It felt like putting on a mask

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

I just turned 30 and actually still feel in my 20s although my view on “beauty” has developed. In my teenage years and early twenties I acted as if it’s not important how one looks. Bigger-sized clothes felt comfortable, make-up took too much time to put on and my hair had to be fixed quick and easy.


Around me there were different types of people: “Modepoppen” – always following fashion/trends and a lot of make-up; “Kakkers” – expensive clothes (brands), rich parents; “Gabbers” – track-suits, listening to House-music; and  “Alto’s” -alternative clothes, organic food, blowing. I decided it didn’t bother me and I didn’t want to belong to any group, but I also liked to wear the specific Levi’s everyone wanted and the Olily shawl (Kakkers), so I ended up also wearing this. The same with shoes…a special trend and a year later I had those shoes. For clothes I looked for which colours suited me and which didn’t. Wearing bigger-sized clothes felt good but also camouflaged my female figure (which I was insecure about).

My eyesight isn’t that good. I needed glasses at the age of 12, but I refused to admit I couldn’t see that well. The moment I took driving lessons I had to wear glasses, which meant I only wore those during driving and watching TV. I didn’t like spending much time doing my hair, but I noticed I spent more time than I would admit. I also tried to wear high-heeled shoes, to look taller and also because I heard “men like women in high-heels”. For accessories I wore long colourful earrings, bracelets and necklaces which were cheerful and feminine.

I liked nail polish, but “make-up” was not for me…too much work and it felt like putting on a mask. People need to like me as I am. Sport? What’s that? No, not for me, I didn’t see the value.

In my early 20s I told myself “beauty isn’t that important”, but I thought about and acted more on it than I would admit. I also thought outer beauty is worth nothing when you don’t have a good character. Some girls looked beautiful but were very annoying to get along with. I wasn’t jealous at all.

What does beauty mean to you now?

The new millennium just started when I was in my early 20s. A lot changed around me concerning the beauty-image. The bigger sizes became more tight. I followed the trend. My insecurities about my image began to disappear as I got  older. I found my own style,  more feminine clothes. No more wide-leg trousers or bigger-sized long sleeves but stylish trousers, funny skirts and colourful blouses. I noticed I had a good figure and didn’t need to hide it.

I also noticed that by wearing feminine, colourful clothes (colours that suit me), I feel better. I decided that glasses can be a nice accessory. Now I wear contact lenses (no more wet/damp glasses) because actually I don’t want to hide my beautiful eyes, ha, ha. I wear a little make-up, like  mascara , because I think it looks good and accentuates my eyes. It doesn’t feel like a mask; it’s subtle but effective. I put lip gloss on for parties and holidays. Very impractical but it looks festive. Putting a little make-up on I feel a bit more beautiful and polished. Nowadays I use organic skin cream (for very dry skin) because my health is more important to me.

I have long hair and usually wear it in a ponytail, sometimes loose; most important is that it has to look clean. I often polish my nails and toenails transparent, sometimes colour. It looks good and I feel better. Now I also see the value of sport, not only to maintain my weight but also to feel fit, have more energy and because it’s healthy.

(Outer) beauty  isn’t that important. Above all, I want to be healthy and happy. Real beauty comes from within; that’s clear to me. When I feel good and cheerful, I radiate that. A cheerful and friendly face is more beautiful than an angry or churlish face. The more time I spend to relax, visit friends and family, and be helpful to others, the better I feel and look.

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

The fun part is, when I accept more who I am, I take better care of my looks. I believe in God and believe he made me beautiful the way I am/look.  I honour Him by looking well and taking care of myself. That means I don’t only take care of how I look, but I also take time to relax and be there for somebody else. I notice that by doing this I become really beautiful.

I also really enjoy elderly women who are cheerful and enjoy life; that’s how I want to grow older. Outer beauty declines, but a good character lasts and that is an invaluable beauty!

Hanneke, 30



Griselda de Guadalajara

What did beauty mean to you when you were 20-29?

Well, beauty is not as interesting as they make it to be. Character also counts….to be able to speak with other people easily. I have always liked dressing up and now too, although I am an old woman. My hair was always very straight and I would do perms and dress up in the style of the time, dresses down to my knees and beautiful blouses.

My family was poor and so I did not enjoy any luxuries but more or less we could eat well. We had a good time. We went to the movies and to dances behind dad’s back. We had a great time, with my little sisters. At that time we lived in Guadalajara. Until I was 17 I lived in Mexico and then I came to live here. Because here lived my grandma and my brother. Then I found work in a sewing factory and could enjoy life because I worked and had money and could help my dad because he had a big family. Then I packed cookies (as a job) and took care of my children at home, because I was married

How important is beauty to you now? If different, why have your ideas of beauty  changed over the years?

Fashion was very different here, people wore hats and fur coats.

But it has now changed so much. Now everyone wears pants, including me, after exercising. With diabetes I cannot go to dances anymore because there are too many temptations, cakes which I cannot eat. Before I could not go because they would not let me and now because of diabetes.

My children take me out to the movies. They take me to the beach in Sausalito.

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

Bueno la belleza no es tan interesante también hay que ver el carácter, poder hablar uno con otras persona con facilidad. Me ha gustado arreglarme y ahora también por mas que este mayor. Mi pelo siempre estaba muy lacio y me hacia permanentes y vestidos lo que se usaba en ese tiempo, vestidos regulares hasta la rodilla y blusas bonitas. Mi familia era pobre asíque yo no tenia lujos pero mas o menos teníamos para comer bien. La pasábamos bien, íbamos al cine y a los bailes a escondidas de mi papá. La pasábamos bien con mis hermanitas. En ese tiempo vivíamos en Guadalajara.

Hasta los 17 años viví en México y después me vine a vivir aquí. Porque aquí vivía mi abuelita y mi hermano. Después encontré trabajo en una fabrica de costura y pues aquí goce porque yo ya trabajaba y tenia dinero y ayudaba a mi padre porque tenia una familia muy grande. Después empaquetando galletas y después cuidando niños en mi casa, porque me casé.

¿Qué significa para Ud. la belleza ahora? Si es diferente, ¿por qué han cambiado con los años sus ideas sobre la belleza?

La moda era muy distinta aquí, la gente iba de sombreros y pieles. Hasta en los colectivos.

Pero la ha cambiado tanto ahora anda todo el mundo en pantalones, incluso yo que vengo de hacer mis ejercicios. Con la diabetes no puedo ir mas a los bailes porque hay tentaciones hay muchos pasteles y yo no los puedo comer. Antes no podía ir porque no me dejaban y ahora por la diabetes.

Mis hijos me llevan a pasear, al cine. Me llevan a la playa a Sausalito


San Francisco

the glint of your eyes

A recent online interview from a dear friend of mine who interviewed her mom…

Daughter: So what did beauty mean to you when you were in your 20’s?

Mom: Well, you worked in an office and you just got ready in the morning and wore your regular make-up. Pancake makeup was the big thing and lipstick, that’s really all you’d put on. I’d get my pancake makeup at the dime store, probably the Woolworth or the Kresge dime store in Chicago.

Daughter: Would you get your makeup around where you worked?

Mom: No, no, you got it in your neighborhood. You didn’t wear a lot of makeup and you didn’t have to buy a lot of makeup. It lasted a long time. My mother didn’t wear much makeup. And you didn’t wear it at all in high school or in grammar school. They’d tell you to go home and wash your face.

Daughter: They wouldn’t just tell you to go into the washroom and wash the makeup off your face?

Mom: No, they’d look at you real close because some girls tried to wear real light color. But I wasn’t that crazy about makeup. You dressed up if you went on a date and then you wore makeup and stuff like that.

Daughter: When I remember you putting lipstick on, I’d always see you grab a blue tissue after putting on a gold tube of Coty lipstick and you’d always dab your lips with it.

Mom: Yes, to blot it off. We never wore eye makeup. You didn’t think it was right to monkey with your eyes. So you just had your pancake makeup on and your lipstick and away you went.

Daughter: When you got your pancake makeup, were you able to test it out at the store at all? Now there are thousands of shades ….

Mom: There weren’t that many, maybe 8 or 10. You kind of knew what shade you were and you could always test lipstick out on your hand.

Daughter: Were Coty and Max Factor the names then?

Mom: Yeah.

Daughter: But I imagine there weren’t near as many shades as there are now.

I heard you talk about putting a line up the back of your legs and that people were like-minded about conserving nylon…

Mom: Oh, back then you were always asking “Are my seams straight? Just like you’d say is my slip hanging out? I used the word slip…others would say petticoat. Your seams had to be straight. Actually it was with the girls a bit older than me. I wore bobby socks. Before nylons were silk stockings. You tried not to get a run in your silk stockings.

Daughter: And if you did get a run in your silk stockings?

Mom: Well then you used fingernail polish to try and stop it. Some girls would put on leg makeup and then put a line up the back. In Chicago, you all went to the office and looked very presentable.

Daughter: So, lipstick and pancake make-up and would you use your lipstick for blush?

Mom: No, not really. Would you pinch your cheeks and try to make them look rosy? No, that was before my time when they didn’t wear makeup. I’d say 1910

Daughter: Did Great Grandma Jane wear a lot of make-up?

Mom: My Aunt Irene did but I thought my mom was prettier by not wearing it.There were some people who spent a lot of time with their makeup and their hair. I always wanted to run out and do what I was going to do. I never wore perfume either.

Daughter: Would you say your ideas about makeup have changed throughout the years (it’s been about 50 years)…..

Mom: (laughs) No, they really haven’t. I think you should look as nice as you can and when you go someplace special. I still basically use the same things: a little foundation, a little lipstick, and put a little rouge on…

Daughter: I think I remember you saying “Get ready and be done with it”

Mom: Well there was only one bathroom (Bangs knuckles on the table). No one sat in front of the mirror for hours or she was a prima donna. You would get ready and be done with it. Besides, every night I was either in choir meeting or in…well, I was taking flying lessons. I was in civil air patrol. Every night I was doing something. So after you came home from school and ate, you were interested in those things. People were not so interested in how they looked. People were more concerned with your honesty, your character.

I think you were really interested or you really admired the girl with the cashmere sweater who had bobby socks to match (laughs). People were very clever with sewing too, so if everyone was wearing a broomstick skirt and a peasant blouse… Grandma Jane had a license. She had one of the first permanent wave machines. She always washed, curled and set hair.

Jean Harlow

Daughter: Did she do hair color?

Mom: The red was called Henna. The blonde was Jean Harlow who (in real life) used peroxide and didn’t live long.

Daughter: Which is why I remember you always telling (my sister) Loretta not to color her hair.

Mom: I’ve never had my hair colored or tinted. And Grandma Ella wouldn’t either. It’s not that she was trying to look younger. She didn’t want to tell Judy and me but we knew. They went gray very early, and personally, I think it’s attractive.

I think your skin, eyes and hair color all go together. You want to look nice and you do want to follow what the fashions are. But you don’t want to be self-absorbed. You liked things to match. And we didn’t wear earrings. Only people who were Italian or Spanish wore earrings. It was their culture. So you didn’t wear any earrings except screw-type for…

Daughter: The prom or a date? Would you have worn your mom’s?

Mom: Well, you didn’t buy stuff like that for yourself.

Daughter: If your ideas about beauty are different, why have they changed throughout the years?

Mom: I always thought my mom was modest. I loved her and admired her as graceful, gentle, very kind. Other women were maybe more flashy or made-up but…

Daughter: I think it’s… the glint of your eyes.

Mom: Aw, thank you Sweetheart. Well I’ve seen through the years that physical beauty is sometimes a handicap because people don’t look much further. Same thing with being too handsome as a fellow. You want someone rugged or with a square jaw. You want a person who ….. well whatever you’re attracted to. But I think being too beautiful can be a handicap. God can use anything. He made us…

But I think you look in the mirror, it’s all finished and you’re off to catch the street car!

Anonymous, 80


%d bloggers like this: