Every girl wants to be pretty.
That's a fact of life we can't blame on magazines and media. People have been telling stories about beautiful women since the beginning of time- before people published magazines plastered with anorexic models who stand 8 feet tall and have no breasts, and could as easily pass for a boy as a girl.
(And really, I don't think they're all that pretty. But that's my opinion for another time.)
Once, when Brandon and I were first married, I complained about being fat. I wasn't, really- I've never been "fat", though I am curvy with breasts and hips, and while there's no "junk in the trunk", there's something going on back there. Brandon, my new husband, threw up his hands in exasperation and related to me that he missed the confidence that Jamaican women have.
My husband served an LDS mission for two years in Jamaica, and of course, fell in love with the people and the culture, the language and the food there. He told me that women there were just women. They were what they were, and it wasn't a matter of pretty vs. ugly. If someone asked the question "Have you seen Jamie?" a person might reply, "Which Jamie? The short one or the tall one? The fat one or the skinny one?" or any other slew of descriptive phrases that may or may not be considered incredibly rude here in the states.
The part that is so amazing to me is that none of those things, by Jamaican standards, was anywhere NEAR offensive. A girl could be short or fat instead of tall and skinny, and still be considered beautiful. When a person referred to her, in truth, about how she was physically, it didn't imply that she was a hideous beast to be shunned. It was descriptive and helped a person know who to find.
In Jamaica, too, the men were not conditioned to specifically think that thin, towering women were the only standard of beauty that had any validity. In my dating years, possible boyfriends consistently replaced me with girls who were taller, blonder, and thinner than I am.
Now, my post today is not at all about weight and how people should be allowed to feel comfortable in their skin and as they are. Indeed, I feel that people should feel comfortable in their skin if they are healthy and clean. With a fairly dangerous epidemic of morbid obesity sweeping our nation, I cannot feel comfortable throwing my hands up and saying to someone that it's all okay, they should go ahead and be comfortable with their bodies that way. That isn't to say either that we should all be rail thin, or see our ribs through out t-shirts. What I AM saying is, there are things we can't change. No manner of stretching or amount of hormones is going to make me taller. No amount of hair dye is going to make me the redhead or toe head that I wasn't born to be. Not permanently.
I'm not 100% against plastic surgery, and really, when it comes down to other people, whatever they do is what they're going to do. I don't really care. For me, though, unless plastic surgery was necessary for fixing a problem, I don't think I could go through with a procedure meant to make my boobs bigger (not that they need that), my nose smaller, my chin more pointed, or my tummy flatter. (Though, I have to admit, I find the idea of stretch mark removal rather inviting.) I believe in aging gracefully, in being natural, and no, that doesn't mean I'm a hippy or have dread locks. I believe in being comfortable with the things I can't change about myself. In realizing that, no matter how much weight I lose, no matter how much I exercise, I will never be a size 2, because I have carried and delivered four children and when hips spread, they stay spread. I'm a petite 5'3", and while I'd love to be 5'7" so that I could audition for America's Next Top Model, it's not going to happen. I believe in finding clothing that flatters your figure (vintage works well for me), and finding that perfect pair of blue jeans. I believe in taking care of your skin, and natural ribbons of gray and white along the lengths of a dark haired girl's tresses.
I believe that confidence is the secret to beauty.
I once read this story about Marilyn Monroe in a book called "A Year of Spirituality" by Ingrid Collins:
"A friend of late told how, one summer’s day, she and Marilyn Monroe were walking in Manhattan, talking earnestly about a subject on which they both felt strongly. Marilyn was wearing no makeup, a head scarf, and a plain coat , and nobody noticed the famous movie star. As they came to the end of the conversation, Marylin whispered to her friend, “Shall I be HER now ?” Immediately she was recognized and mobbed, causing traffic chaos. Her friend says the amazing thing was that she did not seem to change anything outwardly, she just decided to think of herself differently –
I also find that the more confident I am in myself, the more confident I am in other women. One morning, I might wake up, do my hair and makeup, slip on that perfect pair of blue jeans that I have finally found (and lets face it- a woman must ALWAYS be searching for that perfect pair, because at any second, something may happen to make her perfect pair imperfect- be it a pregnancy, a rip that isn't in the knee, gaining/losing a few pounds, etc.) a shirt that compliments my assets well, and I might look in the mirror and smile at myself. I will see a girl that looks fashionable, and fresh, and it makes me feel good.
On that day, out and about, I find myself smiling at women all around me, seeing their beauty in their curves, their slimness, their voluptuousness, their long hair, their short hair, brightness of eyes, straight teeth, or a gap between the two front teeth that adds just the exact amount of character to a woman to make her eclectic and exotic. Different tastes. Different colors. Different looks, most definitely all beautiful.
And I will think to myself , "Dang it, we're a bunch of gorgeous women!" And from there, I feel pride at being a part of it. Generally, these days are the ones where i get compliments. On my outfit, my eyes, my smile. It doesn't matter what. This is when I get them.
If on the other hand, I wake, do my hair and makeup, and something is just not working for me (and as women, we will all know that many things play into this. It can bethat time of the month, we can be dealing with a lot of stress, we might have suffered a disappointment in recent days, and so on.) I will continue through the day feeling rather sorry for myself. My body and my hair and makeup may be exactly the same, but I am lacking in confidence. If I must leave the house today, my confidence reflects on my opinion of other women. The frumpy, the flabby, the frizzy, the droopy. And so on. And then I am discouraged, thinking "Man, there are so many hideous women out here. We ought to hide away!" That eclectic space between a woman's front teeth becomes a testament that she needs braces. A woman's beautiful curly red hair becomes a ball of frizz that desperately needs some pomade, and a voluptuous woman needs to wear clothes that fit her, instead of squeezing into something that doesn't fit her.
It's shameful that I think such things.
Well, you know what they say: Misery loves company.
Unfortunately, though, friends, while I feel I have found the secret to beauty, I cannot imply that I have the secret to application. I have NO idea how to control how confident I feel. I'm working on it. But some days, it's out of my control.
Of course, after 8 years of marriage, my dear husband now knows that on my less confident days, it's better just to tell me that I'm stunning, gorgeous, and that if it were socially acceptable to just walk down the street naked, I should surely do that. Sometimes, confidence comes from an outside source.
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