The beauty of young women cannot be denied, healthy with glowing unwrinkled skin, bright eyes, firm round breasts, and soft, dark pink lips. Their bellies are flat, or sweetly rounded like a kitten’s. Usually unaware of their own loveliness, they see it in those around them, and they envy, they yearn for the beauty of others.
As we age we think we are wiser but still we yearn for beauty, especially that of youth, the smooth skin and firm breasts. We forget our own youthful good looks, if we’d ever even known them.
I was “pretty” as a young woman, never beautiful in my own eyes. I was pretty until I married a man with two beautiful daughters, both of whom outshone me. I became plain compared to them. Even at their gawky best, with bad skin and braced teeth, their beauty was clear and I felt plain. Mirror, mirror, on the wall, who is the fairest of them all? Like Snow White’s stepmother, this stepmother could see, I would never be the fairest of them all. I was almost 21 when I married.
For decades of my life I was not beautiful. I spent decades believing I was “attractive, but in the same way humans are generally attractive.” I had lost my beauty, or my perception of it. I saw it in others, but I could not see it in me.
Now I am “middle-aged.” Surely that cannot be true — but I’m past the mid-point, almost certainly. Is it possible for a woman my age to be beautiful? How could I find my beauty?
Over the last four years I’ve transformed my life. I went from working hard in a job I’d come to dislike, angry and tightly wound, to a more relaxed pace. My interim employment suited me fairly well, keeping me busy but not frantic, allowing me to release my anger, soothe my mind. Full retirement is even better, allowing the luxuries of physical fitness and generosity with time.
And I’ve found my beauty. It snuck up on me. I dropped a little weight purposely, but fairly easily with less stress eating. I grew my hair somewhat longer, with a more relaxed style to suit my new attitude and new life. And the scowls in my face eased out while I smile more.
In the last few months I’ve been called beautiful by people other than my husband, who has always found me so. One of my daughters (one of the beautiful princesses) has told me on two different occasions how pretty I am. (She has reached the age where she doubts her own beauty, and whether she ever even had it.)
My skin has gained the patina of middle age. My breasts are not firm and high like a young woman’s. My soft, dark pink lips slowly thin and fade.
Yet in middle age, I have reclaimed my beauty, and I stand ready to carry it into old age, no longer yearning for someone else’s skin or figure or long, dark lashes. I am attractive, about as attractive as other humans. And as I age, it is easier to see their beauty, as well.