Thursday, May 3, 2012

Time, Money, and Energy. For What?

      Melanie  over at Is This The Middle  wrote a reflective post the other day in which she considered her  "Ashley Judd Moment".  She included a request that people make an effort not to reconsider how they talk about women.  Her point was that "pervasive negativity about women and their looks has got to stop".  I thought that the blog piece was insightful and honest.  The comments were too, especially this one  from by blogger friend  Word Nerd:

       "As a young mom, I was overly-critical of my "I've had babies" belly. Pretty much all of the women I knew at that time saw themselves in much that same way. Focused on the flaws...... We need to cut other women a break. We need to cut ourselves a break. And we need to stop believing somewhere deep inside that how we look matters in any real way."

    This observation is not news to any thinking woman out there but it stopped me dead in my tracks.  What is it about the whole appearance thing that makes so many women put so much time, money, and energy into how they look?  I care enough about myself to always want to appear (in public anyway) in presentable clothing with my hair at least brushed.  I am not necessarily dressed in up to date and put together in fashionable style but you won't find me at the store in my flannel pj pants and a too large tee shirt.  

      The issue, for me, is why is appearance so important?  What are we going for here?  Woman spend millions of dollars on "makeup solutions" and designer clothes.  They spend hours at beauty salons and nail centers.  They spend countless amounts of personal energy worrying about weight gain and wrinkles.  Imagine what positive changes could be wrought world wide if that money, time, and personal energy were put in the service some cause that is important to that woman: animal cruelty, environmental issues, social justice issues, whatever.

       I look back on photos of me in my late teens and wow! What a gorgeous smile and beautiful young woman.  But, I can assure you, I NEVER saw that young woman then.  I only saw a flawed female - and I am embarrassed now to say that.  And, the even sadder truth is that, until just a few years ago, I always found myself physically flawed - too this, not enough that.   Why is it different now?  I don't know.  I just dont' think about it much anymore.  I still want to look presentable but, for the most part, I spend my time, money, and energy on more valuable pursuits. Maybe it's because I am growing into the truly invisible years - the years when it is almost impossible to be seen. 

        This post is wandering all over the place.  Too many themes going on here but it is all jumbled in my head.

So think about answering any of these questions:

Why do women focus on appearance?  Do you?
I love what Word Nerd says about how is it that we believe that how we look matters in any real way?  What do you think?
The thing that attracts me the most in other people is the sparkle in their eyes and their smile.  How about you?  What do you notice in other people?

       I would love to hear your thoughts.


  1. Well, maybe the obvious answer to your first question is that women care so much about their appearance because they are told to - - magazines, media, boys, other girls. I don't know.

    But, I think the most attractive thing about a woman/girl is her self-confidence and her kindness, not in that order :)

    1. Fair enough, Judy. I guess the real question is WHY do woman buy into it? I am assuming lack of confidence and/or the pressure to blend and/or ingrained as an adolescent and not forgotten?
      Agreed. Confidence and compassion are very attractive. In anyone.

  2. I think there is some "nature" in there with the pervasive "nurture" to focus on appearance. It is an instinctive quality in all creatures to strive to attract a mate, isn't it? Shake our tail feathers or whatever floats a particular species' boat? Then you add in the societal aspects - a person's appearance is directly related to fitting in, to success, to attracting attention. The key for me has been to accept reality without beating yourself up about it - I will never get by on my looks and that's hand-to-God true - and get on with life. I hope every day that my inner beauty shines through, because I know I have a great heart and a lot of really fine qualities.

    But I think the "why" of it is going to be personal to each person. And in our uber competitive and plastic society (striving for those reality show ideals that aren't life at all), it is super easy to tie all our self esteem onto the one thing that Hollywood values - our looks. Bucking that requires each person to find reality and accept reality and see the fantastic beauty that is in all the individual quirks around us.

    I'm hitting "publish" now without any proofing...

    1. YOu are so right- a person's appearance is related to fitting in, to success. If you show up for work dressed inappropriately, you are already treading on thin ice with the boss. I am always aware of first impressions and how lasting they can be. If your appearance gives people the creeps, then you are not going to get far in life and may have trouble attracting people. Fair enough.

      I like what you said about accepting reality without beating yourself up. I take the package that was given me and attempt to make it presentable without spending a lot of time or money on it. I would be wrong to say I don't care. I do. Just not a lot....

  3. First of all, thank you for your kind remarks about my comment and for the linky love! :O)

    I'd like to say that I'm above caring about how I look, that I've grown past that, but that'd be a lie. If I didn't give it any thought, I wouldn't have a make-up bag and instead of working with a colorist to help me transition to gray, I'd just go freaking gray in whatever manner nature brings it.

    I do care. It's not my main focus and it's nowhere near the top of the list of things that I believe matter about me, but it's there.

    What I have outgrown (thankfully!) is beating myself up about not meeting some notion of ideal. As you said, "...too this, not enough that." I've told myself that I have "too much" chin and forehead, "too much" belly, and "too much" boobage. I'm not tall enough, I have wild, untamed curls, and a space between my two front teeth that I have sometimes liked and sometimes found so awful that I let it impact how I smiled. Ridiculous.

    Now, at 50, I'm friends with the curls, the gray, my proportions, and even the wrinkles that are beginning to show. I still start my days with make-up and a look in the mirror, but I no longer scowl at the woman who looks back at me.

    Oh, and like you, I tend to notice people's eyes and smiles. If they're warm and welcoming, I'm immediately drawn in.

    PS: GBE stands for Group Blogging Experience. There's a full explanation of the origins of the group on my blog on the topic announcement posts that go up every Sunday. I'll head over to FB now and approve your request! I'm SO glad you'll be joining in! :O)

  4. Thanks for your feedback. I am with you. I do care about how I look but I am actually getting to be friends with all my self imposed flaws. On the other hand, I select clothes with care, I put on simple makeup in the morning but I still cringe at my image in the I don't look at myself. I don't necessarily want to look younger than I am; I do, however, want to look "put together", NOT frumpy. OH, who cares. I'm done with this. Over it. I am what I am and I love to smile and laugh and I like dressing in ways that are comfortable and yet up to date. What do I know though? I used to care much more than I do now but I was much younger then.

  5. I'm probably going to echo what has been said, but I think that the media, Hollywood, advertising the utmost importance on beauty. Why? It sells product. They create a fear. Fear can get us to do all sorts of ridiculous things like thinking that our nether regions are supposed to smell like spring rain.
    I grew up thinking I was horrible looking because I didn't fit the mold of beauty in 1980's suburban Kansas. I was 6ft tall with crazy frizzy hair and pale freckled skin. Everyone around me had a straight blonde bob, a coppertone tan and small feet:) I didn't get really comfortable with the way I looked until I was in my mid-thirties. Now I have horrible posture from trying to appear shorter, but I've let my hair be itself without smooshing it into submission. I've had grey hair since 16 and I'm finally toying with the idea of letting it be its natural color--white. And to be honest, it's freaking me out. Does it say "I give up?" or does it say "F you, this is who I am and I'm tired of trying to conceal it." Being a woman is hard. I'm watching my 11 year old go through the same stuff I went through. Her hair is getting curly and I'm trying to spare her from trying to mold herself into some ideal. It's such a waste of time and energy. Yes, time that could be spent doing something meaningful. But how do you convince an impressionable young woman that nobody remembers how glossy and straight her hair looked, but they sure as Hell remember if you were kind to them? Especially when our society glorifies people by how they look. Hello Kim Kardashian I'm talking to you. (And I'm sure she's a lovely, intelligent human being, but in the media she's a product.)
    I was "friends" with a woman on facebook who posted a snarky comment and a pic about a larger woman seated in a chair and her thong was showing. Well, my "friend" thought this was cool. I called her out on it. I said, this woman is someone's mom, sister, wife, friend and you're making fun of her. Not cool. She deleted me before I had the chance to delete her. It all starts with us. Be the change you want to see in the world. I think Ghandi said that.
    Okay, I've rambled on long enough and I haven't really said anything. But thanks for allowing me to vent:)

    1. BINGO! Fear does drive so much. Women are compelled to listen to Madison Ave b/c they are afraid of not being seen as attractive if they don't. ANd, yes, it is hard being the parent of a daughter. I have watched my daughter be quite upset with her appearance - starting at about age 10. Prior to that, she was just plain cute and didn't know nor care about that. Around 10, she started to sense that there was something more to be done - and so it was always about the hair not being right or the clothes not being right. As a high schooler, she was extremely self conscious b/c she is not uber thin - OMG! She is gorgeous and has no clue. From me, she got a mother who likes to dress comfortably but who also likes to play with the art of appearance. I have neither time nor money to do a lot but I like feeling good about the way I think I look. I like feeling sexy and attractive and so I pay attention. I will never wear something in which I am not comfortable - be it shoes, underwear, a top - whatever. However, I like wearing fun shoes or sparkling watch or a top that shows a little cleavage (b/c that's all there is to show but still.....). I like to play with hair color - mostly b/c the mousey brown that I have naturally is not pretty TO ME. So, I play with some darker colors and some reds and I have fun.
      Thanks for your comments!

  6. What really stuck with me about this post is your comment on the invisible years. I'm not there yet but I have friends who are, and I think I know what you mean. I've just never heard anyone actually reference that aspect of things in a concrete way. So true. As I type this I'm looking at myself critically- I used a nail clipper on my nails last week but never got around to filing them into a presentable, round arc. I snuck in a shower this am, but no time to brush my hair, so it is wild and wavy. I need to shave my legs. And I can't wait for the pool to open to begin lane-swimming again each night. I'm an interesting mix, in other words. I hate pictures of myself because I never like how I look. Same thing with videos. They make me feel incredibly self-conscious. Because they don't reflect the way I feel about myself. I feel that I'm pretty. Not beautiful or stunning, but I like how I look. I feel confident in how I look most days. I've never had a 'perfect' body, and 4 kids later there is no hope of ever achieving that, even if it were one of my goals (it's not). But I feel pretty good about the shape I'm in, about my body; I'm proportionate. I don't care too much about these things, but I do try and (usually) wear clothes that are flattering. I meet each day with a healthy dose of self-confidence, which is all we can really ask, right?

    1. Ah yes, the invisible years. I miss the visible years and I do my best NOT to be invisible...... but it is a cultural thing, I fear.
      And ditto on the not looking at yourself in photos - I very rarely like what I see. The photo that I use for my website is one of the rare photos of myself that I like - and I took it myself!
      And, I agree, and I like the way you put it: meet each day with a healthy dose of self - confidence -- I hit that about 80% of the time and the rest of the time I fake it. Thanks for your comments!

  7. It's been interesting to see the deep and heartfelt responses here and over at Melanie's. Appearance is a huge mushy tangled up barbed-wire wrapped mess for me. I've had a post in my drafts folder for over a month now about many of these same issues. Maybe this will inspire me to dust it off and get it finished. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on such a touchy and personal topic.

    1. I wish you would dust it off and post it! I would love to hear your thoughts.