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    Posted February 24, 2012 by
    Altadena, California
    This iReport is part of an assignment:
    What does beauty mean to you?

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    Ageless Beauty

    The the notion that beauty is merely skin deep rings hollow, yet asserting that beauty comes only from the inside equally misses the point. Both leave us hungry for answers. Over the years I’ve come to believe that beauty emerges from an intertwined relationship between the external and the internal rather than being the prize from a zero-sum game of inner versus outer, with philosophers standing in one corner and Hollywood in the other. The Chinese use a term for female beauty that roughly translates as elegance in English but bears little resemblance to our definition of the word as a synonym for class and formality. Instead, it connotes an element of physical beauty combined with a sense of taste, inner strength, self-knowing that isn’t self-promotional, and kindness. I like this term because I know women who fit this definition, and I think they are beautiful.

    Insecurities? I have had and still have plenty at 65. I spent most of my teens and twenties trying to look like I thought I should look—like Vogue told me to look. You can’t win at this. Worse, you miss the truth. In her fifties, author Anne Lamott bemoaned that she wished she’d known as a young woman just how beautiful she was. I wish this for myself and for all young women who fail to notice just how beautiful they are.

    My insecurities now are of those of mid-life and beyond. Beginning in your 40’s, beauty becomes a game of truth or dare—honestly face your life’s path thus far, your talents, feats of glory, demons, broken dreams, and hopes or dare the biological clock to go on a permanent hold by using all available means to remain forever in the land of the youthfully beautiful. Neither choice is easy; and the latter without a strong dose of the former stagnates those who continue to grasp at the brass ring of their youthful looks while failing to recognize a new type of mature beauty within themselves. It’s not only the young who fail to notice.

    The Chinese definition of elegance means more to me now than it would have in my earlier decades. I can feel my inner self as having merged with my physical self to create an authentic, self-assured appearance that allows a whole lot of who I am to show through. As we age, beauty is not so much about what we do or don’t do in regard to our appearance but how we’ve settled with ourselves over our lifetime and allow who we are to shine through for others to see. Although as dissimilar in appearance as possible, Dolly Parton and Katherine Hepburn come to mind. Jane Goodall has this type of beauty, so does Meryl Streep. The Chinese would say that they are elegant.
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