Beauty is as Beauty Does
New Face of Beauty
That’s what my mother used to tell me, back in the ancient days of my youth. I’d be all dressed up for a special occasion, preening in front of the mirror, and she’d come up behind me and give me a small smile, then fling that dinger at me.
“Beauty is as beauty does.”
Since I never considered myself beautiful, I was clueless. What did she mean? I seldom pondered the answer to my own question. I had places to go.
I know what she meant, now. I know she was trying to tell me to behave; that my looks could get me in trouble. But, as a teenager, all I could think was – “Do I look all right? Is my eyeliner straight? Is my blouse tight enough?” Yes, I was fortunate to be ‘bosomy’ and wanted it noticed. At 15, that’s what life is all about, isn’t it? Looking beautiful?
I’m approaching the ripe old age of… more than half a century. Decidedly more. And, the concept of “beauty is as beauty does” is different now.
Recently CBS did a story on Marilyn Monroe, one of America’s classic beauties. Marilyn is one of the movie stars we point to when we want to show beauty that isn’t… runway model anorexic. We forget how much Hollywood was responsible for some of her good looks – she isn’t really blonde and she struggled with her weight and she didn’t really walk around with that pout. Don’t get me wrong – I have always admired Marilyn Monroe for her unique looks – but, I know that had she not been a Hollywood doll, she would have been a housewife, and likely unremarkable in her appearance.
The topic of beauty has come up again and again in my life, over the last few years. Beauty, as we define it in America, is too often attached to an unrealistic view of women. Dove has worked hard trying to show us we’re all beautiful, but we’re on to them – they just want to sell soap. Blogs and forums online skirt the topic – falling back on the “beauty is as beauty does” – so, if you’re a good person, you’re beautiful.
Beauty was the topic of conversation today, with a small group of women I know. Women I know… though I have never met some of them. Women I know… from the exchange of words… about beauty. About us. About living in distinction. About how we embrace the linen of our lives – how we add the colors we love and form the close-knits wraps that curve about ourselves, to protect us from the beasts.
We clutch at yesterday, sometimes, because tomorrow is a strange world we are wary of. We do not rush into tomorrow, as we once did – we often pause on the edge of the threshold and ponder the consequences of stepping off of that short precipice. What happened to yesterday? we muse. Why is it so long ago?
If only we’d known enough to be alive, all those yesterdays ago. As we gaze through the window of our memory, squinting at previous moments alive with shadows, we try to see around corners and we invent new memories, because the old ones don’t suffice.
It is in this moment – the moment we begin to feel the distinction of our lives – that we realize our beauty is in our soul. It’s in the way we walk or the way we brush our hair. It’s in the way we smile at our grandchildren or kiss the dog on her head, each morning, avoiding the quick, wet tongue wishing to paste a kiss on our faces. Our beauty is in our shoulders – gently sloping across our backs, as if caressing us – reminding us that each day brings more beauty to flow over our bodies, across our breasts and around our hips.
Our beauty is in ourselves – and we share it – we women of distinction – when we open our arms and fling off the wrinkles of yesterday – beckoning, instead, the crisp, comforting lines of now, of today. Because, we know, finally we know, that beauty is not in our eyes or our hair, it’s not the shape of our neck or the lift of our bosoms; beauty is not in the shrug of our shoulders or the callouses on our feet; beauty is in us, in our lives. Beauty is what we are, when we stop trying to be… beautiful.
And, now, tomorrow seems a friendlier place. A place we step into…with eager expectation.
I wrote that because I find myself falling prey to the media’s misperception of what beauty is, on a daily basis. I look carefully at my image in the mirror and count the wrinkles, look for age spots, despair of ever losing weight…(how did that happen? I was NEVER going to gain weight!) and then sigh with resignation. The struggle of accepting myself as beautiful beyond the image in the mirror, exists in my heart and soul, whispering to me, a soft pulse, like a heartbeat, invisible to others, apparent only to me.
And, the memory of the young me – who turned a head or two in her day – brings a regret I cannot shake off. If only I’d known, back then, that I was beautiful – what might I have accomplished?
“Beauty is as beauty does,” I hear my mother say.
I guess that means embracing the image in the mirror – knowing that I, a woman of distinction – have many beautiful years ahead of me; years in which to accomplish more than I ever could have imagined doing as a young girl with long dark hair, lost in her own inexperience.
I am the “as beauty does” part of the equation now – doing the work of a woman of distinction. Me and thousands like me. We are beautiful.
Please visit All The Single Girlfriends’ New Face of Beauty Pinterest Board.