Yes! Long slender legs! At last! I love it. I’m not sure how I feel about the itty-bitty head though.
This is about as close as I get to shooting selfies these days. I’m not all that excited about my looks; and therefore, I don’t expect you to be either. Don’t get me wrong; I don’t think I’m hideous. I actually clean up pretty good—and in the right light with the right make-up and clothes, and maybe a little Photoshop magic—I can see vestiges of the cute young thing I once was.
Who also disliked being photographed. For exactly the same reasons. I’ve never been excited about my looks, even though, as I mentioned earlier, I’ve never been hideous to behold.
No. And while I don’t think I’ve ever been considered a stunning beauty, I have usually been considered “cute,” and that “cuteness” has been a really big part of my identity.
Too big a part. Over the decades, I’ve focused on my appearance to pathological extremes: undereating (anorexia), over-exercising (orthorexia), and even compulsive tanning (yes, you guessed it—tanorexia—it’s really a thing—especially rampant back in the ’70s and ’80s.)
Yes, I have been a cute little poster child for a whole slew of “-orexias,” and even though I no longer starve, aerobicize or fry myself half to death (baby oil and iodine, anyone?), the underlying dissatisfaction with my body never completely goes away.
Which, I must say, is really, really, rude of me. This body has been very good to me. Especially the part I “hate” the most—my belly. I now try to be grateful to it for, among other things, having carried each of my big-headed boys around for months and months without complaint. But back in the day, before baby-bearing, even my compulsively choreographed trifecta of disorders—anorexia (flat stomach), orthorexia (taut stomach) and tanorexia (tan stomach—tan fat looks better than pale fat. Ha!)— could not ameliorate my pathologically distorted view of myself. (I was likely suffering from Body Dysmorphic Disorder, though, in the ‘70s, it wasn’t yet recognized as a distinct psychological affliction.)
And to this day—some four decades after the onset of all those -orexias—I still notice that it’s not just me. Most every woman I talk to is unhappy with her appearance. One good friend will not let her ankles show—long pants or long dresses even when its 97° outside. Another friend has come to dread getting dressed to go out because her skinny clothes don’t fit, and her fat clothes are ugly. Still another sleeps in her make-up to avoid being seen barefaced, even by her husband (of many decades!). Another has held onto her ’80s shoulder pad inserts in the hope that the Linda-Evans-Dynasty trend will come back around, and her narrow shoulders will be fashionably augmented.
And then there’s me—arms crossed over my belly—as though I’m angry. I’m not. I’m just hiding.
It’s habit at this point—this hiding. But I’m getting better. And it has taken looking “worse,” not better, to get me to unclench and relax a bit. No, you’re not gonna see me sporting a 1970’s striped mid-drift tube top with my frayed hip-hugger bell-bottoms—I’m 60, for god’s sake. But I do get out on the beach regularly in a swimsuit—albeit in a tankini—not a bikini. But still.
Progress not perfection, because there is no doubt, y’all: the perfection ship has sailed. And, frankly, there is some relief in that. Not that perfection was, is, or ever will be an attainable objective. But the likelihood that I will look better at 65 than I did at 25 is slimmer than my skinniest-of-skinny jeans that no longer fit.
However, the probability that I will be wiser, less self-absorbed, more compassionate at 65 than I was at 25, is almost a slam-dunk. (I’m sure you’d agree if you knew me at 25.)
Still, when I quip that “the ship has sailed” on my looks, I’m not trying to be coyly self-deprecating. With each passing year, the returns on all the effort I put into looking better than “my age,” are exponentially diminishing. When I was in my twenties, I could simply think about not eating a French-fry and lose two pounds. Today, dropping those two pounds takes a month of keto and 15,000 steps a day.
Not. Worth. It.
And I’m not suggesting to myself, or you, that I’m officially, as of now “letting myself go.”
Or maybe I am. Actually, yes, that’s not a bad idea. Letting myself let go of ideals that don’t serve me—or worse, ideals that harm me is the best idea I’ve had all week. I wish I’d had it when I was 17. But it wasn’t time yet.
Maybe it’s time now. I’m at a point in life where youthful beauty and vigor aren’t options—if only because I’m not a youth. (Well, there are other reasons—the baby oil and iodine—for one. But what’s done is done.) I can still aim for optimum health and vitality—and perhaps even enjoy a side-effect of better looks. Healthy, happy people really are more attractive.
I’m still not ditching my Crest Whitestrips, Ab Roller, and Todd, my miracle-working hairdresser.
But maybe I’ll uncross my arms and give you a hug.
“Vices” is now available on Kindle and other eReaders for just 5.99. You even have the option of “gifting” the digital version by clicking the “Give as a Gift” on Amazon.com and entering the email address of the recipient. Of course, the paper version (still my preference) is available at the buy-three-get-one-free rate from this website (Shop).
Books are also available from all these gracious local retailers:
At the beach:
69 Via DeLuna Dr.
Pensacola Beach, FL 32561
In Gulf Breeze:
832 Gulf Breeze Parkway
(Publix shopping center)
Gulf Breeze, FL 32561
In East Hill:
1208 N. 12th Ave.
Pensacola, FL 32503
(at the front register)
5109 Bayou Blvd.
Pensacola, FL 32503
89 Central Square
Santa Rosa Beach, FL 32549
Page and Palette
32 S. Secton Street
Fairhope, AL 36532