When You Are No Longer Beautiful

I’m not really sure how to write this post without sounding like a shallow, conceited bitch.

But I was once a beauty. In my own way. I never, ever looked good in a bikini. A serious handicap when you attend college here:

I was often told I had “icy” good looks. Think more this:

And less this:

I had a friend who looked like the above and we would go out together, and we attracted a totally different type of man. Which was excellent because no one wants to fight with their best friend over a stupid guy.

But there was never a shortage of male attention. In my teens, my twenties, I was disconcerted by the attention. I was scared and annoyed by it.

Now? I would kill to have it. Sometimes.

I think of what I would need to get a portion of it.

Plastic surgery.

Botox. Juvederm.

Starvation.

Trust me, I have considered them ALL. I live in a place where most moms look like this:

Remember in “Clueless”? Cher’s mom dies as a result of a “routine liposuction”? Yeah, that won’t be me.

I want my daughter to NOT rely on her good lucks. I want my daughter to respect the aging process.

My daughter tells me to wear dresses and “be pretty”. I don’t know where she gets this shit.

Meanwhile, I remember the time I was hot enough to get this:

And drove one of Hollywood’s best looking men around in my car, all the while rolling my eyes because I thought he was a huge dork.

Meanwhile, I take a photo with my iPhone and see my double-chinned visage on accident. And cringe.

Is that really me?

How do I come to terms what I once was with what I am and what I will be?

And why does it matter SO MUCH?

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14 Comments

Filed under Fear

14 responses to “When You Are No Longer Beautiful

  1. Wordgirl

    This gave me so much to think about — I reflect on these issues so much as I raise a daughter — and I have had life-long issues with my own body — and I distinctly remember the moment I realized that ‘pretty’ was different than having a coveted shape — and as I turn forty and find myself looking in the mirror when no one is looking — pulling my skin taut here — lifting my eyelid there…I too think — really? Really Pam, are you that vain — because for so long I would have denied that I invested that much in looks — but the reality, I guess, was that I was always conventionally attractive — if a bit on the zaftig side — I was always visible and suddenly find myself less so … it was a privilege that I never acknowledged at the time because I could never believe it — so trained was I by this society that it wasn’t good enough…these are such thorny issues — I think of it too because my mother is supremely identified by her physical self and I always swore I would be different.

    *sigh* I may write about this on my blog — Have you watched any of Downtown Abbey? I just started watching it and marveled over the beauty of Elizabeth McGovern and thought — that’s what I need to do — look toward models of beauty who are women aging in the public eye — but not seemingly with plastic surgery.

    I’m luckier in the sense that here in the upper midwest the women are stouter — in the city of course it’s like anywhere else — but you’re considered on the small end of the scale if you’re an 6/8 here…I would never be able to exist in California. I would feel like gigantor.

    XO

    Pam

  2. Sarah

    I was never a super-hot kinda gal, but always managed to turn a few heads and had plenty of attention from guys (especially in the Army days, oh my). But now? I feel frumpy. It might be the extra 15 or so lbs I’m carrying from the lactation meds, I don’t know. Sometimes I miss that girl, too – miss feeling sexy, young and attractive. Aging is inevitable, and I guess now I’m just happy to have a hubby who still thinks I’m hot stuff :).

  3. It’s funny you should post this today. I was just looking in the mirror and thinking, well, you look old, and old is not as beautiful as younger was. There are grey hairs, and my face is worn and marked, and my body is misshapen (not to mention a little heavier than I wish it would be), and I poke at myself, hoping that some day my daughter will be spared this. My husband seems to care a lot less about this transition. I wonder why? Is it that even as intelligent, educated women, we are so saturated by the media’s definition of beauty?

    And why don’t I believe my husband when he tells me he thinks I’m still sexy?

  4. Oh, sister. If I could harness the energy I spend worrying about getting older. For so long I didn’t appreciate my youth, wasn’t aware of my beauty, and then before I knew it I was on the other side of youth.

    And then I had a scary thought: “Today I’m as young as I’ll ever be.”

    I like what Pam says about finding “models of beauty who are women aging in the public eye — but not seemingly with plastic surgery.”

    And one more thing. This is why it’s important that we develop and recognize our inner beauty, which shines brighter as time goes on. And teach our daughters to do the same.

  5. Esperanza

    Oh my. I’ve been avoiding a very similar post. I’m on the verge of going off my ADD meds, which help me to keep off those last ten pounds without much thought or effort and I’m just so loath to be worrying about it again. The truth is right now I think I look pretty good. I don’t love the dark (and ever darkening) circles under my eyes or the many dark spots on my face (thank you melasma), but my body is probably the best it has been in a long time (thank you yoga! – also, I was pretty chunky in my 20s). Anyway, I know what you mean. I want so bad to say it doesn’t matter, that I don’t care, but it does matter and I do care. It will never be the all-obsessive thing it once was, when I had issues with it, but the way my pants fit can make or break my day, or especially my night when I go out.

    In places like this, like the Bay Area, where very attractive women spend a lot of time and money staying very attractive, it’s especially hard not to care about it. It’s part of what we’re worth, how we look, and it probably always will be.

    I wish I had some answers here, but I don’t. I hope as I age I’ll gain enough wisdom to keep the self hatred at bay. I doubt it but I still hope.

    And as far as raising a daughter?! Well I’m way too scared to start thinking about that. TERRIFIED.

  6. I don’t know if I ever turned any heads in my younger days or even now. I am not a beauty but I was/am attractive I guess. Probably quirky looking. In high school I was really skinny, and I’m now about 25 pounds heavier now. I’m tall and that helps camouflage it.

    I, too, spend a lot of time looking in the mirror lately and not liking what I see, but I don’t want to do anything to hide or stop the aging process. I’m amazed at how much seeing the gray hairs appear bothers me. My husband is prematurely gray and it looks good on him. Me? Not so much. My one beauty is my hair color (so I’ve been told) and I fear the graying. But I don’t want to dye my hair. Yet.

    And I want to be strong and confident for my son so that he values more in women than a pretty face or hot body.

  7. I think that it’s a different kind of beauty that we grow into. We may not be the head-turning beauties that we used to be (I feel similar to you in that department)…but I think that as we age, that once head-turning beauty becomes more of a classic beauty. One that’s more appreciated.

    At least that’s what I’m telling myself, anyway. 😉

    Also, where you live is definitely making you feel worse about yourself. I hate that about that area. I think you are absolutely stunning and it makes me mad that anyone could make you feel anything less than that.

  8. Rachel @ Eggs In A Row

    You stole this from my brain.

    When D and I moved into our house, he found a box of clothes labelled “Skinny”. He pulled out a pair of jeans that were a size 26 waist and asked me, “Why would you still have these?” He thought they were little kids jeans. LOl. And yet, those jeans to me mean that I was once thin and young and beautiful.

    But I’m so much smarter today than I was then…what’s better?

  9. Port of Indecision

    I don’t think that wanting to be pretty, or appreciating being pretty, are necessarily bad things. Taken to an extreme degree, sure, it’s dangerous. But the fact of life is that we are hard-wired to respond more favorably to people who are attractive than to people who are not. DId you see that study that came out a few weeks ago about how even *babies* react more favorably to pretty faces? That’s not something they’ve learned; that’s something that’s intuitive.

    Is it fair? No. Is it right? No. Discrimination based on looks is not ok. Eating disorders, chronic plastic surgery, bullying, are not ok. But just because the extremes of desiring beauty are not ok doesn’t mean, IMO, that it’s not acceptable at all to feel any desire to be pretty.

  10. terry

    Oh my, does this strike a chord. A few months ago a new friend looked at a picture of a much younger me and said “Wow, was this you?” It took a while for it to register that I must have changed so very much for someone to ask that question. It hurts. It’s humiliating. It’s humbling. I keep looking for the rage that will spur me to run a marathon and lose these 50 pounds, but it is dormant. My greatest fear is that the rage is, in fact, extinguished, and I have, without recognizing it, given up.

  11. Hmmmm.. well if I had an answer I would leave it. How about this one though — I am 47 and like us all, never thought that the attention that guys gave me meant I was beautiful. That — never made sense somehow. Couldn’t be me. Anyway, when I look at a young beautiful woman I now know that she too will feel as we do when she is older. That state of beauty in youth is at least part chimera — a fleeting grace. Maybeeee ,,,, celebrate what we have now, as that is also grace? I don’t know really… age is replaced by — our next moment of loving experience, how about that. As to weight — hey, I still have my dumbells! You can stay fit for a loooong time if you want that. If you don’t, you can enjoy pie! Up to you and both have their merits 🙂

  12. Liz

    I am 57 and single. In my younger years – up through my early 50’s was considered “attractive”. I was able to walk into any event and feel “pretty” and had no problem in turning the heads of the men. I am finding that now…I am “invisible”. No head turning…no eyes on me…nothing. Ok…it maysound superficial…but I miss that. Yeah…all you married women or those in relationships may not understand this….but as a single woman….

  13. dawnschreiner22

    You have written on this page the thoughts in my head. Though I was never a stunner, I had admirers. My old solution for feeling attractive was always dieting. Which with every passing year gets more and more difficult. Food has become like a drug, though I’m lucky enough not to be anything more than a little plump.
    I want to thank you for this well-written and comforting blog post. Sometimes I think a conversation between new friends is just what I need to get to stop worrying about the past and start looking towards the future. Though I will continue to wrestle with how to cope with attractiveness. Perhaps it’s even worse than that, I think it’s that I’ve become invisible.

    • Liz

      Yes…it is like you read my mind. I am in my 50s and am thankful for reasonable health, friends, etc….but I miss my youth. I was never Halle Berry…but looked very much like Sade. I could go out and always turn a head or too….now I feel invisible. I know it is superficial…I know. But…it is the truth. Iam not wrinkled, too heavy or any of that…just older. It is hard to come to terms with age. How do you do it?.

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