I returned to college in my 30’s and enjoyed every minute of it. Having already “sowed my wild oats,” so to speak, I was there to learn, experience and grow. One of the classes that I enjoyed the most was a multi-discipline class on Women and Media. It combined the disciplines of English, Cultural Anthropology, and Economics. Sitting in a class with a roomful of 20-somethings, I felt like the wise, old, experienced woman of the bunch, but even I was floored by some of the things that I learned.
One class that even had me, old feminist that I am, sitting up and paying attention was when the professor brought up a magazine cover on the screen showing a beautiful “young” woman, with perfect hair, make-up and smile. The professor went on to say:
“While that is the idea of what a woman is supposed to look like, the truth is that no one looks like that … including her. Look closely at her skin. What do you see? Or, more to the point, what do you Not see? She has no pores! Her face has been touched up to appear flawless, but what it actually shows is that her face, her skin, can’t breathe. She is no more real than Santa Claus.”
I don’t think I had ever actually looked that closely at the faces on the magazine covers except to admire or criticize their hair or clothes. Sure, I had marched in the streets back in the 70’s for equal rights for women and considered myself above all that stuff, but I was as guilty as every other woman who looked in a mirror and was unhappy with what they saw because they based their findings on what the culture called “beautiful.”
This idea goes way beyond just how we look. It goes to who we believe ourselves to be and whether or not we are happy being that person. When you look in the mirror, is the person looking back at you someone you like, that you enjoy spending time with? Is this person someone whom you respect, trust and admire? Is this person an authentic representation of your life? Especially as we get older, these questions become even more important than whether we want to look like Helen Mirren in our 70’s. We can have looks to die for, but if the person behind all the makeup, face-lift and hairdressers isn’t someone we want to spend all of our time with, than they might as well look like someone from a Tim Burton movie.
The person in the mirror should be the real deal, the beautiful, honest, creative, authentic spirit that wakes up every morning filled with joy at the opportunity to experience another new day. That’s the person you want to hang out with, not some carbon copy from a magazine cover (and that includes all the ads inside the magazine as well). Why be willing to accept crumbs, when you can feast on the whole meal, as coach and author Cheryl Richardson is fond of saying.
This week, our writing assignment on the Home Page will ask you to explore when and if you’ve been lead to believe that you didn’t measure up and how you did (or could) move beyond that to authenticity. As always, have fun exploring this and, remember, to always keep writing.
Peace and blessings.