Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Natural Beauty

image blogs/yogajournal.com
During a yoga class last week I was struck by how beautiful the woman next to me was.  She was probably about 10 years older than me and her face was a lovely combination of soft wrinkles and smooth planes, her eyes were bright and her body was supple and strong as we moved through our poses.  I caught myself staring at her as I considered how refreshing it was to see a woman age with confidence and grace, and I thought how I want to learn to accept the changes in my appearance as I grow (that's grow, which suggests an expansion and progression, not a shriveling or fading, right?) older. After a couple of cancer things, I think I have a pretty clear sense of what the alternative to aging is, and I want to embrace my physical self, without reservations or comparisons or criticisms, fully.  

Unfortunately, this is a challenging task in a culture that places an unnatural value upon retaining youthful beauty at any expense.  Botox, cosmetic surgery, skin treatments, expensive products and cosmetics, hair color...geesh, women sure do spend a lot of cash trying to improve and/or maintain themselves.  I'm as guilty as anyone with my every 7 week color touch-up appointment (thanks, Nicole!), but I'll leave the more extreme treatments to people like Meg Ryan, Melanie Griffith and Heidi Montag. Why would anyone want to look like that?

Last night I watched the Swedish film The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and I was really impressed by the movie and the cast.  The actors in this film looked like real people and I thought it was not coincidental that this is a European production.  (It will be interesting to see how the American version of this book-to-film compares when it is released next year.)  It seems to me that Europeans have a different sensibility about aging and beauty as described in this recent NYT article.  My favorite quote from the article:  Françoise Sagan once wrote, “There is a certain age when a woman must be beautiful to be loved, and then there comes a time when she must be loved to be beautiful.”  Isn't that lovely?  And, to me, when Sagan says "she must be loved," she clearly includes the action of accepting and loving one's self  - this does not eliminate single women by any means. 

Believe me, I have no plans to abandon my tub of Hope in a Jar, but I am definitely going to try to spend more time living in my body than I spend on my body. 

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