Beyond the Book

Taken in 1983 with my then boyfriend

Color Me Beautiful. I’m a winter. Seasons uncovered in the student lounges of Virginia Tech. 20-something co-eds brought our color palettes, books and material swatches to try and determine the best colors for being beautiful. We were young, free and innocent; after all, it was pre-911, pre-Challenger, pre-downward economy, pre-Iraq. Our frets and worries centered on dating and parties.

At the student center color wheels in hand, we’d stick our wrists under different types of lights to see what tones glowed in our skin. Hair color proved more challenging. If we dyed or bleached our hair did that change the palette? Debate ensued, more swatches by our faces, and lights, the ever present lights to look for yellow or blue undertones at our wrists.

Our discussions led to clothes swapping as no one had extra money to buy the proper garments. We all sought to be beautiful but not one of us could define what being beautiful truly meant. To us during the 1980s, beauty equated to wearing the proper color sweaters over our jeans or sweatpants. No one used accessories or make-up. Our skin was flawless, not yet wrinkled or spotted from age.On hindsight, our innocence made us beautiful.

Skin care was another point of debate in the student lounges. Did we need a “system”? We’d read about “skin care systems” in Vogue and Seventeen but had no idea what that really meant. Most of us washed our faces with Noxzema, and used a dab of Clearasil when we had a pimple and that was all. Moisturize? Not at that age. We used Bonny Belle Lip Smackers for dry lips and occasionally wiped some lotion on our legs. Being unspoiled by age, weather, stress and life kept us outwardly beautiful.

We wore our hair large and long set with hot rollers after a shampoo with Preference by L’Oreal. That’s what the celebrities promoted and we wanted that same glamorous look. When special events approached, we attempted sleep although our hair was rolled and bobby pins poked into our scalps. Once we had the ideal set, we’d spray it into helmet shape perfection so that no hair moved from place. More time was spent on hair setting than any other part of our body.

Those days of Noxzema and hairspray seem a lifetime away. Today as a 40-something woman, I appreciate the importance of moisturizer and celebrate the laugh lines around my eyes developed through years of joy. I’m much more conscious of what I put on my face, preferring eco-friendly products.

Exfoliate. That is my beauty mantra now that I’m a bit older. If there’s a body part that can be exfoliated I do it.Origins makes a delightful product using sea salt called Modern Friction. Once every few days, I use it to deeply clean my face. My hands get a good smoothing with Crabtree and Evelyn 360⁰ Solution. I scrub my body with Body Shop’s shay butter exfoliator and then I lube everywhere with nut butters of all types. Lips deserve extra special care so I make an exfoliator for them out of raw sugar and honey. Instead of Bonnie Belle, I use Alchemilla organic lip balm for moisture. I definitely spend more time on my skin now but for me it’s a luxury and escape from the demands of daily life.

Taken last year with the same man

Beauty now means laugh lines, highlights and moisturizing. And yes, exfoliating. Life makes us beautiful. Not palettes or color swatches. I don’t need a “system” just common sense and the ability to embrace my inner beauty. Those early days in the student lounge really taught young women how to be a community and to cherish one another for who we were not what we ought to be. The best life lesson for beauty is to be the original masterpiece as we were created and just keep the dry skin away.

Cheryl Stahle from Doylestown, PA (USA) is a memoirist and storyteller as well as an author addressing the joys of families built through adoption. Cheryl facilitates writing groups for both adults and young adults and is putting the final touches on her first book due out in 2012. You can find more of Cheryl’s writing and a schedule of speaking engagements at or on FaceBook.

7 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. GutsyLiving
    Jan 04, 2012 @ 15:25:49

    Cheryl, so great to read your post on Julia’s blog and I am also featuring her on “Gutsy Living” as I find it fascinating to learn about her project on women and beauty and “how women are affected by all the images/messages we take in as we age.” Exfoliating seems to be key to your beauty regimen. I am not that good at following through with exfoliating. I prefer good face creams. Looks like you’re getting many votes on the “My Gutsy Story” contest.


    • Beauty Sheen Queen
      Jan 05, 2012 @ 08:23:21

      Hola Sonia! Thanks again for featuring me on your “Gutsy Living” blog and for “introducing” me to Cheryl (through the blog). I love a good face cream myself, especially if it smells nice :). And yes, Cheryl’s writing did remind me too about exfoliation. Hmmmm….


  2. Cheryl Stahle
    Jan 04, 2012 @ 15:50:02

    Julia….thank you for the opportunity to share my story with your readers. I am the “queen of exfoliation”.

    did you vote yet??


  3. Sherri Botkins Walker
    Jan 04, 2012 @ 19:11:43

    Cheryl, I really liked this, but it hit a little too close to my age spotted, wrinkled, gray haired self. I do not think of beauty in terms of the outside anymore, though and I embrace every line, spot, wrinkle and hair and where them as a badge of honor!! Thanks for this sweet look back!


    • Sherri Botkins Walker
      Jan 04, 2012 @ 19:12:40

      sorry I meant “wear” them as a badge of honor! LOL


    • Beauty Sheen Queen
      Jan 05, 2012 @ 08:21:04

      Thanks for coming by, Sherri! I agree with your different vision of beauty – looking beyond what the media and advertising tells us “is” or “should be” beautiful. If we only follow these ideas, companies make a lot of money selling their particular version of beauty and a whole lot of people struggle with feeling like they never quite measure up. Embrace your badges of honor! 🙂


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