The Edge of 17 to the Precipice of 40

I’m vain as hell.

I mean, maybe I’m totally stating the obvious here and you picked up on that from my very first post, which, you know, was a review of a lipstick advent calendar. But on the very small, teeny, tiny chance you did not, I’m throwing it out on the proverbial table.

I. AM. VAIN.

As hell.

I’m not going to blame it on my mother, though she, thin, was on a diet near-constantly in public while scarfing down 40 snack-size (not Fun Size; nothing “fun” about a shrunken candy bar) Snickers in private. I’m not going to blame it on my father, because, well, that just wouldn’t make any sense at all.

I am, however, going to hurl my feminist flagpole into the ground with force and blame it on a western society which still values beauty, in women, above all else.

I can state the above with 100 percent confidence not because of the usual blah blah media images or blahblahbittyblah diet culture or whatever other hashtag might be floating around out there.

I can state it unequivocally because I’ve lived on both sides of the female beauty coin, and I am extremely aware of the (highly addictive) power that comes with being conventionally attractive.

I wasn’t always.

All the way up through high school, I was quite below average in the looks department. I had giant, chunky, brown plastic glasses and a huge, frizzy perm that didn’t quite know if it should be dirty blonde or dishwater brunette. I reached my adult height of 5’8″ around sixth grade, giving me a freakish, gawky appearance. Girls mocked me. Boys, with a few exceptions (I liked sports and was fun to be around; total friend zone), ignored me. I was smart and creative and had a solid sense of humor, but, when you’re female and ugly, these things don’t much matter when it came to social scene rankings.

The summer before my freshman year, things changed for me. I shed the grandma glasses in favor of contacts. I still had the perm, but I had learned to style it reasonably. I developed some gentle curves and my long legs totally rocked my Crayola-green cross country running shorts. One guy told me my ass should be hung in a museum for perfection.

So, yup, suffice it to say people noticed. Ninth grade was so much different than eighth. I was still the good student, still creative and funny, but I was also cute – and that was what opened doors. That meant power. And throughout high school and even up through my early 30s, I didn’t always harness that power for good (there are at least 45 blogs that could come out of this statement. Maybe later).

Now, as my looks fade and I notice the younger ladies who have fallen into positions of power I once held, I’m just now, barely, starting to be OK with it. It’s hard. For a professional woman, especially a professional woman in my chosen field, looking sharp is an advantage. Am I smart and hardworking and great at what I do? Sure am. Has having a certain look helped me along my climb? I’m certain of it.

As much as we’d all love to say eff-the-patriarchy, it shouldn’t be this way, the fact, sadly, remains that it is.

I firmly believe all ages and body types can be beautiful, with grace and taste. And the driving concept behind founding the Fortytude brand was about owning the decade your way, whether that’s all curves or superfit or streaks of grey or fresh glossy salon highlights.

That said, I’m self-aware enough to know that my 40 is going to mean Aging with Vanity. Playing the game. Dressing to show things off, just a smidgen. Eating clean; working out. Investing in some fabulous skincare. And, if necessary, there’ll be a little tweaking.

Stay tuned for more on that last item.

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