Shifting Appearances: Aging and Beauty

aging crone life celebrations personal empowerment vibrancy womens empowerment May 04, 2021

Is your identity strongly tied to your appearance, and what happens when that changes? Are we no longer the person we were before?

I am writing this blog as an observer. I never felt beautiful, and while they frequently praised me for my beauty as a child, I was never one of the “pretty girls” in school or the workplace.

My childhood was consumed with GI Joes, playing war, running free in the woods, and tagging along with the boys. When not kicking ass in the neighborhood, I connected to beautiful art, music, language, and the theater.

It wasn’t until puberty that I realized I was not attractive to many young boys in my community. Something had changed. Some boys would drive down the main street and yell out the window, “get a tan” and other comments related to what I was wearing or how small my breasts were. At that time, I noticed the pretty girls who commanded the positive attention from the boys. I was not one of those girls and resented them, and disappeared into the background in high school and at college parties.

My identity developed by what I could do well, and not how I looked. I could see that some of my pretty girlfriends struggled to be recognized by more than how they looked. They struggled with unwanted attention and I secretly struggled wanting just a portion of that same attention. 

Some of you are thinking right now, “Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder”. True. However, there are certain systemic advantages and disadvantages society presents to those who present a certain way in our society. As women age, the playing field and rules start shifting, leaving some women feeling uncertain and insecure. 

The point of this blog is to recognize that I have friends who are experiencing a shift from the ”hottie” to “attractive older woman” in their middle age, and it’s messing with their sense of self-worth. I would compare our conversations to some conversations I have had with co-workers when they retire, and struggle with defining themselves as “retiree” instead of a person holding a prestigious position. I hear the pain in my female friends’ voices and witness their uncertainty about their lives.

At one time in my life, I would stop at McDonald’s grabbing my favorite breakfast, and would frequently come across groups of retired men sitting in circles talking. There were never women in the groups. Do women get together in groups just to talk after they retire? And, if we did, would we talk about our shifting identities, the messed up societal constructs of beauty, and how it divided us all these years?

We need to value and embrace ourselves as we age. After all, the alternative to aging is not too sexy. We live in a culture obsessed with youth and perfection, and it hurts all women. Each of us has the responsibility to help shift from valuing Instagram beauties to valuing the beauty that comes from good health and vibrancy. I believe the McDonald’s male coffee klatches have some merit. It is so important, especially as we age, to have opportunities for women to lift one another up, celebrate our accomplishments, and value one another. 


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