Saturday, February 2, 2013

Ugly Duckling Becoming Silver Swan via the Gym

Photo by seriykotik1970
Forty years after the fact, I am glad my peers called me ugly.  In junior high, I was nominated as homecoming queen by the other students in my French class as they laughed openly at me and made mention of my pimples, glasses and flat chest. I left school early and cried all the way home.  But the outcome ended up being positive. That day, I decided to diversify my personality portfolio.

Now, I don't mean to say that appearance doesn't matter. I do recognize the social significance of beauty. I'm not blind.  However, beauty is primarily the purview of the young.  Because I was repeatedly told as a youth that I was unattractive, I decided forty years ago to decrease time and money spent on my beauty regime. Or as the French say, "Pour un de perdu, deux de retrouvés."* That roadblock has served me well as I age. Over the years, I have worked on being smart, hardworking, reliable, and strong instead.  

Now that I've reached mid-century, I am thankful for those mean girls and popular boys for shooing me away from beauty as a vehicle for achieving personal power.  I have spent very little time in front of the mirror and very little money on brand-name clothing, cosmetics, jewelry or--later in life--plastic surgery.  I have spent more time studying or working at the office and more money on tuition, books and computer equipment. Success is the purview of the old. 

If I spend any time or money on my appearance, I tend to eschew cosmetic appearances of health and beauty.   Instead, I invest in bona fide means for securing health and beauty such as exercising and preparing whole foods.

I rarely take the time to paint color on my lips and on my cheeks to feign health. I'd rather spend an hour or more at the gym each day to achieve authentic health.  Or as the French say, "Il ne faut pas se fier aux apparences." ** 

I was always picked last for teams while in school by people who thought I could never be physically strong because I didn't have good eye-hand co-ordination. They also doubted my athletic prowess because I was one of the smallest girls in the school.  Since then I have spent decades doing individual sports such as running, aerobics, yoga and zumba.  Being active will lead me to a future that looks less like a cover girl and more like a vibrant older adult. I'd rather be strong than adorned.  

For older adults, strong is the new sexy.  I'm working towards a future that looks like this 97 year old who enjoys dancing: 

Now that I have achieved in realms reserved for nerdy, hardworking women, I do see an opening for me to diversify my personality as an older adult. Because I have a stable home life, good health and a lot of energy, I am thinking of investing my surplus on an identity of "mature athlete."  I see this as a means to becoming an attractive older woman.  Why not?  In the decades to come, if I have more energy than my peers, maybe I'll finally make the time to visit the cosmetic counter at the local department store. 

If I use my nerdy smarts to outlive all those mean girls, I might just end up being the most attractive gal at my 70th high school reunion. Maybe the French are right with their proverb, "Le succès est la meilleure vengeance."

* When one door closes, another opens.
** Don't judge a book by its cover.
***Success is the best revenge.



  1. That is a really powerful piece. Thanks for sharing it -- you are beautiful inside and out.

    1. Thanks for taking the time to comment. You are very kind.

  2. There are some fun things about being older. One is watching the mean chicks start to grow old. Since they've always depended on their beauty, their entire self esteem is connected to something that's going away.It happens to us all- and the lucky ones are the ones with the brains. Like you. Great article. FirstClassWoman

  3. As Lois said, it's a very powerful piece. I sometimes wonder if the mean girls ever look back with regret on the things they said and did...

  4. Let's hear it for strong nerdy women! I shudder to think of all the taunting and teasing and being-picked-last . . . perils of growing up short and pudgy. But I'm learning to be strong and healthy, too, and having a great time doing it. 50 is coming up quickly, and I'll be ready!

  5. "For older adults, strong is the new sexy."
    YES! That is my goal. I am on my way towards reaching this this year. I am 3 years shy of 50 and when I think of how quickly this past 47 years have gone by, i KNOW 80 will be here before I know it. I want to be strong so i can ENJOY that season of life! THANKS for sharing this. It was AWESOME!

  6. Well, I think you are lovely, and you have a lovely attitude as well. Good for you. :)

    ~Kristi@Let This Mind Be in You

  7. "Success is the purview of the old." I'll be back just to read more lines like that. You got write.

  8. Thanks for the comments and for your examples of how to approach aging as an art form.

  9. I love this post. You had your priorities in order early on, and you've come out on top. I bet those mean girls would be envious of you now. Remember that other French proverb: Rira bien qui rira le dernier.