The Art Of Falling Apart
“Embrace your body exactly as it is right now — and celebrate how damn good you look.” ~ Nora Ephron
In my previous life, I was a writer, multimedia journalist and most recently, children’s author. While I will start posting original essay’s on my work in travel, media, communications and international affairs, I found some older articles I have written for now defunct magazines(hello digital age) and thought I would repost. Certainly the perspective of age shows on pieces I wrote 10 years ago such as this one, but in the spirit of Nora Ephron… always a little humor. It’s 2017 and we could use it, dammit.
“The Art of Falling Apart” Originally published in Sloane Magazine (RIP)
I have experienced a series of moments over the past year where when passing a mirror, I have caught a glimpse of myself only to not recognize one body part or another. That doesn’t belong to me, does it? Why is that there? When did that move? It is not as though I am consumed by vanity, nor am I particularly vulnerable to the onslaught of magazine articles telling me how to better my physical self. I am a healthy, active, well kept 30-something who can no longer ignore the fact that my body keeps changing on me whether or not I choose to acknowledge it. This is inevitable for all of us, and so like millions of other women I feel like I spend a substantial amount of time getting into shape, from exercise to vitamins to beauty regiments, just to have some more physical adversity surface. I liken it to the carnival game “whac-a-mole,” where you aggressively use the mallet to pound the pests back into their holes, just to have another surprise pop up somewhere else. Our relationships with our bodies are indeed a succession of disasters and triumphs that are sure to provide further fodder for your friends if you choose to share it, because as I have discovered, almost everyone is harboring dirty little beauty secrets. It stands to reason: other relationships may come and go, but our bodies are always with us.
For all the confidence I have in feeling “fabulous” in my thirties, I recently had second thoughts about my cocky attitude after I threw my back out (Thanks a lot, yoga. I thought we were friends). This was then exacerbated by spending too much time resting, thus making my mind idle, which allowed me to discover various other superficial ailments and falling victim to a self-imposed downward spiral of judgment. In my head, my body can bounce back from anything like it did when I was twenty, but in reality, my bad back, the lines around my eyes, the random renegade facial hairs and sudden shift in skin texture and body dimensions, beg to differ. They stand as a testament to the last ten years of wear and tear, mocking me for my naïve assumptions that things will stay relatively the same if I moisturize them to death.
The tyranny of personal maintenance becomes so entrenched with your every day routine, that it acts like an old trusted friend, beckoning you with facial cream, teeth whitener and tweezers. It seems our “maintenance” and the subsequential myriad annoying, repetitive actions may indeed have larger implications for women in general. But who am I to rally against thousands of years worth of beauty rituals or the billions of dollars the beauty industry claims off of us every year? I submit, though my inner intellectual and open-minded Self (who is far too busy from such trivialities) rolls her eyes and shakes her head, obviously annoyed at my own superficial absurdity. But then I think, psychologically speaking, if you feel confident in how you present yourself to the world, doesn’t it have a positive affect on your mental health? Perhaps this is a stretch, but even Chanel was quoted as saying, “I don’t understand how a woman can leave the house without fixing herself up a little…you never know, maybe that’s the day she has a date with destiny. And it’s best to be as pretty as possible for destiny.” Shallow? Maybe. But is it so wrong to take pride in oneself, creating some beautified armor to take on the world in addition to your intellectual savvy? I don’t pretend to confuse this with self-esteem, but I do believe there is something to this, as apparently millions of you do too.
I began to commiserate with friends, to make sure I alone wasn’t coming apart at the seams, and wondered what was physically changing for them as well. I was frequently greeted with laughter followed by the longest list of upkeep regimes imaginable, and I concluded that this was a conversation we will be updating for decades to come. Common beauty battles included everything from wrinkles to random hair growth, adult acne, cellulite, back/ feet/joint problems and thinning hair, among so many others that it began to read like a television commercial for a product with bad side effects. It is of little wonder that our parade of hairstylists, estheticians and trainers become like our therapists, guiding us through various remedies as a quick fix to our often hectic and frazzled lives. Apparently, we are all bonded by our self-conscious behavior that manifests in our cyclical beauty regimes to hide any number of issues. No one said the truth to attaining “beauty” would actually be pretty, but it sure is funny.
At a certain point, all you can do is laugh at all the upkeep, do what makes you happy, and stop obsessing about it. Somewhere, someone else would gladly trade their beauty woes for yours, or perhaps are struggling through the exact same battles, which nobody actually notices except for you. Like it or not, your body has its limitations, so treat it well because you have a long life together, and the foreseeable series of changes that will happen are followed by periods of adjustment. So the next time you are all dolled up, but then catch a glimpse of a random chin hair, pluck that sucker immediately and remind yourself, “In ten years I will yearn for the body I have now.” Give yourself a break, book yourself into a spa, and pay someone else to deal with the things you cannot control. I just did.