Like most women, I can't help but notice the parts of myself that have slumped and sagged as I've aged. The bags under my eyes now have over-night valises of their own. The veins in my legs and on the backs of my hands are starting to show through in blue. And forget my figure. Everything not tied down has long since fallen: my breasts, my belly, my once taut neck. I can easily commiserate with the South African writer Nadine Gordimer, who once commented, "I'm forty-nine but I could be twenty-five except for my face and legs."
But do I mind? Not really.
I love the fact that we lose our vision and our youthful beauty at the same time. What we can't see can't hurt us. It is a brilliant kindness to our vanity that reinforces in me the belief that God is surely a Goddess. And who wears her reading glasses when gazing into a mirror? As I squint at myself while trying to keep my lipstick confined to the general vicinity of my lips, I think "Well, hey. I don't look so bad!" If beauty is all in the eyes of the beholder, the blinder to flaws the better.
The simple and irrefutable truth is that as we age, we change. The Queen knows about change and embraces it with magnanimous grace and good humor, as part and parcel of the ongoing mythic adventure of Her life. When someone told Gloria Steinem that she didn't look forty, she famously replied, "This is how forty looks." And that goes double now that she is 80.
The Queen refuses to condescend or conform to the adolescent and exploitative standard of beauty promulgated by popular culture. She does not deign to compare herself with teenage models or emaciated-lifted-stitched-tucked-injected-Hollywood-uber-beauties.
"I've had so much plastic surgery, when I die they will donate my body to Tupperware."
- Joan Rivers
Tens of millions strong, we women in midlife are busily engaged in the process of rewriting the rules of beauty, style and sexiness as we explore, express and celebrate the diverse parameters of our own individual appeal.
Queens that we are, we understand that there is a difference between looking young and looking attractive -- between, for that matter, looking attractive and being attractive. A truly mature, secure woman accepts the inevitable physical changes that come with the passing of time and incorporates them into the way she presents herself to the world.
The striking results of a recent poll of midlife women showed that almost 48 % of the respondents were "completely" satisfied and another44% were "somewhat" satisfied by the way they looked." That is an astonishing 92% in all! Nearly nine out of ten women -- 88% -- indicated that they were pleased with their appearance, period, age not being a factor. But even while these women were generally so accepting of their appearance, the study revealed that the highest priorities of these women as they aged were internal. Ninety-five percent of them said that feeling good about themselves was "essential."
"It matters more what's in a woman's face than what's on it."
Self-aware, Self-assured, the Queen transforms Her Self as She goes. She glows as She grows into Her full potential, and becomes ever more becoming. Her reinvigorated attractiveness stems from Self-knowledge and enfranchisement, Her magnetic sensuality is centered in the fulfillment and satisfaction of Her Self-worth. She exudes the intoxicating appeal of a woman who is at heart, pleased with Her Self.
I received this wonderfully refreshing letter recently from a sister Queen who is definitely pleased with her Self:
"...Despite the anticipation and the promise of something potentially special, he was not attractive to me. And I think that's important -- that although I have had my misgivings about meeting someone as I am -- overweight and older -- I felt attractive and lively and lovely and charming and desirable in many ways. My inner womanly, Queenly core, was quite strong -- it never dawned on me to feel less than attractive. And I thank you all for helping me to feel that. Our circle of love and faith in one another has just added to the pool, the large pond, the lake, the sea of deep-rooted sense of Good Self that stays, no matter what..."
"It gets easier as you get older. You accept yourself for who you are - your flaws and your attributes. It's easier to live in your own skin."
- Barbra Streisand