funny, isn't it?
by jeanne charters
Our bodies, ourselves??? I certainly hope not!
If my body is any indication of the beautiful, stormy, romance-novel creature that surely lurks just inside my psyche, then I’m in serious trouble. Because, frankly, my body is pooping out on me lately. Oh, it still walks and talks and cooks and sits here at this computer trying to figure out what to tell you relative to its impact upon the universe; but it just ain’t what it used to be … in more ways than one!
I think, dear reader, that to properly explore the concept of “my body, myself”, I must first take a stroll down the chronological lane that has been my own personal beauty history … through the ages … and ages … and ages!
In order to tell this story, I will take on a 3rd person persona. It won’t disguise the fact that the story is about me, but it will make me less self-conscious about telling it.
First of all, our girl child grew from being a beautiful baby into a cute little girl into an adolescent who should have been the poster child for the “awkward stage”. She was the tallest kid (boy or girl) in her 7th grade class, had arms and legs resembling rubber bands strained to their limit, and the biggest feet in the school. Pictures reveal a lank-haired brunette squinting through coke-bottle glasses with nose scrunched up against tortoise shell frames and one shoulder at least 3 inches higher than the other. This kid didn’t care how she looked. It never occurred to her that she had any obligation to be attractive. Why should she worry about such silly things? After all, she was the wrestling champion of her neighborhood; got straight A’s and could out-spit all the boys in her class.
However, sometime between 7th and 8th grade, a peculiar thing happened to our girl: she got pretty. The glasses became unnecessary; the hair became glossy; and the flat, skinny chest grew small, perky breasts that sloped upward and begged attention from any gawky boy who passed by. All this stuff occurred without her knowledge or volition. The only way she knew anything had changed was when she went out to her backyard to defend her wrestling championship wearing a pair of shorts and a halter. All the boys who, one year before, had lusted to topple her from her lady wrestler throne, suddenly backed away and refused to fight her. Their lust had taken a frightening new direction, about which they were even more clueless than she. This was a sad day on Catherine Street in Springfield, Ohio. The girl sensed that things would never be the same. She was right.
High school and college brought times of great joy and greater frustration. The girl got even prettier and started winning titles … Captain of the Cheerleaders, Homecoming Queen, Sorority Pledge Princess, Beta Bride. “Why the frustration?” you might logically ask. Brace yourself … here comes the sad part. Even fairy tales have sad parts, you know.
Four of the girl’s best girlfriends turned against her, some even vowing a blood oath never to be her friend again. The ones who stayed her friends were not the pretty ones. They were the smart ones. Though she was called “popular”, the girl ran with a decidedly dorky crowd. This was a blessing that she didn’t understand until years later.
The 60s was the girl’s time to make babies, 4 of them, all girls. So, she really didn’t have much time to contemplate “her body, herself” then. She was too busy hoping to occasionally bathe that body while chasing 4 other squirming little bodies, brushing 4 heads of tangled hair and brushing 8 rows of teeth as they emerged, went loose, fell out and emerged yet again.
BRACE YOURSELF …HERE COMES THE SOCIAL CONSCIOUSNESS SECTION:
The 1970s was a time of women joining together in consciousness raising sessions. They all wanted to “find” themselves. Their mothers’ generation had told them that being a wife and mother would guarantee a blissful life, IF THEY ALWAYS REMEMBERED TO PUT ON LIPSTICK. They would be content, join the Junior League and settle into suburbia to keep perfect houses and support successful husbands in those husbands’ climbs to corporate pinnacles. But the women were frustrated.
You see, sometimes those corporate pinnacles required those husbands to travel … A LOT! They met other pretty girls. SOB!! The little woman at home got scared. So, the mini skirts got shorter, the heels higher, the hair more teased and the eyes more desperate. That’s when a lot of the wives decided to go to work! It was sort of the old “if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em” school of marital therapy, and it usually didn’t work.
The 80’s and 90’s were a time of “career” clothing. The shoulder pads got huge, then small, then huge again. At first, women tried to look like small men with bow ties and sensible shoes …IBM clones, making all the mistakes of conformity first introduced by their brothers in industry. These were the “striving” days in the girl’s life, and it took a toll on her (just as it takes a toll on two of her daughters who are now also single moms, trying to be super mothers and super earners).
Much as the girl would love to know what happened to some of those hungry, driving women from her striving days, she can’t seem to locate them. She thinks they might be living in Fiji under assumed names like Sunbeam and Luna. They are not listed under Google.
But enough about “them”. Let’s talk about me.
I still care a lot about how I look. I exercise nearly every day and try to stay thin, but now the dictate is arthritis more than vanity. I use Renova at night and Vaseline on a wet face each morning while I walk my dog. I floss and brush and shave and groom to the dictates of sanity and society and read every woman’s magazine to learn “the secret” to staying young and vital.
But guess what? I know that secret. I think I always did. Funny, isn’t it? The secret is “DO NOT live in the past”. When you open your eyes each morning, think of 3 things that you will do this day that will be really fun. Then, say a prayer to your God giving gratitude for the bounties of your future. Then kiss your partner or, if you don’t have one, smile at your friend in the mirror and get on the floor and wrestle with your dog. Then, stand up, stretch and start your day.
Oh, and don’t forget to put on lipstick.
Jeanne Charters lives in Fairview with her husband, Matt Restivo. A former V.P. of Marketing for Viacom Television, she started her own award-winning broadcast advertising agency in 1990. [firstname.lastname@example.org; 828-628-0023]