Vanity is a funny thing. Itâs based on comparison and as we all should know by now, comparison is the death of happiness. I met a beautiful girl the other day whom I knew when I was a kid. Sheâs a sweet person, a mother of two beautiful children and has always been pretty â really pretty. We met at the market and I wanted to scream. She was unrecognisable. Since the last time I saw her she has had so much plastic surgery that she has erased any trace of herself â the girl she was is gone. A strange amalgam of beauty ideals has replaced her natural expressions. I wanted to cry, shake her and beg her. Looking at her face was looking at pain and self loathing â a culture that pushes us too far. The greatest tragedy is she has a daughter.
I also have a daughter and I also have scars â really, really bad ones. When I was pregnant around week 28 with my son, proudly flaunting my round belly on the beach, admiring its ever expanding size and the little kicks within, I noticed a weird red scratch on my bikini line. Turns out it was the beginning of some ripper stretch marks that hurtled their way up my belly and stopped somewhere around my rib cage. Nice. Really stylish.
Letâs just say the bikini thing is officially over.
So, I understand plastic surgery and the desire to âfixâ stuff. I breastfed two kids to 15 months each. More plastic surgery desire there. âNough said! Some days I look in the mirror and Iâm just a little pissed offâŚ would anyone notice if I took three weeks off work? Went in for a little nip and tuck?! Then I am forced to think of my kids and not just my vanity. How will they view their partners or themselves if I present an image of perfection? Is that helpful to them? Is perfection helpful to anyone? What will my son expect of the women in his life â that they are an impossible idea of woman? How much therapy will that cost? Does my desire to be ‘beautifulâ override my responsibility to be real with my kids?
My husband and I often laugh about our changing appearances as we grow older together. Grey hairs, stretch marks, expanding and contracting belly lines. Then I am reminded of something we find hard to do.
As my children lie sleeping in their beds I am overwhelmed with gratitude. When I notice Danâs beard slightly greying, I pray we get to be completely silver haired together. When my mum turned 60, she was just a little freaked out. âIâm only 40 in my head!â and then I reminded her. Every birthday is a privilege. My dad didnât get past his 45th birthday.
Thereâs something we forget when we try and erase the years and the scars. We forget they are the markers of a life lived, of things learned, of love given and received, of loss, of laughter. How can I say to Willow that sheâs enough if I donât believe that I am? Sheâll know Iâm a fraud and most likely will feel that putting herself under general anaesthetic and letting someone put a knife to her face and body is quite normal. Necessary in fact.
Iâd rather teach her the safer, saner, if somewhat harder lesson of gratitude. Of being enough. We fly outside of ourselves, unhinged by images that persist an ideal. There are days Iâd rather not look at my scars but then I am reminded of my life and I am so very, truly grateful.