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


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

Ideals change with each phase of life

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

Beauty meant being thin, attractive and “sexy”. Of course, I was looking to marry and have children so being those things helped to insure I’d find a spouse and have children. Although, there were beauties such as Sophia Loren, her self-proclaimed “uneven features”, Audrey Hepburn who wrote that “true beauty comes from her soul” and Helen Hayes whom broke the mold on traditional beauty.  Their presence taught me that true beauty did indeed run more than skin deep.

What does beauty mean to you now?

It is a type of gracefulness, dignity and confidence. The inner person is now more important than the outer shell. Although we are to take good care of ourselves which includes feeling good about ourselves at every stage of life.

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

I am no longer young and don’t have to be concerned with hooking a husband and having children, been there and done that. Life has it’s phases, just as it should be.  Ideals change with each phase of life. Of course, I still enjoy looking as beautiful as I can and enjoy looking at beautiful people just as I enjoy looking at everything else that is beautiful.

Elizabeth, 55

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