I’m becoming increasingly frustrated.
With women feeling defensive, myself included, about the beauty of their aging (or aged) bodies. It’s all the rage now — women taking it all off, flaunting their bodily imperfections in the name of self-expression. Art, if you will. Then dialoguing about the damage societal perceptions of beauty have caused the psyches of these smart, beautiful females in conjunction with the self-deprecating videos and “artistic” photographs they display.
That is not to say the frustrations of these women aren’t legitimate. They most definitely are. The world at large is a tough crowd to please.
I, too, have bought into the self-love wave, although not fully, as I remain slave to my weekly beauty regimen, trying to attract love into my life in the best and only way I know how – through my appearance.
I convince myself I’m beautiful despite my flaws. And there are many. I encourage others to do the same for themselves. Yet I continue to fall prey to the pressure of living up to and maintaining an idealistic image of how an attractive woman should look. Because I feel, I know, I have no choice despite all the brouhaha about embracing inner beauty.
Imperfectly perfect vaginas, whatever the hell that means.
Therapeutic photography, otherwise known as the only standard by which I will ever be a model.
Celebrations of imperfect bodies, like my own, photographed in dim lighting, pretty vignettes and at flattering angles.
I’m 42 years old. Divorced. I’m a single mother. I’m flawed. But I’m also in love with love – in love with finding someone to love and with finding someone to love me, the true me.
The evolved version of myself knows I’m doing it wrong. Luring men from the outside in. Maybe that makes me inauthentic. A phony. But I can’t stop. Insult and rejection await me if I do. Or, even worse, invisibility.
It’s not that I’m bitter or disillusioned. I actually wish I were disillusioned. It’s that I’m tired of apologizing. Apologizing for who I am, under the pretense of a burgeoning self-esteem.
In fact, I think the exact opposite is true.
As I write this I am being asked to forward “sexy” pictures of myself to a 45 year-old (so he claims) gentleman with whom I am texting through the dating app, Tinder. After immediately rebuking him, I am being further advised that sending additional photos will be my only hope of securing a date. Dismiss him and I will have to “just continue to settle for the mediocre losers.”
Warning duly noted, sir, but I shall respectfully decline your offer anyway.
Though I can’t say I wasn’t tempted to send photos. Only not the ones he was expecting.
That brainchild came to me after viewing Jacky O’Shaughnessy’s piece for Elisa Goodkind and Lily Mandelbaum’s What’s Underneath Project, a series created to celebrate the individual and authentic styles men and women exude when they have grown comfortable in their own skin.
In it, the current face of American Apparel, 62 year-old O’Shaughnessy, slowly undresses for the camera as she bares all, sharing both her physical and emotional vulnerabilities with her Internet audience. Describing her then 52 year-old boyfriend’s refusal to be seen publicly with her because of her advanced age while dating him five years earlier, it’s understandable why she feels compelled to sit in that chair, justifying her worthiness. Her pain is palpable.
“I’m here,” she figuratively waves to the world. “Please… see me. The real me,” we can hear her say, though these words never once pass her blood red lips.
For a few moments during a series such as this one, that wish may come true.
That’s because each and every one of us is beautiful, O’Shaughnessy and myself included. If we are enlightened enough, we may actually see it for ourselves, in ourselves. Unfortunately for women, too many men do not, despite our protests to the contrary.
I appreciate the intent of this body of work. The message it seeks to convey. The change it tries to engender.
But once the cameras fade to black, I’m afraid so, too, does the message.
Because I can pretty much guess what the response will be should I send my new pen pal a “sexy” photo of my bare stomach, scarred with stretch marks acquired during three pregnancies, or a seductive shot of myself without my makeup on or my hair styled. Though I’m proud of and grateful for the work my body has done thus far, I know there are many others who will not share with me that same appreciation.
Oscar Wilde once said, “Life imitates Art far more than Art imitates Life.” I can’t say that I disagree. Current standards of beauty and style are, arguably, not always artistic. It is here I agree with Goodkind’s contention that the fashion industry has, in many ways, lost its creativity and, hence, its embrace and accurate depiction of individual style. But where I differ is in my proposed handling of it.
I say we stop pleading our case. We stop defending ourselves. We stop grandstanding. And we start loving ourselves without seeking the rest of the world’s approval.
Then I say, grab YOUR camera.
And the next time some middle-aged guy demeans you based on your appearance, point that lens at HIM, and ask that dude to sit squarely on a stool while he undresses and declare to the world how much he adores his sagging testicles, his thinning hair, and his flabby gut.
My guess is he won’t be so quick to jump on the bandwagon.
Ladies, please. Get a hold of yourselves. Put your clothes back on and show some self-respect. These endless public displays are becoming no less fictitious than the beauty myths they seek to dispel. Authenticity means living your life knowing who you are and having the wherewithal to do so without exposing yourself to the same scrutiny such efforts are meant to curtail.
With that in mind, I silently bid my digital pen pal farewell. And spoke volumes about myself.
How do you feel about your body?
- 5 Reasons I Finally Made Peace With My Muffin Top
- Embracing Our Middle-Aged Bodies On The Road To Self-Love
- Nutrition Facts – 100% MILF
- Online Dating Profile Pictures: How Much Do We Expose Ourselves?
Image courtesy of Stylelikeu