I've been thinking about this all week, and searching the mirror each morning trying to decide. I found it sad that when I was young and truly had some features that were beautiful, I failed to recognize them. I was always too fat, my hair wasn't straight enough, I wasn't photogenic, I wasn't blonde. Looking back on old photographs I recognize a pretty girl that I didn't appreciate half enough, and so she never had the confidence that would make her truly beautiful. Instead I would often try to fade into the background, at the same time wanting desperately to be noticed. And I'm sure I did get noticed, but the tragedy was that I just assumed I wouldn't be.
Fast forward forty years or so. Looking at myself in the mirror today, I can still recognize my old self, although features have sagged, gone double, widened, or just lost their luster. My hair, which used to be the bane of my existence, is now one of my favorite features. I've come to appreciate hair that has waves, and has lots of body. Sadly, it's also gone quite gray, so I give it lots of help every four weeks at the salon. It's one of my better features, but because its not quite "true" I can't consider it my best. I like my eyes too - they've always been a standout feature. They are large, and, while my eyelashes aren't as luxurious as they used to be, they're still long enough. My eyes are brown, and I wear green contacts. The effect of the two combined makes them kind of extraordinary looking and I get a lot of compliments. But, because they aren't really that amazing color, I can't totally consider them my best feature. I have to interject here, however, that I think I deserve an "A" for effort in getting good results working with what I have left after 57 years.
My poor body has not fared all that well. I'm overweight and at this stage of the game I'm having a very hard time losing it. I have a chronic disease that prevents me from working out as hard as I probably need to. I can't tolerate a lot of pounding like running or kick boxing, etc. So for me it's walking, yoga, and swimming. I'm at least 2 sizes bigger than I'd like to be, but I'm doing the best I can. There are times when I yearn to be that size I was in my 20's, but mostly I've learned to be more accepting of myself - to give myself a break and some permission to continue to live and enjoy my life even though I'm not that perfect size 6.
So what is my one feature that I take particular pride in? I would have to say my skin. My mother takes exceptional care of her skin, and she taught me to. I have no doubt that we were blessed with good skin, but the good care has paid off. I have few wrinkles, and rarely get blemishes. (Now watch - I'll get a big zit tomorrow just to teach me not to be so proud!) I did have a bout of bad skin when I was in high school - I think that's why I treasure clear skin now. I can go without makeup pretty easily, and most people don't think I'm as old as I am. So yes - that would have to be my feature that sets me a little apart and gives my confidence a little edge. But I can't take all the credit - I come from a line of women who have pretty skin:
My mom here is 80 - look at that glow! And she has those high cheekbones which I've always coveted...*heavy sigh* (Let's not go there now...)
And then there's the woman who passed it along to us:
Yep, folks - that's what 99 looks like in my family...
And hopefully I'll pass it along to my daughter and her pretty girls.
photo by Heather Anderson of TenderShootz
But the thing is, while I enjoy having good skin, pretty eyes, nice hair - whatever it is that's behaving for me on any given day - what I like best of all is that I'm not obsessed with it like I was at 18. I've learned that it's easy to miss out on the best of times if I fuss too long with my hair, or if I can't go out of the house without makeup. Good times don't wait on having perfect polish on your nails, and they definitely don't have any patience for not joining in the fun because you've gained a pound or two. So I've learned to be forgiving of myself. My body, my face, my appearance won't always be perfect or beautiful. But what grandchild ever remembered how gorgeous their grandma was? They remember that Mema always had time to play fairy castle, bake cookies and make them the most important little person in that moment. That takes confidence folks - to go out in public with no makeup or flat hair. But confidence is that elusive quality that perhaps makes us the most beautiful women of all.