Totally hot

It is, actually. The East Bay is usually pretty temperate, and I know very few people who have air conditioning, but it’s been hot as Hades lately. So, so totally hot. In a round about way, connected only by the vagaries of language, this brings me to some thoughts on beauty brought on by Julie Frick‘s freaking amazing post about self image and hawtness, which I’ve been meaning to talk about since I read that post.

Where do we learn to think we’re somehow not OK? I used to think it was inherent in teenage angst and insecurity, but that was before I met my husband. Once, I said something to him about, “You know that age when you think you look just godawful and you feel terrible about your looks?” and he said, “No.” Further exploration revealed that he’d never actually experienced this. As he put it, he didn’t expect anyone else to find him attractive, but he was always very happy with his looks.

Now, I’ve been married to the guy long enough to know that he does have insecurities and issues, but his approach on looks struck me as remarkably healthy, and one that I’d like to emulate in raising my own kids. The idea of being happy in yourself without expecting praise or outside confirmation is amazing to me – something of a Holy Grail of self image. I would have considered it mythical had I not met my husband. Perhaps it is cultural. As one of my favorite Salon articles indicates, my husband is not the only Venezuelan with great self image. Perhaps it has to do with upbringing. Perhaps it has to do with gender. I’ve known more men than women who are happy with how they look.

Whatever the reason, I’d like to find it and solidify it into a talisman to protect my kids. And I’m starting by looking at myself. (Navel gazing for the benefit of others! Yowza!) How often do I think, say, or indicate that I’m not good enough? Pretty darn often, actually.

I’m an occasional reader of Kate Harding’s Shapely Prose. I have read about, and I believe I understand, thin privilege. But something that comes up again and again, for women of any weight, is this feeling of inadequacy. For some, thin is never thin enough. For some, it’s not about weight at all. I’ve talked about my personal issues with weight on here before, and with my recent weight gain, I think I’m the healthiest and happiest with my body that I’ve been in ages. Which is why it’s weird that the way getting on clothes has gotten harder feels a little upsetting to me some of the time. And it’s probably also why, instead of sitting around being down on my body, I’ve started in on my face.

Silly stuff. My face hasn’t changed, but without my body to focus on as the problem, it seems like I have some sort of sick need to pick at myself, to deconstruct my looks and find what’s wrong. It’s a form of vanity, I think, because it seems like, rather than accepting myself and just moving on, it’s a way to focus on my own looks and spend more time on them than is really necessary.

Reading about the beauty of other women, I realized that it’s one of the things I absolutely love about reading knitting blogs. I love looking at pictures of other people’s beautiful knits and I love it even more when I can see pictures of the knitters as well.  There are so many beautiful people whose blogs I read on a regular basis, and it’s real beauty, more than skin deep, that’s on display.  I see beauty from models in magazines and catalogs, but it’s not the same as these personal pictures in which you can see the pride of a creator, beauty without design or ostentation, and the little flaws that are so much more lovely than all the perfect features in the world.  It seems like all the beautiful women in magazines and movies begin to blend together after a while.  There’s only so much Photoshop airbrushing one can take before all skin looks too smooth, all eyes too sparkly, all breasts too perky.  Freckles disappear, and one never sees an interestingly crooked smile or a gentle curve of a belly anymore.  It’s all the same, it’s all bland, and while there’s some beauty there, it’s less real than the beauty of interest.

I can see all this in other people.  I’m grateful for it.  Maybe you’re like me in this: it’s easy to appreciate the beauty of others without extending much of that courtesy to ourselves.  We’re trained up to think it vain to even appreciate our own physical assets silently.  We begin searching out all our flaws far too young, and not in an appreciative, interested way, but as a means of telling ourselves how little we are, how disgusting, how ugly.  I’ve met very few young women who felt comfortable in their own bodies.

Age is a gift here.  I, and many of my friends, have found that we like our bodies and selves better as we get older.  At nearly thirty, I’m a lot happier with how I look than I was at twenty.  But there’s still a long way to go before I’m comfortable with what I’m showing my daughter about beauty.  I think, some days, we need to look in the mirror and actually say, “I look good today.”

Totally hot.


7 Responses to “Totally hot”

  1. Amanda Says:

    Ok, have you been reading my mind over the past few days? I have had those days (ok months) where I was preoccupied with the winter weight I put on. I, too, am naturally thin and even with others telling me I looked better with the weight on, in my twisted mind I was sure they were just saying that because they weighted more than me and it made them feel better about themselves (crazy? yes). When none of your clothes fit it is hard to believe that you actually look good.

    Since I have reached the wise old age of 30 (right after I got over the ‘OMG I am 30!!! waaaaaaa’) I have made it a point to look in the mirror ever day and appreciate one thing about myself. Vanity or not, it makes me appreciate what I have to work with.

    I love the pictures of real women in the blogs I read and too appreciate the beauty in the crooked smile, the goofy looks, the years of experience etched in the fine lines around their eyes… and you know what? I have noticed the beauty in you as well. You are hot! But more than that, when I see pictures of you I see a kind soul and a good person. Start loving what is inside of yourself just as much as you love your daughter for who she is (not how beautiful) and she will indeed learn the true meaning of beautiful!

  2. Sarah Says:

    Amanda beat me to it – I, too, was going to say that you’re one of those people I always think is beautiful. You have a lovely form and face, of course, but I also think I can see a lot about the experiences you have lived and something about the core of your being in your postures and expressions and gaze into the camera. That rare natural exuding of self is beguiling, and many pretty people don’t have it.

    At a wedding last year I saw a couple of friends from an old life – since we’d parted company, they’d been married, nursed her mother through terminal cancer, suffered the death of their son during his birth, and experienced a quantum of healing through the birth of a second, healthy boy. The woman in particular had always been attractive – a sort of merry spirit always laughing and thinking up fun and engaging the people around her, with a pretty face to boot. Now she looks chiseled by her experiences, leaner, steelier, but also deeper and warmer. It’s a beauty marked by pain, but it’s a richer beauty.

  3. the Lady Says:

    I hope you don’t subscribe to, or buy those wretched magazines. Humans are these wonderful information machines, cataloging everything around them, which includes drawing comparisons about all experiences. When some young starlet or model is looking at you from the cover of a magazine, being paid for her beauty and youth, it is difficult perhaps, if you’re not accustomed to not, to not look and draw comparisons. But it all needs to be taken with a huge grain of salt, yeah?

    I’m lucky – I never had a problem with not enough vanity! My grandma did tell me something when I was little, which I think was wise – “if you tell yourself you’re beautiful, you will be beautiful. If you tell yourself you’re ugly or stupid, you will be ugly or stupid – maybe both!” So do, and don’t. Stick a little sign over your mirror, and tell yourself aloud each day “I am beautiful.” Or whatever it is.

    Anyways, as a knitblogger who’s been reading people the last year – I really don’t have any interest in being like or looking like the covers on those magazines. I think it’d be MUCH cooler to meet and hang out with the men & women whose blogs I’ve got linked in my sidebar!

    Good luck with it all, being aware is the first step.

  4. Restless Knitter Says:

    Just popping out of lurkdom to tell you that I really enjoyed this post. (Not that I don’t enjoy the others!) It really made me stop and think. Thank you 🙂

  5. the Lady Says:

    p.s. – skirts are a very forgiving wardrobe item. whether you gain or lose weight, if you like your legs from the knee down, and you get a knee-length skirt, they are a great thing.

  6. Willemtje Says:

    If you look in the mirror and find points to criticise, smile at yourself and you will be surprised at the difference this makes! It will also make you feel a lot better inside.
    Thanks for you blog, I have learned a lot from you and other American knitters and have become much more adventurous in my knitting, which makes it more satisfying.

    A Dutch knitter

  7. Philippa Says:

    Some days, I take a quick a look in the mirror before I leave the house, and I think, ‘I look *pretty* today’, and then this whole bucket of self-loathing and recrimination that’s always suspended over my head tips over, drenching me in it. It always reminds me of a passage in one of the Laura Ingalls Wilder books in which a nearly grown-up Laura, dressed up to go to her first dinner with friends, admires the light falling on her braided her and is suddenly shocked to find that she is ‘vain of’ her hair and immediately starts away from the mirror. And if that’s not a revealing comparison, I don’t know what is.

    Thanks for this post. Made me think.

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