The Perfection Of An Imperfect Body


Today I’m going to digress slightly from my usual subject matter by talking about something that affects anyone who has even a slight chance of growing older – particularly women over the age of 40 who happen to be parents.

I keep seeing “suggested posts” in my Facebook newsfeed that talk about women who are able to use “simple tricks” to defy the effects of aging. The one I saw today is entitled 55-Year-Old Mom Looks 35, with a subheading saying, “Mom’s $5 Trick Angers Botox Doctors”. I never click on these things, because the next thing I know, I’d have new browser windows opening up faster than I could close them, and all of them would be trying to sell me something.

More to the point, I never click on these things because I get really annoyed by the implied message: that beauty is reserved for those who have the appearance of being young and childless.

For a long time, society has been obsessed with an idea of how women “should” look. We should be thin, we should have glossy hair and perfect skin, we should have perky little boobs and firm little backsides. We should have wrinkle-free faces, cellulite-free thighs and no trace of stretchmarks on any part of our bodies.

It’s bad enough that young women – girls, even – feel the pressure to live up to this ideal. Expecting it of older women is just downright unreasonable.

Ads like the one mentioned above make me angry, because they send the message that women should be ashamed of getting older. As a 43-year-old woman, I should be ashamed of my cellulitey thighs, the stretch marks on my belly, the laugh lines around my eyes and the grey that’s been creeping into my hair more and more each year. I should feel self-conscious about the fact that I can no longer fit into size 8 clothing, and I should be mortified because my belly jiggles and my breasts are starting to sag.

Now, let me make it clear that I am not one of these super-confident women who are completely satisfied with how they look. I have body issues coming out of the ying-yang. I’d love to be a few pounds lighter. I’d love to have boobs that were slightly less large, and I’d love to permanently look as if I’d just stepped out of a hairdresser’s salon.

But do I want to look younger? Do I wish my body looked the way it did before my children were born?

Hell, no. My scars and wiggly bits tell the story of where I’ve been and what I’ve lived through. My stretch marks and jiggling belly are a testament to the two lives that I brought into the world. The breasts that sag a little more than they used to still carry the memory of providing nourishment and comfort to my babies. My laugh lines and starting-to-go-grey hair are a map of the things that I have accomplished, the laughter that I have shared with loved ones, the pain that I have lived through, and the stupid things I have done that I have learned from.

My body does not meet the ideals of beauty that the Hollywood culture tells us to aspire to. I have plenty of flaws and every year I get a little further from what a young woman is “supposed” to look like.

But my 40-something, post-pregnancy body is beautiful in its own way.

This is an original post by Kirsten Doyle. Photo credit: Charlotte Astrid. This picture has a creative commons attribution license.