“In high school I looked like a cross between Tootsie and Jon Bon Jovi. I was Harold Bishop with a perm. When I appeared on the first episode of Mamamia on Sky News I looked like a giant tangerine wearing glasses and a wig. Think of me as Paula Joye’s badly dressed sister. My skin is so pale I’m like the missing cast member from Twilight. I used to think I looked like Kate Winslet. Now I look like I ate Kate Winslet.”
In the past week, these are just some of the statements I’ve made – several times in fact – about my looks. Funny? They were meant to be. But in reality, when I look at them, they’re not funny. They’re actually a bit sad.
So this week when I read a column on News Taco about women bonding by complaining about their looks, well it struck a nerve.
In a post entitled “Why do women have to be so afraid of getting old?”, author Elaine Dove writes:
“I’ve noticed recently that when I run into female friends, especially in groups, that one of the ways women often bond is to enter into a discussion about how we don’t like how we look. Somehow, a conversation that starts with “How are you?” often turns into a shared lament about weight, age, hair, the fit of jeans, etc. I’ll admit freely that I don’t want to have this conversation. In fact, I often fall silent and end up wandering away when it happens. I keep asking myself if there’s a way for me to bring up what’s happening and my feelings about it. I wonder if doing so would be helpful or just make others more uncomfortable than they obviously already feel.”
Hmmm, word to the wise, Elaine. I think saying something is going to make the other women feel uncomfortable and see you forever banished from coffee dates. (And why is that?) But the truth is I think Elaine has a point. Is bitching about our own looks, running ourselves down, poking fun at ourselves the way women have learned to bond? Or are we just voicing our fears in a safe setting where we can have a laugh about our south-bound boobs and our greying hair?
I’m not entirely sure what the answer is. What I do know is that words have power and constantly belittling myself can’t be any good for my self-esteem.
And why do we have to be so afraid of getting old? Really? Is it that we become invisible or do we simply need to own the space we take up? To use our voice? I’ve seen first hand how life can be snatched away in an instant. So I’m actively choosing to embrace ageing from now on. Give me ninety-years-old, sitting on the veranda with my husband Brad surrounded by our tribe. Sure, now that I’m on the cusp of forty, weight is becoming harder to shift. I don’t bounce back from four glasses of wine the way I used to. The girls are looking less than perky. But the truth is for every well-earned line I carry on my face, there is a well-earned life lesson I carry in my heart. For every wrinkle, every greying hair there is greater wisdom, compassion, understanding that I have earned the hard way. Through living my life. Through experiencing successes. Failures. Screw-ups. I may no longer be ticking that 18-35 box but inside, with each passing year, I know I’m becoming more of who I really am. And that’s a woman who can see around a hell of a lot more corners.
And one thing I have learned over the years is this: What makes a woman truly beautiful is a wide, infectious smile, a compassionate heart and a willingness to laugh at life. And maybe occasionally her thighs.
What’s the most common “joke” you make about your looks?