“I play less with identity because I know myself better…”

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

Playing around with my identity. At a certain point (when I was performing in theater) I realized that “looking beautiful” is an illusion, so I lost my fear of playing with beauty. Playing with make-up, hair, clothing. I changed my  hairstyle often, sometimes every day (with the help of a friendly hairdresser). And just had fun with it all. I dressed a lot in vintage clothes, put on manly looks, sexy looks, showy looks.

I never dieted in my 20s. though I did exercise using Rachel Welch videos tapes, to prepare for my theater programs (dancing). I loved costumes! When I was 25, I moved to Holland and became a secretary for a while and  used to “dress up” as a secretary to play the role.

The Dutch however had less of a sense of humor about clothing… unfortunately, that influenced me and I stopped dressing up in fun vintage party dresses for parties. No one else dressed up (‘normal’ was the standard) and they would make fun of me, and I lost my confidence and got rid of my dresses. I still mourn the passing of my party dresses!

What does beauty mean to you now?

Some people are simply beautiful. Others radiate beauty through their calm or peace of mind or personal energy. I feel beautiful when I feel strong and fully myself. Laughter and joy is beauty, too!

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

I play less with identity because I know myself better. Fashion trends are less important now. And I care less what other people think about me now. And although in the past I thought I would use plastic surgery, now I think it is better to stay healthy and try to accept age creeping up…. so sad to see photos of Madonna without make-up, for example. We are the same age, and she has destroyed her natural beauty.

It is funny to see old photos of myself now, I was so beautiful in my 20′s but back then, I didn’t always feel beautiful. I felt fat or ugly or strange. Insecure at times. Sensitive to people making fun of my experimentations with identity – which happened when I moved from the US to Holland.

So now if I feel ugly, I think of those photos and know that I will always look beautiful in retrospect!

Claire, 51

Grace and Stamina: Eva

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

I was in my 20’s from 1973 to 1983. During those years I had two very separate views of beauty.  One was physical beauty and the other was individual beauty.  Physical beauty is very fleeting and belongs to the young.  Back then I thought physical beauty was tall and slender with the hair, nails, and clothing always fresh.  It was my lofty goal.  I was always on a diet and looking for the perfect haircut.  When I finally got there at age 23 it felt great.  I loved it.  The attention was nice and I really liked looking in the mirror.

Then the cruel reality of disease and aging descended upon me.  I learned to accept that the physical beauty of youth fades quickly and we live much longer without it than with it.  Individual beauty is the aging process.  It is the ability to acknowledge and accept beauty in all its forms and ages.

What does beauty mean to you now?

Beauty now still means about the same except I am now on the other side of time and have the wisdom to see beauty through experience.  It is still the same; I am simply no longer in my 20’s. Remaining balanced about the aging process and viewing physical beauty as a small piece of the individual allows me to survive aging with grace and stamina.

Eva P. Balek, 56

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