It was my 38th birthday yesterday and I gave myself that day (or a day or two afterward as unforeseen events do happen, like my daughter coming down with an ear infection) to start this blog. Why my birthday? Well, it’s obviously a key date on my calendar but actually I chose the date because of the significance of getting one year older as a woman in America. For most of us, one year older means more accomplishments under our belts, another adventure taken, a bunch of failures and successes. But it also signifies getting closer to losing a sacred part of all of us: our beauty. Of course one could argue that beauty doesn’t diminish with age but rather alters, even improves with it. But lets face it, we live in a culture where youth is held on to for as long as possible.
And yet, this year, I don’t feel that sense of dread. For one thing, I can’t help but believe that our perspective on beauty has and will continue to evolve as our roles in society change. After all, for the first time ever American women outnumber men in the workforce. That should say something! But the reason I feel so differently this birthday is that I’ve spent the last year or so digging into the complexity, the fun, the mystery, the scariness, and the role of beauty in American women’s lives. In this process I have developed a deep fascination with and a profound respect for the pursuit of beauty. In reality, though, this journey began as a young girl (as it does with all of us) when I experienced the joy of dressing up, or felt the complex emotions that come with the reactions of others — either positive or negative — to my appearance, or when I would hear the message that looks are much less important than brains. And like any other woman, this journey with beauty will never end. But now, thanks to what I do for a living and my recent concentrated effort in understanding the role of beauty, I feel that I will face this journey with more insight and excitement.
I’ve been fortunate enough to look back into the history of beauty in our country, examine our relationship to it versus that of other cultures, and view beauty through the lens of American values. I’ve had the privilege to talk at length with women around the country about their definition of beauty and get perspectives from experts as well. And because this topic is so complex and multi-faceted, I continue to investigate the role, definitions and expressions of beauty with different people, through different means and with a new set of eyes everyday
Please join me on my blog as I share what I’ve learned and continue to learn throughout this journey. And I encourage all of you to share your thoughts, musings and observations as well! Since it’s still my birthday (in a way), I will finish the evening with my family and dig into the study of beauty in my next post.