he doesn’t really want to hear how I got my skirt for one dollar at an estate sale, or that I’m still wearing the black tights I got in London in the ‘90s. Maybe he’d like to believe he’s with someone classy who can appreciate a fine meal, instead of someone who likes to brag about how much cheaper she could have produced it at home.

“But sustainability is classy,” my friend Terry says (earnestly). “A man should be proud to be with someone with your consciousness.” So maybe he’ll be murmuring into my ear one night, “Darling, how I love your dainty carbon footprint...”

In the meantime, what about that mustache, Robin? Can you see it from over there?

“Maybe a little,” she says. “But on you it looks good.”

[EDITORIAL NOTE: The supply of stories is running low, so if you've had one on your mind to write, now is the time. All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. Instructions are here.]

Posted by Ronni Bennett at 02:30 AM | Permalink | Email this post


Oh oh oh -- I LOVE the comment at the end about the dainty carbon footprint! That is a classic! Thanks for a lovely bit of storytelling.

Ten years ago, when we turned fifty, my husband grew a beard and I started waxing mine. Luckily neither of us can see things that are up close, so we don't know how bad we actually look. I'm hoping my whiskers aren't as scratchy as his!

Very clever story, Mary. I think I will shave my mustache like men do. Waxing? No way. That hurts

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