Beauty is an Attitude…

Yesterday we attended a festival where our favorite attraction is the belly dancing or danse du ventre as it was known in the Victorian era as coined by the French.  Or in Arabic it is “Raqs Beledi” or a folk dance.  Each year we make a point to stop and watch the women dance and they draw a huge crowd throughout the day.  They have beginners and experienced dancers, all colors and all shapes and sizes.  They dress in all sorts of beautiful pageantry, with brightly colored hip scarves and well, things I have no idea the name of.  And all ages.  I am not great at guessing ages but I’m certain this one lady is over 70, but I could be wrong.  There was a few girls that were probably 8 or 9, concentrating hard on following the moves of the troupe.

Many of the women are familiar from seeing them year to year.  And there are always new faces as well.  It seems the troupe grows bigger and bigger.  Few of them have what anyone would refer to as “perfect bodies”.  But how many of us achieve that stellar stature based on the ideals of society, media and so on.  The world would be boring if we were all “perfect”.   Many of them would be classified as “plus-size” or even “obese” but I find them all to be beautiful.

They are not afraid to step out and bare their bodies, especially their mid-driffs which I can honestly say, there weren’t any washboard super flat abs even on the thinnest women.  Whoever dreamt up that concept for both men and women is probably selling something “diet” related.  If that was “normal” then the few people that do have it would be able to eat more than a few crackers and not work out 10 hours a day.

Their smiles and complete embrace of the dance, which can be seen as provocative in some cultures, made everyone who watched feel wonderful.  Smiles were on most spectators faces.  The women and girls were simply enjoying their craft and not worrying if they had “muffin tops” or a “pooch” or fitting into any stupid cookie cutter ideal of what someone else deems “acceptable”.  Their attitudes were contagious, their attitudes made each on of them beautiful.

Beauty can be narrowed down to such a minute description but those who subscribe to this way of thinking miss out on all the beauty the world has to offer.  What people of all types, colors, ages, sizes have to give the world.  Being thin or skinny doesn’t make a person beautiful, it just makes them thin or skinny.  People, especially women, have this misnomer of that when they reach their ideal weight that their lives will suddenly be perfect but it’s furthest from the truth.  You still deal with harsh people, bad days at work, tragedy and so on.  It’s not the magic cure-all to a dissatisfied life.  It doesn’t suddenly make you “better” than heavier people.  It simply doesn’t make you better at all.  It may offer you the ability to shop in different stores, or be more active or fit in the airplane seats better and that’s all positive things.  It may drastically improve your health.  But it will not make you famous, or popular or bullet-proof.

Age is the other thing our society seems to frown upon.  Aging is put up there right with taking out the trash or getting a yearly examination.  But I watched several of the older women dance, their bodies still moving lithely.  Though they have wrinkles and some grey hair, I found them to be the most beautiful.  They had survived many years and still found beauty and joy in life through dance.  Maybe the skin on their tummies sagged a bit more than those in their 20’s but I found it reassuring it’s not horrific as women are lead to believe.  Sending thousands of us out for medical procedures to keep our youth.  What’s wrong with getting old?  You can be stunning at 70.  Embracing your stage in life, standing with confidence and exhibiting a graceful and passionate outlook, is much better than Botox.  Why can’t we just get old?  Why do we have to look “young”?

My grandmother was in her early 80’s but she never really saw herself as old.  She would wear high heeled pumps and fitted suits that someone much younger would wear.  She didn’t hesitate to put on the red lipstick, her best looking wig and tasteful jewelry for church.  I remember her telling me one day on the one of our Sunday calls (which I sorely miss), “Oh, Laura, I don’t want to be like those old people at church” she mused after service one day.  I bit my tongue and stifled a laugh because she was probably one of the more elder members.  My grandmother was rarely “old”, it was all in her attitude.

So be your beautiful self.  Fat, thin, in the middle.  Young, middle-aged or experienced (I like that word better than old or senior), it doesn’t matter.  Beauty is an attitude, so just be beautiful!

Surprise! I’m Naked… Well Kinda….

The other week, I had been getting over a randy case of stomach flu.  I was worn out and tired to say the least from my many hours spent in our lovely downstairs master bathroom.  I really like my bathroom, with it’s cheery yellow walls, bright windows and nickel-toned accents. There is an even a piece of art from one of my favorite artists that one can ponder upon from the throne.  However, I really don’t think it warrants a whole day in there but my body thought otherwise.  Strangely enough, on Monday, as I recouped, I felt better than I have in months.  Odd, I thought.  More on that later.

So being drained and tired, the next day I basically went through the motions.  I went to work, did some shopping and all the things I normally seem to do.  Since I was feeling better, I was a little more chipper, chatted a bit more with my co-workers/friends as I went through the hall.  I was in and out of the bathroom, washing my hands without really paying attention to my reflection other than to make sure my pants were zipped as I knew I was struggling to get through the day.  The last thing I want is to be is wandering the halls with my barn door wide open.

Later that night, I was going through my nightly routine where I brush my teeth, remove my makeup and slather on the face cream that’s supposed to keep me from looking like an old bat too soon when I realized there was no makeup to remove.  I had completely forgotten to put it on that morning.  No matter what, even the gym usually and even riding my bike for hours on end, I prescribe to what I call my Basic 3.  Foundation powder, eyeliner (only the top lid when exercising) and waterproof black mascara (making sure I curl the top lashes for the ultimate ‘pop’).  My eyes are my favorite attribute as I’ve gotten more compliments and comments on them, well other than my boobs when they sprouted in sixth grade, than any other part of my body.  But here I was staring at my naked face.  Not even a stitch of foundation to cover the broken blood vessels in my cheeks compliments of my German heritage which I had burned out seven years ago and they just reappear.

I had been reading a book by Jennifer Farr Davis title Becoming Odyssa which is an autobiography chronically her first thru-hike on the Appalachian Trail (AT) when she was twenty-one.  While I enjoyed the details of her mostly solo-hike, it was her musings about being out in a place with no mirrors for weeks at a time.  That when she met people, she was stinky and dirty, with no makeup or even a shower most times.  People had to like her based on her personality rather than her appearance.  I thought about that for a few moments as I studied my face.  I decided that I would do the same thing the next day, go naked.  No makeup at all.

Well, not knowing I didn’t have makeup on was a lot different than being aware that I had none on.  When I didn’t know that I had forgotten the war paint, I was oblivious so I behaved in the same way and people behaved their same way back.  No one stopped and screamed in horror, “Oh my god, you have no eyeliner on today!” just before they turned and fled the building in disgust.  However, on the day I knew I didn’t have makeup on, I walked around feeling like I left my pants at home.  Self-conscious, uncomfortable and even though I know that no one else cared but me, I had to admit that makeup was a bit of a security blanket that makes me feel pretty.

Reflecting on the day in bed that night, I decided my idea to go an entire week without makeup was going to drive me batty so I decided to resume my normal makeup routine.  I don’t NEED makeup and I don’t wear much makeup but I like makeup.  To me, it is like accessorizing (which I do little of anyway) but my eyes do not have the same impact when I don’t wear makeup.  It’s like art for my face.  And it makes me feel a bit more confident.  Pretty.  It’s an enhancement not a way to hide from the world.

In closing, I believe I have a healthy relationship with makeup and so what if I wear pink sparkly lip gloss to the gym?  It keeps my lips moisturized and soft so I’m not thinking about god damn it my lips are chapped while I’m trying to workout.  Priorities right?