Beauty has never been a concern for me. When I was much younger, I wished I could be taller, that parts of me could be proportioned differently. I’ve never been what anyone would consider more than classically ordinary. I’ve never been beautiful. I am most often mistaken for a teacher, not the pole dancer/spy/art thief/heiress I’d like to be mistaken for. I am very lucky.
I’ve known people who were considered beautiful in youth. It is unsettling for them to witness their faces slide toward their bodies and their bodies slide toward the floor. I’m surprised by what has happened to my skin and the supporting structure beneath it. It’s deteriorated a lot faster than I thought it would. It hasn’t changed who I am or how the world relates to me. Men were not competing in throngs for my attention. Most of them described, imprudently, adjustments I might make to change my appearance to better suit their tastes when I was young; as if the inconsiderate chauvinists were possessed of comparable attributes.
I suppose I’ve had a fair share of attention but it wasn’t inspired by my great beauty. It doesn’t matter what drew them. I don’t recall ever encouraging admirers who had no hope or admirers who had less than the amount required to achieve what they were after. It hasn’t escaped my notice that beautiful people often have a small entourage of hopefuls; others who desperately want in, but will never get the invitation.
Beauty requires vigilance. It’s an added responsibility, to meet expectations for something that isn’t an accomplishment but is a matter of genetics. It must be confusing to lose a characteristic that has become a definition of who you are. People still react to me in the same ways they did when I was young and ordinary, now that I am old and ordinary. The entrances I made did not usually stop conversation, provided I was sober. It must be lonely to wake up one day and find attention has vanished. Losing beauty, with the popularity that accompanies it, must be analogous to losing a limb to a physically active person. I can’t imagine it.
We all identify ourselves with what we see in the mirror. I’d be quite lost if I were maimed and unrecognizable. I don’t think I’d care to live that way. Vision is my favorite sense but I think I’d be able to make an easier adjustment to life as a blind person than life as a person who had to have a face transplant. Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that.
Lamenting the loss of youthful beauty seems sadly vain to me. Human beings get old and wrinkly, if they’re lucky. We could celebrate advancing years as a triumph over all the things that could have gone tragically wrong, forcing us to leave before we were quite ready. I think, often, of the people I’ve held dear who’ve lived less than a normal life expectancy. They’d be delighted to see wrinkles and sags appear on their aging selves, to be alive still.
Whatever I had on the outside is gone. It just up and left one day 4 or 5 years ago. It won’t be returning and I don’t miss it. I’m still here and I’m still me. I look in the mirror and I say, as I do about many things, “Oh well.”