I´m grateful to be in my forties

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

In my twenties, I think I took my beauty for granted. In fact, I didn’t give it much thought. Who needs to when your skin is glowing, your boobs are chin-height, and everyone tells you how beautiful you are? I definitely had my insecurities and in fact, feel like my 20-something body and face were somehow ‘wasted’ on me because I didn’t appreciate them back then. When it came to how I looked, I was incessantly critical and hard on myself for being too short, too dark, too curvy, and the list went on. When I look back at pictures of myself in my twenties now, I feel sad that I didn’t appreciate how lovely and beautiful I actually was. Now I truly understand what George Bernard Shaw meant when he proclaimed, “Youth is wasted on the young”.

Also, in my twenties, I was engrossed in university studies and managed to obtain two degrees during those years. I like the fact that my looks didn’t help me in any way with getting good grades or becoming a good therapist. In fact, I had to rely on my brain more than anything and that, in retrospect, is a very good thing. I learned at a very young age that I was first and foremost, intelligent and being smart and using my abilities to think critically was what was most encouraged in my family. I’m glad my family had those values, otherwise I would have been in deep trouble. I feel so much for those young women out there who are valued mostly for how they look, not for who they are. Models and pop singers come to mind. I always look at them and think, “What’s going to happen to your self-concept and self-worth when your looks are gone and you’re no longer considered “hot”?”

What does beauty mean to you now? If different, why have your ideas about beauty changed over the years?

My concept of beauty has definitely changed over the years, especially since I turned forty recently. As I said before, I was always considered attractive, even beautiful, by some, so I didn’t obsess over my looks too much. I just thought they would ‘do’ and went on with my life. However, once I reached 35, I started to notice huge changes in the way my body and face looked, and for the first time in my life, really had to face how I felt about looks and the ageing process. Having recently turned 40, however, I have some extra body image concerns to add:

* graying hair

* wrinkling skin

* downward pointing breasts

* unexpected weight gain

All of these have come as a major shock as somehow, I guess I had thought I would be immune to all of the side effects of ageing. But no, Mother Nature would have me learn otherwise. And while I am working really hard at growing older without plastic surgery, botox, or other toxic attempts to extend my youthful appearance, the weight gain has been a real doozy.

However, I have managed to lose most of that weight over the past year and a bit through common sense eating and regular exercise. But my size and shape are definitely different from when I was in my twenties- a fact of life that I have resigned myself to as it’s better than the alternative- having no body at all.

I guess I’m becoming a more spiritual person as a result of facing these facts about my body and the ageing process, which in my opinion, is a good thing. I mean, who couldn’t use a bit more spirituality in their life? Plus, I’m starting to change my view of what is considered “beautiful” which is providing a great sense of peace and well-being. I’m really starting to appreciate the beauty in women who are 40+. I’m starting to realize that confidence, wisdom gained through life experience, and knowing oneself, is incredibly beautiful, and even sexy!

Sure, I really appreciate the smooth skin and gorgeous physiques of women in their twenties, but instead of comparing myself to them, I silently say “bless you sister-it’s your turn now” and make a mental list of reasons I’m grateful to be in my forties. This always helps me feel better and centers me back into myself and the reality of the wonderful life I have now. It’s definitely not the same life I had when I was in my twenties, but the more I reflect on it, the more I realize that I like the life I have now SO MUCH MORE…


Esther Kane, MSW, (www.estherkane.com) is a psychotherapist, author and women’s emotional well-being expert. As a respected speaker on women’s issues, she has written and published three self-help books for women including What Your Mama Can’t or Won’t Teach You: Grown Women’s Stories of Their Teen Years; Dump That Chump: A Ten-Step Plan for Ending Bad Relationships and Attracting the Fabulous Partner You Deserve, and It’s Not About The Food: A Woman’s Guide To Making Peace with Food and Our Bodies. The book and audioprogram is available to order online at http://www.itsnotaboutthefood.net




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

I have always liked to dance and have always been a happy person. Thank God I am not a high-strung person. I have always liked going out and traveling. I have taken advantage of everything offered to me . I have also had my moments of stress, like when my dad died. But God has given me the grace and spirit to be able to take difficult things in. That is why I have had a happy life. And I have liked helping people very much. When I was young I visited people in hospitals – those who had no visitors – to feed them their meals. I took meals to operating rooms. If someone needed surgery I would look for a friend surgeon to operate on him/her because perhaps it was someone who did not have any money. I did all that and felt pleased with how I helped.

My mom knew that I liked all that, but she never told me to do it. She would tell me to be careful because I was young and I could get a disease. I never took that into account. I liked doing charity work and helping the poor. I would try to help anyone who needed help. That has been my life and I feel pleased with it. I have grown older but continue to do the same. I am 89 and have been a volunteer here at the 30th Street Senior Center for 21 years, where I can help people and give them anything they need.

What does beauty mean to you now?

It is very different now. Young people do not dress up. In my time people dressed up. One tried to have a good appearance. There were other fashions. I was someone who never wore pants. I got to the US and women wore them, but not me. To this day, I do not like them.

If different, why have your ideas changed?

I wake up and then I have breakfast. But the first thing I do (is dress myself up) because one wakes up and looks at herself in the mirror and gets disappointed. All my life—given the advice of my mother, God keep her—from the day I married I would always be dressed up when my husband came home. In the street he could see many beautiful girls dressed up and when he came home, my mom said, if he saw his woman not dressed up, he would be disappointed. So that was my mom’s advice. She told me that when your husband comes home he should always find you attractive and not be disappointed. Otherwise in the street he sees so many beautiful girls and suddenly he gets home and his wife is not well dressed?!

My husband died when I was 64. He was my husband for life.

I have always dressed up and I feel uncomfortable when I see people who don’t, especially young girls. But they have youth’s beauty. An older woman needs to dress up because she no longer has the beauty of youth. That is my advice. I see women who say, “Why should I dress up since I am already old?” That is a mistake.

I feel satisfied of how I have lived my life. God has blessed me and encouraged me. Above all, to date and at my age –  blessed be my Father – I have never had surgery. The only time I was in the hospital was when I had my children. So until – now thanks be to God – I have not been there for any other reason.

¿Qué significó para Ud. la belleza cuando tenía 20-29 años?

A mi me ha gustado el baile toda la vida he sido muy alegre. Por suerte nunca he tenido mal carácter siempre me ha gustado salir, viajar y todo lo que se me ha presentado en la vida que yo puedo hacerlo lo he hecho. He tenido mi impresiones también, cuando mi madre murió. Pero dios me ha dado lo satisfacción y el espíritu de ver las cosas mas suaves. Por eso mi vida ha sido muy alegre toda mi vida. Y me ha gustado mucho ayudar, fui cuando era joven a los hospitales a darle su comidita a la gente que no tenia quien le fuera a ver. Le he llevado comida a las salas de operaciones. Si alguien se tenia que operar yo buscaba algún amigo medico para que lo operara porque tal vez era una persona que no tenia dinero y todo eso hice y todo eso fue una satisfacción para mi.

Mi madre sabia que a mi me gustaba todo eso pero nunca me dijo que no lo hiciera. Me decía que tuviera precauciones porque era joven y las enfermedades me podían pasar pero yo nunca tuve en cuenta eso. Porque a mi me gustaba hacer caridad y ayudar al pobre, a todo el prójimo que necesitaba algo yo traba de ayudarle. Eso ha sido mi vida y ha sido una satisfacción y luego he llegado a mis años y soy lo mismo en esta forma tengo ya 89 años y 21 años de ser voluntaria de aqui del centro de la 30 donde me gusto mucho también para ayudar y darle a la gente todo.

¿Qué significa para Ud. La belleza ahora?

Es muy diferente, la juventud ahora no se arreglan. Antes había otros tiempos y la gente se arreglaba mas. Antes uno trataba de estar bien arregladito. Las modas del pasado, yo fui una persona que jamas he usado pantalón. Llegue a los Estado Unidos y usaban pantalón pero yo nunca. Nunca me ha gustado hasta hoy.

Si es diferente, ¿por qué han cambiado con los años sus ideas sobre la belleza?

Yo me despierto y después me voy a tomar mi desayuno. Pero lo primero que yo hago porque uno se despierta y se mira en el espejo y se decepciona entonces yo toda la vida, fue consejo de mi madre, que en gloria la tenga, que el día que me casara nunca me faltara estar arreglada cuando mi esposo iba a llegar a la casa porque en la calle veía muchas muchachas guapas arregladas y todo y volver a su casa me decía ella y ver a su señora que va a estar toda (señas), se decepciona. De manera que eso es consejo de mi madre que me dijo que cuando llegue su marido que siempre la encuentre bonita para que no tenga ninguna decepción. En la calle ve tantas bonita y de repente llega a la casa y esta mal arreglada.

Mi esposo falleció cuando yo tenia 64 años, fue mi esposo toda una vida.

Yo siempre me he arreglado y me da no se que ver que no se arreglen la juventud pero tienen la belleza de la juventud. Una persona mayor necesita arreglarse porque no tiene la belleza de la juventud, ese es mi consejo. Veo personas que dicen para que me voy a arreglar si ya estoy vieja. Eso es un error.

Me siento satisfecha de como he pasado mi vida que dios me ha bendecido en ser alentada sobre todo porque hasta la fecha, mis años, bendito sea mi padre yo nunca he tenido una operación. La única vez que estado en el hospital fue solo cuando he tenido a mis hijos, hasta el momento gracias a dios nunca.

Concepción – “Conchita”, 89

San Francisco

Alicia de Guatemala

What was the importance of beauty for you when you were in your 20s?

Life was beautiful because one was young. Instead, today I am old. I remember I was very beautiful because I went to dances and there were many men who sought me out and also boyfriends. But everything has changed. I thought a lot about dressing and makeup. I put on beautiful dresses and golden bracelets and necklaces which I liked at that time. I went to the hairdresser often. I lived in Guatemala but not in the capital. I lived in a small town. I did not come here to the US until I became a widow. But I married when I was 19 at my most beautiful age. I had 5 children: two girls and three boys.

What does beauty mean to you now?

Now I am not beautiful anymore. [But] I always like to primp up. I always think of beauty. The most important thing for me now is that every day I have things to sign up for and come here to the center and meet my girlfriends. I never like not taking care of my appearance.

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

Because everything changes [over time]. One is not the same as when young. One likes more things.

I am not that interested in primping up but I always do it a little. I have the pleasure of taking daily baths and looking at myself in the mirror. I was never one of putting on lots of makeup and jewelry.

¿Qué significó para Ud. la belleza cuando tenía 20-29 años?

Era muy bonita la vida porque estaba uno joven. En cambio, ya hoy estoy grande. Me recuerdo que yo era muy bonita porque yo salía a los bailes y había muchos pretendientes y novios. Pero todo ha cambiado. Yo pensaba mucho en el vestido y arreglo. Me ponía bonitos vestidos y las cadenas de oro que me gustaba en este tiempo. Me he arreglado el pelo. Yo vivía ya en Guatemala pero no en la capital. Vivía en un pueblo. Vine aquí en los Estados Unidos hasta que yo me quede viuda. Pero yo me casé de 19 años en la edad mas bonita. Tuve 5 hijos: 2 hembras y 3 varones.

¿Qué significa para Ud. la belleza ahora?

Ahora ya no estoy belleza. Siempre me gusta el arreglo. Siempre pienso en la belleza. Lo mas importante a mi ahorita es que todos los días tengo cosas a de alistarme para venir aquí al centro y encontrarme con mis amigas. Siempre no me gusta estar desarreglada.

Si es diferente, ¿por qué han cambiado con los años sus ideas sobre la belleza?

Porque cambia todo. Uno ya vino y no es igual que cuando era joven. Uno tiene gusto de todo.

No tengo mucho deseo de arreglarme pero siempre aunque sea un poquito si. Tengo el gusto a todos los días bañarme y en el espejo verme cuando vengo. Nunca fui de usar muchos adornos ni de maquillarme.


Alicia, 86

San Francisco

Being a beauty is something you cannot fake

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

Beauty to me always meant a girl’s appearance and for me this meant a beautiful face, very clear skin, long shiny hair and the girl had to be thin.  She also had to be very fashionable following the latest trends. I never applied the word to anything else.

What does beauty mean to you now?

For me beauty now holds a stronger meaning. I think it is shown through personality rather than appearance. I  strongly believe that someone who is always radiant (happy face) is a natural beauty as I believe it reflects that person’s personality. Make up and hair straighteners can help make someone look beautiful but its that radiant glow that I believe makes someone a beauty. Being a beauty is something that you cannot fake.

If different, why have your ideas about beauty changed?

Past experience has shown me this. It has been proven to me time and time again that beauty isn’t on the outside – it’s on the inside. An old adage I know. But the people that I used to idolize and wish to be, have always, in the long run seemed to lack genuineness. Its not long before their personality changes their persona. It’s amazing how once you get to know the real person how their appearance changes. Sometimes for the good and unfortunately sometimes for the bad.

Vicki, 27


beauty that grows within the heart of humankind…

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

It seems funny to be asked what beauty meant to me in my twenties because I can’t believe how unaware i.e. unconscious I was of my inability to be any different. Beauty was external and it referred to what I did “to make” myself attractive – to the opposite sex. It’s as if I was raised to be attractive to men not only by my parents’, but by my parents’ who were acting in collusion with some outside force which I now recognize as the culture. So in that sense beauty not only referred to physical beauty as in the right hairstyle, make-up, clothes and shoes but there was also an emphasis on sexual attraction. By the way – I almost dyed my hair blonde at one point. The line that permeated radio, TV and paper advertising, “Blondes have more fun!” was meant to be entice all women. So, just like Betsy mentioned, if one’s mom was influenced then the daughter usually followed – albeit reluctantly right behind. Ah ha! So now I have also discovered a connection between beauty and having fun and the images set out by advertising.

What does beauty mean to you now?

I still think of beauty in terms of physical appearance which includes physical health. However, my the concept of beauty has blossomed to include spiritual, emotional, and psychological attributes which reflect the development of an interior orientation that began when I was in my mid thirties.

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

The connection between my expanded notions about beauty are intimately linked to my spiritual development and the cultivation of a rather serious prayer life which began when I was thirty-six. I learned that though I was a wife, mother, daughter, sibling and friend I was “more”. At fifty-seven (almost!) I continue to learn about what process of becoming means to me. I enjoy many facets of my life and hope that the parts of my life which don’t appear to be very beautiful will one day be transformed. Until that day comes, I hope to enjoy the more hidden and little moments of beauty which put me in touch with the beauty that grows within the heart of humankind.

Helene, 56

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