GRAY IN L.A.
It can start as a perfectly wonderful day. The sun shines (sure, it's SoCal), the palm trees rustle in the breeze, and people are even smiling at you. You go to CVS, wait for a prescription, grab a "More" Magazine for no particular reason, leaf through it and right from its pages jumps a reminder of something you hadn't exactly been obsessed with -- so far: "Aging teeth"! That was the topic of a big story -- and the shame it can instill in you, like everything else that relates to age and the concept of perfection.
Teeth. That was a new one! I had to laugh out loud, before covering my mouth with my hand (just faking shame). I have not only "aging teeth", mine are slightly crooked, too! What audacity! Admittedly, few hate perfect, white, straight natural teeth - I wouldn't mind possessing them - but is it possible to live a life with your very own teeth that match your personality without feeling like a burden to society and an embarrassment to the National Dental Association?
It just never stops, does it? The female fear of flaws is well known and monumental. There's so much that can go wrong, especially at an older age, and the catalogue of imperfections is getting thicker than the old phone books year by year. There seem to be a large flock of secret beauty detectives everywhere who sniff out everything yet undiscovered that could go wrong with the human, no, make that female, appearance.
Forget about the boring old list of obvious "faults" like bags under your eyes, chipmunk-cheeks, the crepe turkey neck, the simple wrinkles, the age spots and the flabby arms. There's so much more wrong to the judicious eye. I myself discovered the very unattractive aging elbows. The only good thing is that I don't have to look at them unless I want to. And I really don't.
What about the knuckles on your once slim fingers who are now covered by little heaps of folded skin? And the kneecaps! Not a pretty sight; and don't get me started on earlobes! They get bigger and longer, don't they?
The greatest shock is the toes. I was always very proud of my presentable feet, but sensitized by the "old-teeth-awareness-lesson" I see now that I have actually two big horizontal wrinkles on my big toes! I want a toe-tuck -- or at least some fillers. I live in sunny Los Angeles; I'm dependent on sandals and youthful toes!!
What I hate about all this is the constant relentless reminder to check your appearance to make sure it's up to the sky-high standards, or whether you have failed abysmally and fall flat on your face or worse, into a bottomless pit of self-hatred and despair.
Everybody has seen, often puzzled, the armada of women who flock to public restrooms for an uncommonly long time, not just to pee but to catch their supposed flawed image in the unflattering neon lights -- and trying to fix it. Well, for some time now I'm not trying to fix anything anymore. I'm done. I turned out to be "unfixable". I have given the finger to perfection. A smart move because let's face it: age itself is imperfection done to perfection. Work of art in my book.
Those thoughts brought me recently close to a very old Japanese (14th century) principle they call "Wabi-sabi" which I really like. It's basically a worldview and an aesthetic concept that loves more the character of things than their perfect, flawless and shiny facade.
Wabi-sabi says that you should accept the transient nature of all things. Never aim at perfection. That goes for your face, your body and ultimately, your soul, too. Allow natural beauty to shine! Keep the poetry of aging intact! Perfection is a curse and a prison. We want to be outlaws and prison refugees, not the guards!
The poetry of aging! What a gorgeous concept. If embraced wholeheartedly, you don't even have to be as good as Emily Dickinson.
So welcome to Wabi-sabi! I'm combining it with my other healthy concept for confirmation, self-love and the acceptance of imperfection. It's an old saying, but with a new twist. Yes, beauty is in the eyes of the beholder. Just make the beholder YOURSELF!