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

When I was young I liked to dress up and go out—I felt so young! I felt very happy. I was always a happy person. I don’t feel old now. I liked dancing very much. My dad gave me many dresses, boots and shoes. Since the age of twelve I put make up on. I lived in Colima, Guadalajara (Mexico). My parents had a jewelry shop. They both worked in the jewelry shop, and we had many employees. My mom was French. She was very beautiful and my dad liked her very much. He was handsome and liked dancing very much. My mom was very serious and only danced waltzes. But my dad liked to dance anything and put on hats.

I married in Colima to a Guatemalan man, a good husband. I married at 26 and he was 15 years older. He was a good husband and bought me a house for our three children.

I came to San Francisco at 25. I met my husband here and stayed. He died of a heart attack; he worked very much. I asked him why he worked so hard, and he said he wanted to provide for the family.

What is the importance of beauty for you now?

I always like to dress up. I always go the beauty parlor. One should always dress up, primp up. I dance salsa. I have admirers…there is one (now) a year older than I. But we are just friends.

If different, why have your ideas changed?

It is the same, because thanks to God I have always liked to dress up. My children help me; they love me very much. I am very friendly. When I get upset I go for a walk.

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

Cuando era joven, me gustaba vestirme, salir, me sentía tan joven! Me sentía muy contenta siempre estuve contenta. Yo no me siento vieja. Me gustaba mucho bailar. Mi papa me daba muchos vestidos y botas y zapatos. Desde los doce años usaba maquillaje. Vivía en Colima Guadalajara. Mis papas tenían una joyería. Mi mamá era francesa, los dos trabajaban en la joyería y teníamos muchos empleados. Mi mamá era muy bonita y a mi papá le gustaba era muy guapo y le gustaba mucho bailar. Mi mamá era muy seria y bailaba vals nada mas en cambio mi papá le gustaba bailar y ponerse sombreros.

Yo me case en Colima con un señor de Guatemala, muy buen esposo. Me case a los 26 años y el me llevaba quince años. Era buen esposo el me compro la casa y para nuestros tres hijos.

Yo vine a los 25 años a San Francisco. Conocí a mi marido y me quedé. El falleció del corazón, trabajaba mucho. Yo le decía porque trabajas tanto y el quería mantener a la familia.

¿Qué significa para Ud. la belleza ahora?

A mi me gusta siempre arreglarme. Siempre voy al salón de belleza. Siempre hay que vestirse, arreglarse. Voy a bailar salsa. Tengo enamorados, hay uno que tiene un año mas que yo. Pero somos amigos.

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

Emma making me a special Colima lunch

Es igual, porque gracias a dios siempre me quise arreglar. Mis hijos me ayudan me quieren mucho.

Soy muy amiguera. Cuando estoy enfadada salgo a caminar.

Emma, 83

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

“Draw Winky”

What were your ideas of beauty in your 20s?

It had nothing to do with wearing make-up (like my sister). I dressed really poorly. I wore a lot of jeans. I never cared to dress up, put make-up on, or do my hair. My hair was long. I braided it or pulled it back in one ponytail.  I didn’t care about looking beautiful because I didn’t care about what guys thought. If a guy worried about looks, let him worry about looks with somebody else.

In high school in the late 60s and early 70s, the style was wearing platform shoes, but pants had to drag. I was so tall that when I wore platform shoes, my pants wouldn’t drag, unless I made them. I would start buying them with cuffs and start letting them out as far as I could. By the time I finally got it all figured out, it was out of fashion. Oh well. (laughs) There were hip-huggers but I don’t have hips so I never worried about them.

I remember in high school, one of the girls wore a little t-shirt and leggings to school. Back then I thought, Wow, she’s fat. I look at the picture now and think, Not really. She doesn’t look that bad. Lots of women walk around like that. I’d never been heavy until after I got married and had kids.

All through high school I wore pants or dresses with pants underneath or knee socks. It was or wasn’t the style, but I had a skin condition and had to cover my skin. I had a boyfriend for 2 years, but it wasn’t because of anything I wore. We just got along.

What are your ideas of beauty or image now?

At my age, I wear a little bit of make-up and I’ve got to do a little something with the hair. I’ve seen women in t-shirts and jeans that look better than others (in the same). But I think it’s just a little of everything. My church talks a lot about your personality and your attitude. The guy that I’m seeing says, “You’re interesting to talk to. I wanted to get to know you more, to find out about you.” Now that we’re serious, I asked him, “Have I changed any since 2 months ago?” He said, “No, you’re still interesting.” We both have a lot in common.

Some guys like the girls that act flirty and all that, but some guys don’t like a woman who’s loud and needs attention. And ever since my boyfriend and I started being serious, all the other guys at church, well, I wouldn’t say they’re coming on to me, but they’re all talking more.

Is there a change in how you think about beauty?

A lot of it has to do with the way I act. I grew up in Alaska and the (mainland) US as a military brat. It’s hard because you don’t get to know that many people. You know them for a year and then you have to leave. My father didn’t encourage us or my mother to make friends. He said people  just wanted to see what we had. So he wouldn’t allow anyone to come over or let me go anywhere. My exciting day was going to school, coming home to do my homework, helping the other kids, and starting dinner. Mom would come home. Dinner would be half done, so she’d finish it and we’d eat. We cleared up and did the dishes, and then Dad said, “Well, do what you want.” And it was like whoopie. I never went to movies as a kid. I never did anything.

My parents paid for me to take an art school advertised on TV – the “Draw Me” Winky. I took it for 3 years but didn’t finish it. My father threatened to disown me if I went to college. He said a woman needed no more education than high school because she would get married and a man would take care of her.

When I was young, I was a real crier. I still cry at the drop of a hat. I’m really sensitive. But back then, I couldn’t talk to people. I was really shy. Now if I was in school, I’d be on the debating team. I could stand in the front of the room with a whole bunch of people and talk, whereas when I was 20, I didn’t have any confidence. I don’t know what it was. I got nervous that I would say something wrong. The beauty part has changed a lot. I kind of wish back then I would’ve taken more pride in how I looked.

Susan, 56


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