As I am edging ever closer to 50, I’d like to drop some of my wisdom on you (*said with tongue firmly in cheek):
Sometimes I feel like we suffer from a sense of cultural cognitive distortion—I don’t wear makeup and frequently hear, “You look good without makeup. I don’t though; I look weird/plain/naked/not pretty or I feel depressed/lack confidence/exposed.” When I was in high school, I wore makeup. When I stopped wearing it, I also thought I looked unfinished, weird, not pretty—but I’ll let you in on a little secret (this is the first bit of wisdom): you get used to it. That’s the secret. You just get used to the way your face looks without being made up. However if makeup makes you feel fierce, strong, confident, or complete, or if you just really dig playing with a color pallet, matching your clothes or your mood, and want to buy 15 shades of blush, then go for it! Makeup is completely individual—don’t ever let anyone shame you into wearing it or not wearing it. Express yourself with confidence, however you roll.
I shaved my legs and underarms once. It was October 31, 1985. It was an awful experience which I never repeated. I did wax for a while in the late 90s, but that was painful and expensive and led to the same (unpleasant) results. While living in the San Francisco region and later in Portland, Oregon, no one ever seemed to notice. Living in Tucson, however, where there are more opportunities to wear shorts or skirts or to go sleeveless, people notice. Some people even feel it’s acceptable to comment. I get that most women in the United States shave more than pits and legs, but I’m doing my best to teach my daughters that it’s up to them, not society, to decide if or when or what to shave. As with makeup though, it’s a completely personal choice. Here’s my second bit of wisdom: don’t ever let anyone else tell you what you “should” be doing. (I will admit my privilege here—I have very pale skin and very thin and light colored hair.)
Speaking of hair, I am growing these amazingly beautiful silver streaks at my temples. People ask me periodically when I plan to begin dying my hair. I try not to laugh in their faces because that would be very rude. I usually smile, stroke my silver strands, and tell them I love that I’m growing my own platinum mine.
FASHION AND BEING FAT
I spent years doing all the things society tells a fat girl she should do—I ate small, healthy portions when out to dinner or at parties (only to go home hungry and end up eating more than I would have if I just had a normal supper), I passed up desserts, I did not eat in public if at all possible, I pretended I was “on a diet” more often than not, and I dressed myself in baggy, body-covering clothing. Virtually everyone agrees that fat girls “shouldn’t” wear short-shorts or bikinis or cut-off tops. I have been fat most of my life and it took me until well into my 40s before I got comfortable wearing sleeveless tops in public, partly because of the underarm hair, but mostly because of the fat on my arms. But the thing is, style is completely subjective. I’m going to drop another wisdom-bomb right now: own your style. People who tell you you’re doing it wrong, they’re the ones who are wrong. Don’t listen to them. If you have a favorite outfit that makes you feel gorgeous and strong, do not listen to the people who tell you otherwise!
I love pink. I love lace. I love flowery, flowy, delicate things. I am a big girl; if I listened to the so-called experts, I would forever be in boxy clothing, mostly black, covering myself with scarves and jackets and pleats and boots, and while all of these things are fine and I even embrace them much of the time, I refuse to let the world tell me I’m not allowed to wear a beautiful soft pink flowing gown covered in sparkles if I want to (preferably with a tiara). I refuse to wear uncomfortable shoes or pantyhose for the sake of fashion or a job. I have spent much of my adult life attempting to re-define what is acceptable for a fat girl to wear in a corporate environment and I am absolutely certain that has played a large part in my inability to move forward in my career. Without makeup, heels, and figure-flattering outfits, I don’t look the part. And this brings us to my final point:
The world we live in wants us to be ashamed of who we are. Whichever path we choose we are told we’re doing it wrong. For everything we’re told to do one way, there’s another group out there telling us to do it differently. Here’s my last bit of wisdom for you today: do not be ashamed of who you are. We must learn to say no to the people who tell us who to be or how to be. We need to embrace our differences, support each other in our choices, tell our own stories using our own palettes and paintbrushes, and move through life confidently.
It’s not easy, but I know you can do it. Take a deep breath and love yourself exactly as you are right now. One day at a time, sometimes one step at a time. You might falter. That’s OK. You’re still beautiful. You still matter. You got this.