During my entertaining week, three generations of women in my family went to have manicures and pedicures. It was wonderful. We randomly happened to have the place to ourselves so we were able to really enjoy ourselves. I had talked my mother into a different kind of manicure than she normally gets and she was very excited with the results. I was sitting beside her and said “Let me see!” She enthusiastically showed off her manicure than immediately followed up with shame over the look of her hands. “Look how old they are, aren’t they ugly?” she stated. I said, “No mom, they are not ugly…they are beautiful.” She laughed and we moved on, but her comment stayed with me. I have compared my own hands to the beautiful unblemished hands of my own daughter and felt the exact same way…ashamed.
When did we become a society so obsessed with looking youthful that we are ashamed of aging?
I was having trouble sleeping one night and so I began to watch TV around 2:00 a.m. Television that time of night is filled with many infomercials. I found myself too awake to sleep, but too sleepy to even care what was playing so I just watched and flipped channels. I spent hours watching about how to make a woman’s aging skin look young again, how to fix a woman’s sagging chin, how to get rid of a woman’s ugly stretch marks, and the glorification of looking 20 when you are 40 or 50. I have to admit, it was quite depressing. Millions of dollars spent by women trying their hardest not to age…me included. When did aging become a dirty word? When did it become unattractive to be 50 years old and actually LOOK 50 years old? When did we lose respect for the experience and wisdom that comes along with the gift of aging?
I’m in no way saying we shouldn’t take care of ourselves. We should be eating a healthy diet, exercising our bodies and minds, protecting ourselves from the harmful effects of the sun, and trying our best to cut back on all those bad habits we started in our 20’s. My point is we have become a culture that has limited the definition of beauty to one word…youth. I find this extremely disheartening and sad. And the truth is, I wouldn’t go back to 20 even if I could. My body might not be what it once was and I may not be seen as beautiful to some as I was 10 or 20 years ago, but my beauty goes so much deeper than it did back then. At 44 I don’t want to just look beautiful anymore…I want to be a beautiful person. There’s a big difference, one I might not have understood in my 20’s and I hope to understand even more in my 70’s.
So about your hands Mom…I cannot think of anything more beautiful than your hands. Those hands loved my father for over 40 years and took amazing care of him throughout his battle with cancer. They changed the diapers of four children and put us to bed each night. They fed our family, sewed clothes, and knitted scarves. They have decorated over 50 Christmas trees and wrapped thousands of gifts. They were our safety net in learning how to walk and they rubbed our backs when we were sick. They have wiped countless tears and clapped over and over for our accomplishments. They brushed our hair and baked us cookies. They have held your head as you prayed for us and smacked our bottoms when we deserved it. They have written love letters and obituaries. They have held and rocked eight grandbabies. Every spot and wrinkle on your hand is a sign of living and loving.
There is nothing more beautiful than that.