Gutsy Living: Life’s too short to play it safe

What did beauty mean to you when you were in your 20s?

I was born in Denmark in 1957, and moved to Nigeria, West Africa, for the first six-years of my life. My teenage years were spent in Paris, and then boarding school and University in England.

Beauty in my twenties did not consist of make-up and all the things young girls seem to focus on in southern California, where I now live. In fact, as you can see from the photo, I did not wear make-up, and I’m shocked how at twenty-four, I look more like a kid than any fourteen-year-old California girl does today. Trying to look grown-up before your age was not important to my friends and me in Europe. Perhaps clothes and being thin — not too skinny though—were more important than our hair and make-up. The only girls who seemed to care about ironing their hair straight were the American girls who attended my school in Paris. I do remember rolling my skirt up to make it look like a mini-skirt at school, and begging my parents for a pair of black boots that covered my knees, but that’s about it.

At twenty-one, I tanned my face with one of those stupid and dangerous sun lamps and that was about all I did in my 20′s, except for lemon juice to lighten my hair. I never paid attention to manicures, pedicures, waxing, highlighting my hair and all the things girls did in the U.S., until after I moved to the U.S. In fact, I did not get my first pedicure until forty, and to this day, I still feel like it’s a luxury. Whenever I see moms with their five-year-olds in the U.S. getting expensive manicures and pedicures, it makes me angry. I don’t believe it’s necessary to focus on beauty at five, or even at age ten. I think kids should remain kids and not think of beauty at such a young age.

What does beauty mean to you now?

Now that I live in the U.S., and I’m fifty-four, I do pay attention to nutrition, exercise, staying in shape, taking care of my skin with

Fit at 47, Belize

quality products, and getting 7-8 hours of sleep every night. While I admire many “older” women, like Jane Goodall, who do good for the world rather than spend time worrying about their looks, it’s more common to have procedures done to stay younger-looking today. I spend more time taking care of myself now than before. I feel that it is my duty to look as good as I can for myself, and to stay as healthy as I can for my family. Since I have too many Gutsy things I want to do in my life, now that my three sons are out of the house, I try to maintain my strength at the gym, and exercise my brain through learning new things, especially online. I think as women age, self-confidence and knowing who you are and wonderful gifts that we receive. At least we get something positive out of aging.

If different, why have your ideas about beauty changed over the years?

I live in a superficial society (Southern California) where looks are more important than in other parts of the world. I feel sucked into trying to look as young as I can and sometimes wish that I didn’t care, but I do. I prefer to be honest, if one day I get a face lift, rather than pretend (like some women who say they’ve been blessed with good genes.) So if/when I decide to have my face lasered or a face lift, I shall probably write about my Gutsy laser, or my Gutsy face lift. I think most women care about their looks to some degree, and if they don’t, they’re either not telling the whole truth, or they really don’t care, and if so, I admire them for being that way. Perhaps it’s time for me to leave the Los Angeles area, and move to another remote island where people don’t seem pay much attention to how you look, and you stop caring too.

Sonia Marsh Bio

I’m a mother, wife, author, blogger, unconventional thinker and world traveler, who happens to love tropical islands. My upcoming travel memoir is about our family’s move to Belize.

Freeways to Flip-Flops: Our Year of Living Like the Swiss Family Robinson, Parents move their kids from Orange County, California to Belize hoping to find a solution to their family problems. Once there, mom questions the sanity of their decision to move almost daily, until an unexpected event reconnects her family.

I’m the author of a blog called: “Gutsy Living: Life is too short to play it safe.”

If you’re a writer and would like to submit your own, “My Gutsy Story,” please check out the following contest page with guidelines and sponsors.

20 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Trackback: Winner of the "My Gutsy Story" contest for December 2011. | Sonia Marsh - Gutsy Living
  2. barbara
    Jan 12, 2012 @ 17:55:49

    I so admire your stamina and will to stay in such great shape Sonia. I have never been a huge fan of exercise and honestly don’t know why. I am blessed with good genes but that doesn’t mean I’ve completely ruled out having ‘work’ done some day. I, too, will be writing about it if that happens. It’s ridiculous to deny it, in my opinion.
    You are a beautiful woman and wonderful spirit!


  3. Beauty Sheen Queen
    Jan 12, 2012 @ 21:47:27

    Thanks for coming by the blog, Barbara! I jumped over to your blog – Zero to 60 and beyond – and enjoyed some wonderful stories. Are you working on a book (or already written one)? You have quite a colorful life! Would you be interested in doing an interview for my blog?


  4. GutsyLiving
    Jan 13, 2012 @ 01:23:12

    Thanks Barbara for your kind words. I know you were in the fashion world so you must have a completely different perspective than I do.


  5. GutsyLiving
    Jan 13, 2012 @ 01:24:14

    I am very happy to guest post on your blog. Thanks for the opportunity. Are you on Twitter? Please let me know. Sonia.


  6. Trackback: What does beauty mean to you at different stages of your life? | Sonia Marsh - Gutsy Living
  7. Penelope J.
    Jan 14, 2012 @ 20:39:09

    From the photo, it looks like you’re in good shape and I know that you look great and much younger than your age. (Love the photo of you at 24. You look more like 16 in it.)

    Superficial society – you said it! I hate this emphasis to the point of obsession, on beauty. It’s unfortunate that these days, it’s hard to tell what is true beauty and what is artificial/added on/changed, etc. Everywhere, I see unnatural blondes touting unnatural breasts, eyes, complexions, etc. or looking like carbon copies of Paris Hilton, or newscasters who resemble Stepford wives rather than real people.

    My experience was completely contrary to yours. Ever since my mother told me, “You have to suffer to be beautiful” – and she certainly suffered, I determined that it wasn’t worth it. However, especially in 60s London, (different to you) I was very fashion, makeup and hair conscious though never to an extreme,

    Beauty is too fleeting and superficial to waste so much time, energy, care, and money on it – yet most of us do. That said, I wouldn’t mind having some work done on my face to remove/smooth out the ravages of time a bit.


    • Beauty Sheen Queen
      Jan 15, 2012 @ 15:40:28

      Thanks for coming by the blog, Penelope! Would you be interested in doing an interview (and it can be anonymous!)? I love your ideas. I agree with what you said regarding this confusion between real and artificial, and then the subsequent pressure for everyone to reach this artificial-real pinnacle of perfect beauty. I think your mother’s words about suffering to be beautiful pretty much sum up the direction of our modern culture. Whatever it takes – surgery, starvation, pain, debt or eating disorders – “needs” to happen if a woman hopes to be powerful, successful as a woman, even happy. At least that’s what the media tells us…


      • Penelope J.
        Jan 15, 2012 @ 20:22:18

        Yes, I would be happy to do an interview and it doesn’t have to be anonymous. I’m very flattered that you asked me especially since this is not exactly my area of expertise though I do have strong opinions. As for suffering to be beautiful, that is not a new idea as despite the media’s influence, it’s has been around for thousands of years ever since women (and some men) first started caring about their appearance.

    • GutsyLiving
      Jan 16, 2012 @ 03:02:08

      I also color my hair now or it would be gray. I think I would do this is I lived in Paris, London or Copenhagen,as gray hair would make me look ten years older. I’m looking forward to reading your story about beauty and how this has changed you since living in California. Yes, I have had Botox in my forehead because I could not speak to people without wrinkling my forehead all the time, so call me “superficial”, but at least I admit it, and don’t say, “I’ve been blessed with amazing genes from my mother.”


  8. Link
    Jan 15, 2012 @ 00:47:09

    Great post,( I came here via Annabel’s Hot spot tweet).

    It just occurred to me the other day, that if women everywhere stopped wearing makeup completely, what an enormous tsunami this would send throughout the western world–the initial shock on the faces of men and then the sober realisation that yes, we are pretty much the same as you i.e, human.

    Women look completely different with make-up on, I don’t doubt many men have never seen many women sans their eyeliner and mascara .

    I know wearing make up is steeped in history and some would argue is biologically predetermined. I was talking to a male friend about this idea, he resisted a bit to and when I quizzed as to whether he could be bothered painting on a ‘face’ every single time he went out in public, he looked at me as if I were mad.

    I can’t see my idea catching on anytime soon, but I really wish it would.

    I think this is a brave, honest, post Sonia, and frankly I think you had a much saner and more ‘real’ childhood than many of your current compadres who seemed to be obsessed with what they looked like. I


    • Beauty Sheen Queen
      Jan 15, 2012 @ 15:35:36

      Thanks so much for coming by the blog! I completely agree with you regarding how “normalized” make-up becomes on most female faces (even to the sad extent of pictures posted online showing how “bad” celebrities look without it). We have gotten so used to “putting on our faces” that we automatically deem the face without mascara, eyeliner, etc. as tired, old, or sick. The shift of focus away from a “perfect face” (or hair or body) could allow energy to flow into other more creative directions.


    • GutsyLiving
      Jan 16, 2012 @ 03:09:13

      Thanks so much for your comment and for coming over from Annabel’s blog. I love your idea. I think you should write an article about this, or pitch it to the media: “One day without make-up so women and men can see the real me.” I actually love this idea and you can write an article about this for “Gutsy Living” if you want to.


  9. BLOGitse
    Jan 15, 2012 @ 11:27:10

    Oh Sonia…
    I’ve put on weight in three months 3,5kgs and now I try to get it off. But I’m too lazy.
    I hope to get the energy and motivation when going to Spain for two week holiday. I take my Nordic walk pools with me! 🙂
    I’m like my mother. I know how I will look if I don’t take care of myself. I do short exercise every morning but it’s not enough. Gyms are not for me. I rather exercise at home and walk outside with heart rate monitor.
    Positive is that I don’t have many wrinkles yet. I don’t make up very much but lipstick, perfume and nail polish (I do mani/pedicure myself) are must every day! 🙂
    At age 24 I looked totally different than you. You look like 14 in that picture! 🙂

    This is a very interesting topic. Thanks for your comment on my blog I found this post and blog.


  10. GutsyLiving
    Jan 16, 2012 @ 03:13:14

    Thanks BLOGitse and Julia. If you don’t hear back from BLOGitse in Finland, you and I should comment on her blog to get her to do an interview. She has lived in Egypt, Morocco and now Finland. She is from Finland, and I think she could offer a great perspective about beauty in different cultures.


  11. BLOGitse
    Jan 17, 2012 @ 06:51:50

    Hi Julia & Sonia!
    I’m in! 🙂
    Julia, give me a week or so and I’ll write to you a story which you can correct to decent English! I’ll write you an email tomorrow…


  12. Beauty Sheen Queen
    Jan 18, 2012 @ 06:24:30

    Excellent! I look forward to getting it. Thanks for being up for it :)!


  13. MuMuGB
    Jan 28, 2012 @ 18:44:09

    Ah, the joy of getting older! Beauty for me is more about being happy. That said, I am not getting any younger and most of my friends have had Botox and other works done…I sometimes feel I will need to change my maintenance regime!

    Well done for keeping so fit Sonia!


    • Beauty Sheen Queen
      Jan 29, 2012 @ 09:04:27

      Thanks for coming by the blog! I know what you mean about feeling pressure as we get older – from the media always, but also with the women around us. It sometimes seems like this is a never-ending game women play with each other: as girls, as teenagers, as young and older women. We compete with women we know, we compare ourselves to women we see in magazines or in movies. I think this is why advertising and the beauty industry can make so much money; they feed on women always fighting to get to a perfection that never can be reached.


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