A: You are at war with the forces that want you to conform to their boring standards of beauty. They want you to feel as insufficient as they do. They want you to squander your time on shallow pursuits so that you’ll all have something (a very miniscule something) to talk about. Your acceptance of your natural and authentic self is a threat that must be squashed.
I know some of you are thinking, “Well, what’s so wrong about wanting to look good and younger?” It seems innocuous enough, doesn’t it? But I’ve come to the conclusion that our greatest source of self-oppression as women is our preoccupation with our looks. Yep, I believe it is that big and that nefarious. I’ll tell you why in a moment.
I was once approached by a saleswoman hawking a youth serum. She said, “Excuse me, ma’am, would you like to stop the signs of aging?”
“Of course not,” I said. “You can’t really fight it, and it’s unhealthy to try. The whole idea is vampiric at best.”
She frowned, or at least I think she would have if the Botox hadn’t paralyzed her facial muscles.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m a girlie-girl. I can drop some serious change in a Sephora store. I have fun with makeup, and I’ve been blonder than the Lord intended for the last 15 years. No doubt I’ll be going gray at some point, but I’ll always enjoy playing with makeup colors. My bright red lipstick is my calling card. I intend to wear it in flagrant disregard of age-appropriateness or the opinions of others.
Vanity has been a weakness as well. I confess that I commissioned one of Atlanta’s best makeup artists for the photo shoot for my book jacket. But after decades in bondage to an unobtainable ideal, I have my eye on freedom.
It helps that I don’t understand the logic of cosmetic surgery. As I see it, the lines on my face are a record of every smile and laugh — and sorrow and grimace — in my lifetime. Why would I diminish my rich experience or create a façade that’s not nearly as interesting? I’ve never seen anything as fetching as a woman at complete ease with her flaws, scars, and “shortcomings.” That’s the definition of a true knockout.
We must stop obsessing over things that don’t matter. This is what robs us of our power and joy, our important work, our higher purpose.
Time is short. Would you rather them say you left an exquisite corpse or you made your life mean something?
Okay then, let’s overthrow the forces that would keep us small. The rebellion begins in us, one-by-one. The culture will disapprove; its control hinges on our dependence on external validation. Deep courage will be demanded. It will be hard, as we’ve been drinking the Kool-Aid since it was first placed in our baby bottles.
So here are your marching orders.
Stop criticizing your appearance or anyone else’s. Teach girls and younger women by example. Revile the preposterous standards of “beauty,” and ignore those who profit from our insecurity. Eschew the prescribed norms in favor of gorgeous imperfection. Never fret again about those 15 pounds you can’t lose or the birthday that just passed. Acknowledge that you were born to be you, and God loves all of his creation. You are worthy.
Go forth and protect, defend, honor, embrace, and tout your authenticity. Sashay and swirl, and be comfortable in your own skin. Each year add more bounce to your flounce because you are most assuredly getting better with age.
And whether you are 24 or 84, I hope you’ll look in the mirror and like what you see, inside and out. We will all have a fighting chance if you do.
Send your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org. Lauretta Hannon, a resident of Powder Springs, is the bestselling author of The Cracker Queen — A Memoir of a Jagged, Joyful Life and a keynote speaker. Southern Living has named her “the funniest woman in Georgia.” See more at thecrackerqueen.com.