I was a lucky one. I bloomed with natural beauty in my early years. I was once told I was “one of the top two catches”. Beautiful enough to draw attempts to quantify, dissect.
My beauty was effortless. I didn’t wear makeup. I let my hair dry naturally after washing; with a tousle it fell into curls. I was thin despite eating what I wanted. Men turned their head and tried to get up the courage to speak to me. I heard them whisper I was “out of their league.” Did women hate me then? Most of my friends were male in those days, and I always questioned which ones were true and which ones had ulterior motives if given the chance. I knew some that quietly sought an opening, and they were loyal as friends but lying in wait.
That was years ago.
Since then, this face of mine has begun to sag. Some days it threatens to slide from my bones. It betrays my average emotion by etching it in wrinkles. It betrays my genetics by showing my mother’s face in the mirror more each year. The mirror no longer reflects what I expect to see. Sometimes I jolt with surprise. There is mourning in this. Perhaps if beauty hadn’t arisen so naturally at first its inevitable fading wouldn’t feel like loss now.
I look at women much younger than myself, built of young curves and smooth skin. Their hips have not yet widened into womenhood. Their breasts lead the way. They have not suffered to bring a child into the world. They have not fought for love. They have not sacrificed for loved ones. They have not held true against opposition. They have not experienced the loyalty of long years. They seem like children behind the wheel of a fast car.
I drove that fast car in the years that I was running. Running away but not yet running toward. I reacted more than I acted. I demanded to live. My life was a statement of autonomy, of power that I insisted I had, that I tried to have, that I failed to have. I ran for years.
At some point I realized that further running meant nothing to anyone besides me. And so I stopped. I looked around. I looked in the mirror. I had come a long way. My eyes showed it. I looked inside to the seeds of wisdom that experience had sprouted. A different kind of bloom. I looked at my failures in life and love. I looked at pain and survival which cleared a path to perspective. My eyes had become steady from seeing.
I look different than I did when I rolled off the assembly line. I am my own thing, the culmination of a life spent and misspent. The paradigm has shifted from the cover to the pages that cannot be read in one sitting. It requires more time but carries more depth.
Any beauty I now possess isn’t the type that one notices in passing. You must get to know me to see it. This paint has scratches, but it’s the imperfections that change an object of beauty into an object of love.
I used to be beautiful, truly beautiful. Now I am more beautiful on the inside. I am improving with age.