Typing furiously as my facial serum mask penetrated my deftly self-microneedled skin (disclosure: one really ought to leave it to the professionals), I recognized a familiar whimper in my head. Actually, it was more of a desperate plea. I want out!
Attributing this familiar cry to my first Dry January, I moved on to peruse a myriad of fashion magazine editors’ January beauty must-haves, guzzled my second soy latte infused with collagen powder and greens, all the while micro-analyzing with fervor Princess Kate’s stunning, and just like that 40th birthday portraits. Exquisite and elegant? Absolutely. I ached as I compared my own limp hair to her gloriously glossy locks, my wrinkled forehead to her alabaster, English Rose skin.
“Get the hell back to work!”
That was precisely when it happened, my authentic Oprah Winfrey a-ha moment. At 52, I wanted out of our poisonous, youth-obsessed beauty culture, illusionary at best but more often unapologetically deceptive. Images offered as “effortless” in magazines and social media seductively and insidiously pulverize female self-esteem to a microfine powder which fails its promise to illuminate. I wanted my money back.
I credit my savvy and self-confident teenage daughter Kate for rousing me from idiocy. It was a Sunday morning, and with a keen eye, I scrutinized online offerings for a dermatologist-recommended, firming, plumping eye cream with collagen, hyaluronic acid, and peptides – perfection for preferably less than $50. Questioning whether I could get the same miracle product on 6 easy flex-pays via a home shopping network, I finally gave in to my own haunting SOS.
For months I had been hearing her voice warn, I do not want to do anything. I do not want to go anywhere or talk to anyone. Months of scrolling retouched photos and comparing myself to endless images of 20-year-olds with emaciated bodies, fox eye lifts, cheek implants, you name it – had done enough damage, leaving a void no serum, injection, or laser could repair. I felt utterly useless. Time for me to choose: self-inflicted torture and a “needing work” mindset or accept and embrace myself as I am: 52 years old, years gifted to me by the universe.
After all, you don’t see glorious Judi Dench trying Rosie Huntingdon Whiteley’s style hacks or Helen Mirren embracing her inner Kardashian via a butt-life or Meryl Streep taking duck-face selfies; instead, you read that Linda Evangelista has been hideously disfigured by CoolSculpting. I didn’t know who to cry for more – Linda (who never needed any kind of beauty enhancement) or women who didn’t realize that even supermodels are made to feel as if they can never be beautiful enough.
Although I still pick at the scab that the beauty industry has left, Kate’s wisdom saved me that morning. My overriding obsession with someones else’s perception of perfection was complete garbage, and I was ready for some serious brain rewiring. As a 52-year-old woman, I realize what an immeasurable gift is to be present with my beautiful husband or daughter, to nourish my mind with one of six books that lay unfinished on my bookstand, to partake in a small gesture of personal self-kindness, or heal my soul by simply thanking the universe. Thank you, Kate.
We females must reject this ridiculous construct of perfection, for ascribing to today’s beauty standards is beyond the ultimate self-destruction. I now know I don’t have to pour another lovely under $20 dry white as I subscribe to an exclusive monthly beauty box or fall asleep scouring Pinterest for ‘Over 50 Skincare” in a futile attempt to remain attractive or sexy or even relevant. I just have to be Kathy. Like Dorothy, I had the power all along.
My 52-year-old self giggled aloud as I typed my cell rang. My genius therapist who witnessed me leave an abusive marriage, navigate my father’s sudden death, and take on a midlife career switch to teaching was phoning to confirm a telemedicine checkup. She surely would be along for this new journey, watching silently, a trace of a smile on her lips. I smiled in return. Later I would pour myself a congratulatory blood orange sparkling water and pick up one of those books on my nightstand.