Beauty has changed over my life. When I was younger, it was in the hands of others who decided if I was worthy of attention and admiration. This beauty was not without it's anxiety and fretfulness. But the worst part was probably the constant judgment and ridicule I and my peers inflicted on ourselves. We were never right enough. Our teeth too crooked, our calves too thin, our bellies too pooched. Eventually, Beauty's meaning took a backseat to the rigors of adulthood: relationships, child-rearing, career...survival. I still wanted to be beautiful. But it was about an eleven on my top-ten list.
Now, as a post-menopausal woman, the relevance of Beauty re-emerges. Truth be told, far from being a celebration, the loss of my youthful fertility has been an unexpectedly hard pill to swallow. I hardly realize how my features have submitted to the imperceptible demands of gravity-- until I walk past a mirror and see my mother. Then, it strikes me: I am no longer young. And while Beauty is as accessible to me as it was back then, there are so many elements and complexities that have enriched and complicated my life. As an older woman, society no longer relegates me to my looks. And neither do I. I've slayed far too many dragons to be relegated to being just a pretty face.
And somehow, in some way, there is a sense of loss in that, too.
Now, my beauty has changed. It belongs to me and is solidly under my control. I exude more confidence and control in a sweater and sweats than I ever did trying too hard in a crop top and shorts. Age has reminded me that I have assumed my place as my mother, my mother figures, my ancestors who transcended the perils and indignities of womanhood--black womanhood, in particular--and consistently made a way out of no way. In that sense, my beauty has become legendary.
As I contemplate my losses and my gains, I've realized that beauty evolves, but never ever disappears. And towards the question "Does beauty still matter?", for me, the answer is an unequivocal yes.