Thursday, March 30, 2017

Obsessed with Youth and Beauty?

Although my birthday is still (exactly) 2 months away, I've been thinking about what I want to do to celebrate... and, apparently, it's weird to see because I shouldn't be excited. Because I'm turning 32. Because that means I'm, like, super old. The horror! lol.

I've always enjoyed celebrating my birthday even though I have a track record of absolutely terrible birthday celebrations. The only good ones (that I can remember) have been 18, 20, 24, and 25. Seriously, that's it.

I went on a spontaneous lunch date with a guy I liked when I was 18. (side note: he's been the only Mormon I've ever dated. That itself is a whole 'nother story.) He didn't even know it was my birthday because I hadn't mentioned it but, boy, he was a gentleman. Oh, and we also went to Disneyland around that time.

I celebrated 20 at Disneyland with my (then) two best friends, one of whom is still one of my best friends to this day. It was the first time I'd ever stayed at Disneyland late enough to enjoy the fireworks (save for grad night). It was magical. A few days later we (the gals and a couple of my best guy friends) met up at my favorite diner where we took over the back room and had a blast.

 A day before my 24th birthday, my father gave me the best birthday present when he returned to the Church after being away for over 40 years. Nothing has topped it as the best birthday present ever, except, you know, my mom giving me life.

25 was my first birthday without my father (who died nearly a month and a half after I'd turned 24) and I had so many friends and neighbors who came over for a potluck birthday. Our apartment was bursting at the seams with so many lovely people. I'm sure I had some pretty awesome birthday parties as a kid but I don't remember that far back. Other than that, I have the worsting time.

It doesn't help that my birthday usually lands around Memorial Day (if not on Memorial Day) and right around the time everyone goes away for the summer. Trying to organize something is always a nightmare for this social introvert. I kind of want to do another potluck-type thing, like I did for my 25th birthday. A very casual, chill thing with some friends, maybe some of my brothers (if they're in the area; I never know with them), and neighbors. Quality time is my love language so, you know, that would be the best gift; having my friends here for my birthday. I've yet to solidify -- or even commit to -- the plans but, at the moment, I'm thinking I may just do that.

Anyway, the point of this not to talk about my birthday but about how a lot of people think it's weird that I actually enjoy getting older. I don't know if it's because I was blessed with good genes or because I don't quite understand the obsession with staying young.

I will admit that I have my moments where I go "I actually feel old right now" but those are very rare. Most of the time I'm a sort of bouncy (yes, I did just use that adjective to describe myself) nerd, trying to get through this great adventure that we call life. The only times I look at my age in comparison to how old someone else is is when a (much) young(er) man decides he's interested and I have to say "you, do know I'm *insert number of years* older than you, right?" No, I haven't robbed cradle; I'm simply stating that younger guys dig me. lol. Other than that, age is not an issue with me.

Perhaps it's because my mother taught me to be proud of my age; proud of who I am. She's turning 63 this year (and doesn't care who knows; she'll tell you) and has more energy than I do! lol. She looks like she's about a decade younger as well. She embraces her age and who she is. It's been a wonderfully empowering thing to witness growing up (and continuing to 'grow up'). She doesn't see age as an unfair life sentence like many people do. She isn't rushing out to buy the latest beauty product to make her look younger. She does like to look nice and likes to take care of herself but not to the point of vanity; more like respecting the body God has given you and taking care of it to the best of your ability.

Ever since I've hit my 30s (so, since May 30, 2015, lol), I've noticed the growing trend of "I'm in my 30s now! Noooo! I'm old! I'm haggard! No man will want me!" That and the ads have become increasingly annoying, featuring younger and younger looking women touting the miracle of whatever facial cream will make them 10 years younger. There's so much emphasis on youth and beauty. I honestly don't get it. Is it one of those "the grass is always greener on the other side" deals?

Well, no. I take that back. It's quite clear that it's society's fault for pushing youth and beauty as the ultimate things that we women should strive for. Going back to the ads, how many can you count during a commercial break? In magazines (oy, women's magazines are the worst!)? And how often do we fall for that lie that our self-worth and happiness are contingent upon how young and pretty we look? Lies, my friends. Of course, they're going to push these products (many of which don't work or will only work for a limited time)! They're companies who want to make money off of your insecurities! They have marketing teams who do research and go for the things that make us so insecure, which, (unfortunately) for women has become getting older and not looking like you're just out of high school or college.

There's beauty in growing older. I firmly believe that every wrinkle and line that appears is a story about growing in wisdom and that itself is beautiful. My mother works in a convalescent hospital so I'm used to seeing older women who light up when you visit them; always ready to tell you a story. Have you ever sat with an older stranger and been completely absorbed in their stories of things they've lived that you'll never experience yourself? That is a thing of beauty. Women who are "old and wrinkled" who've cared for others -- whether biological or adopted children or simply other people -- are beautiful. Women who've renounced the world and have devoted their lives to praying for others and doing God's will in cloistered convents are beautiful. Women who've become mothers... consecrated virgins... religious sisters... all beautiful. You men who are dedicated fathers, brothers, priests, monks also get a shout out for bringing beauty to this world in your own ways.

I know some people will say "well, yeah, you look like you're in your early 20s. Of course, it's not a big deal to you." Yes, I do look younger than I am but, in the past year or two, I've noticed that I'm finally losing some of that "baby face" and I'm starting to look closer to my age... and that's totally fine. In fact, it's been great to see as I look back on pictures I've taken over the past couple of years. I can tell you that I've embraced the crow's feet that are popping around my eyes because they tell others that I've had many good laughs, some that have ended in tears from laughing so hard. That means I've had a lot of joy in my life, even in the middle of all the crummy things I've dealt with. Same goes for the laugh lines around my mouth. I actually think they complement my dimples. ;) Yes, that was said half-jokingly, half-seriously. lol.

We, women, need to remind ourselves that our beauty comes from within. No, it's not a bad thing to want to look nice and to take care of ourselves. That's, as I said earlier, simply respecting and wanting to honor the bodies God has given us. It's not bad to want to look nice for our significant others. I like dressing up and looking nice as well. I'm pretty laid back (read: low maintenance) most of the time but I do like putting an effort for special occasions (and Mass). That doesn't mean that I'm doing it to fluff my ego or vanity.

Ladies, when you see a friend (or even a stranger) doing something that emphasizes their inner beauty, say so. Gentlemen, do the same. Don't allow society to tell you that your self-worth depends on how pretty you look. Don't like age dictate what you can and can't do (within reason... that was for you in the peanut gallery. You know who you are. lol). I've seen/heard older gentlemen in their 70s-90s talking about beautiful their wives are... women who, by society's standards, are way past their prime and whose wrinkles are an indication that they are "worthless." I've even heard one particular gentleman talk about how his wife (both in their 80s) was more beautiful now than when she was in her 20s! We need to build each other up, not to the point of vanity but to the point where we can ignore the ridiculous societal norms of what youth and beauty are.

Ultimately, none of this is going to matter. Looks aren't everything. Some people look incredible and have hearts as black as night. Some people look (as our society would put it) homely and have amazing hearts full of love and joy. Have you ever met someone who wasn't conventionally beautiful but their personalities made them even more beautiful? Case in point, y'all. Yes, yes... it's cliché to say that what matters is on the inside but, um, hi, it's a cliché for a reason. When we're done with our journey on this earth, I'm pretty sure God is not going to care about what we looked like but will care how we lived my life and how we served others. Celebrate your birthdays, no matter what the number is! Enjoy life and don't worry about others think of you.

I'm going to leave y'all with this:

"Your adornment should not be an external one: braiding the hair, wearing gold jewelry, or dressing in fine clothes, but rather the hidden character of the heart, expressed in the imperishable beauty of a gentle and calm disposition, which is precious in the sight of God." (1 Peter 3:3-4)

And now that I've written that, I'm going to try to finish my research paper. It's due tomorrow but I think I can turn it in tonight. After this, I have a big exam coming up next week so I may not blog again until next week. We shall see. :D

I hope y'all are having a lovely week thus far. Friday of freedom is almost here! We can do it! lol.

As always, thanks for reading and God bless! :D

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