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Beauty’s in the eye of the beholder

HAMBURG — A while back, I saw a small advertisement that made me stop and think. The ad read that a photographer was looking for women who were willing to be photographed without make-up.

Is make-up that much of a woman’s image, that to be photographed without it becomes daring and new?

I know that most days, I run around without a molecule of make-up on, and only really use it when I’m going to a place where I need to be “presentable.” This does not include the grocery store or the gas station.

There is the issue of hair dye, though. About four years ago, I had a violent allergic reaction to it and could dye no more. This was a huge catastrophe to me at the age of 54, because only I knew that I had secretly gone completely gray in my early 40s. I couldn’t comprehend “looking old” so soon.

Well, that was then, this is now. Yes, I am one of the growing minority of women who dare to walk around with their natural hair color. I may not have come willing to the table, but now that I am here, I actually have come to love it. Being gray doesn’t define me, despite being called “honey” and “dear” in the check-out line. I also get offered the senior discount quite often, although I am chronologically still too young.

In these days of more affordable cosmetic alteration, genetically engineered creams and skin care systems that are guaranteed to keep old age from ever showing on one’s face, the pressure is on for women of a certain age not to look their age.

There was a popular saying being bandied about recently, that “60 is the new 40.” This is a great motto if the intent is to say that people can feel 40 when they are actually 60-years-old. But when it’s interpreted to mean that at 60 you must look 40, then it becomes something else.

Women are constantly bombarded by magazines, movies, commercials and reality television, in which the message is very clear. We must never look our true age and we must always be flawlessly beautiful. Even young women feel enormous pressure to maintain a certain level of mainstream beauty.

The older I get, the more I want to rebel against that industrialized beauty standard. Women are beautiful for who they are, what they have experienced and what they hold precious to them. My grandmother, at 102 years of age, was beautiful.

For this reason, the photographer’s call for women to be photographed just as they are, struck a chord with me. So, in that spirit, I contacted the photographer and volunteered. I was accepted for the project immediately, sight unseen. I was the only woman of a certain age who had contacted him. There are perks to being older, I guess.


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