As I slipped a rubbery falsie into my already padded bra my thoughts flitted toward a boob job, more elegantly referred to as 'enhancement,' and while my monkey mind was there, it might as well peer in the mirror at that nose that could use some 'refining.'
In an unanticipated moment of truth and clarity and maybe a small ounce of self-love, a more rational voice asked, "Why? Who are you competing with?"
Living in Hollywood, having worked in the film industry, the answer was obvious. Celebrities, of course. Actresses. Models. Heiresses.
And you're competing with them for ... ?
The voice left the question open.
Oh. My. God. Did I really think that I needed to be and look as sculpted as a star on a screen or a model in a magazine? That's lunacy. And, in our society, totally NORMAL.
It's exhausting. My curling iron is falling apart from too much use. My lip pencil is raggedy and runs down to the quick faster than it used to. My tweezers are dull from plucking. I'm dull from caring.
Why should I, my goal to be a writer who highlights the needs of women and children, waste the mental and emotional energy to care that I look like a star? The irony that I could help women realize their full potential as gorgeous humans, no matter their weight, height, financial situation, when I can't quite convince myself that bit of botox wouldn't change my life? (Okay, no botox. That's madness. Just the nose job.)
America the Beautiful" questions our definition of beauty. In one of my favorite scenes, Eve Ensler, famous for her feminine strength and "The Vagina Monologues," tells about her travels to Africa. There she met a woman who was absolutely in love with all -- ALL of her body. When Eve complained about parts of her body she was less than thrilled by, the woman pointed to a tree and asked, 'Is that tree beautiful?' Of course, Eve answered. The woman then pointed to a different tree. 'Is that tree any less beautiful because it is different?' ... 'I am a tree. You are a tree. Love your tree!'
Why is it so hard to love our trees? Why am I afraid to even raise my voice, when lately, I want to roar in both outrage and joy? In the same film, I learned that the same year that women won the right to vote is the year the first beauty pageant began. Coincidence? I think not. And that makes me RAGE.
I'm surrounded both by married friends, single friends, and engaged friends. Friends with babies, most of them adorable. And I'm great with babies. They love me. Kids beg for me to come visit. But I'm not sure I want one. I never had that strong desire, though I have thought about adopting, mostly because my heart breaks to think of anyone feeling abandoned, less than wanted. This has led to an unhealthy influx of stray kitties. I plan to use a little more wisdom when it comes to kids.
As much as I've never felt that strong desire for a family, I often feel judged by those who do, or by society as a whole. I don't want to judge those women who are on the path most traveled, and therefore do not want their judgment about mine. Like all judgment, it likely comes down to fear. Fearing what's different, what is unknown. For those on the marriage and baby train, what happens if you entertain the thought that perhaps you don't want kids? You've never examined what that choice, that life, might look like, and the unknown is frightening. For those of us who think we know that we do not want kids, fear that someday you MAY change your mind, and that is truly life-changing. Terrifying.
I've seen very good marriages, and very broken ones. I know many friends in their late 20s and 30s who are already divorced, and many who work hard on their relationships and are thankful for their partners. None of that, however, really sways who I am. And part of that has taken some time, to be comfortable knowing I am on my own journey, as is each individual, and each path will look different. But often I do find myself feeling defensive, and that is usually when I end up saying something hurtful, to try to make my perspective seem better. I get defensive, and I think it's justified based on such a long history of repression and rules about a woman's life.
In "Eat, Pray, Love," Elizabeth Gilbert writes a great deal about this choice to be single, and how the world views it. She also notes that she may change her mind, she may want to marry if she meets the right man who would truly be a partner. She may want kids later. She's changed her mind before, she knows its fickle ways.
She writes, "To create a family with a spouse is one of the most fundamental ways a person can find continuity and meaning in American (or any) society. ... Who are you? No problem -- you're the person who created all this. ...
"But what if, either by choice or by reluctant necessity, you end up not participating in this comforting cycle of family and continuity? ... You'll need to find another purpose, another measure by which to judge whether or not you have been a successful human being. I love children, but what if I don't have any? What kind of person does that make me?
"Virginia Woolf wrote, 'Across the broad continent of a woman's life falls the shadow of a sword.' On one side of that sword, she said, there lies convention and tradition and order, where 'all is correct.' But on the other side of that sword, if you're crazy enough to cross it and choose a life that does not follow convention, 'all is confusion. Nothing follows a regular course.' Her argument was that the crossing of the shadow of that sword may bring a far more interesting existence to a woman, but you can bet it will also be more perilous. ...
"A lot of writers have families. Toni Morrison, just to name an example, didn't let the raising of her son stop her from winning a little trinket we call the Nobel Prize. But Toni Morrison made her own path, and I must make mine. The Bhagavad Gita -- that ancient Indian Yogic text -- says that it is better to live your own destiny imperfectly than to live an imitation of somebody else's life with perfection. So now I have started living my own life. Imperfect and clumsy as it may look, it is resembling me now, thoroughly." (pp 94,95)
And another font of feminist wisdom, Miranda in "Sex and the City", responding to uber-romantic Charlotte's comment that she believes every person has a soul-mate, someone who completes them. Miranda replies (and I paraphrase) "So if you don't meet that person, you're somehow not complete? That's so dangerous."
To know there are many women making the choice to live in the moment, to be present for the life you have and not pin hopes and dreams on someone or something else. I would love to find a man who truly is my partner, for mutual support, understanding and challenge to be more fully myself. But the more men I meet, the more comedic/horrific dating stories I gather, and the less I'm positive that will happen. And that's okay, because I am more than content. I am happy with who I am, who I'm becoming, and all the amazing friends and family who are a part of that life. And you can't beat the freedom of the single life.