Gutsy Living: Life’s too short to play it safe

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

I was born in Denmark in 1957, and moved to Nigeria, West Africa, for the first six-years of my life. My teenage years were spent in Paris, and then boarding school and University in England.

Beauty in my twenties did not consist of make-up and all the things young girls seem to focus on in southern California, where I now live. In fact, as you can see from the photo, I did not wear make-up, and I’m shocked how at twenty-four, I look more like a kid than any fourteen-year-old California girl does today. Trying to look grown-up before your age was not important to my friends and me in Europe. Perhaps clothes and being thin — not too skinny though—were more important than our hair and make-up. The only girls who seemed to care about ironing their hair straight were the American girls who attended my school in Paris. I do remember rolling my skirt up to make it look like a mini-skirt at school, and begging my parents for a pair of black boots that covered my knees, but that’s about it.

At twenty-one, I tanned my face with one of those stupid and dangerous sun lamps and that was about all I did in my 20′s, except for lemon juice to lighten my hair. I never paid attention to manicures, pedicures, waxing, highlighting my hair and all the things girls did in the U.S., until after I moved to the U.S. In fact, I did not get my first pedicure until forty, and to this day, I still feel like it’s a luxury. Whenever I see moms with their five-year-olds in the U.S. getting expensive manicures and pedicures, it makes me angry. I don’t believe it’s necessary to focus on beauty at five, or even at age ten. I think kids should remain kids and not think of beauty at such a young age.

What does beauty mean to you now?

Now that I live in the U.S., and I’m fifty-four, I do pay attention to nutrition, exercise, staying in shape, taking care of my skin with

Fit at 47, Belize

quality products, and getting 7-8 hours of sleep every night. While I admire many “older” women, like Jane Goodall, who do good for the world rather than spend time worrying about their looks, it’s more common to have procedures done to stay younger-looking today. I spend more time taking care of myself now than before. I feel that it is my duty to look as good as I can for myself, and to stay as healthy as I can for my family. Since I have too many Gutsy things I want to do in my life, now that my three sons are out of the house, I try to maintain my strength at the gym, and exercise my brain through learning new things, especially online. I think as women age, self-confidence and knowing who you are and wonderful gifts that we receive. At least we get something positive out of aging.

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

I live in a superficial society (Southern California) where looks are more important than in other parts of the world. I feel sucked into trying to look as young as I can and sometimes wish that I didn’t care, but I do. I prefer to be honest, if one day I get a face lift, rather than pretend (like some women who say they’ve been blessed with good genes.) So if/when I decide to have my face lasered or a face lift, I shall probably write about my Gutsy laser, or my Gutsy face lift. I think most women care about their looks to some degree, and if they don’t, they’re either not telling the whole truth, or they really don’t care, and if so, I admire them for being that way. Perhaps it’s time for me to leave the Los Angeles area, and move to another remote island where people don’t seem pay much attention to how you look, and you stop caring too.

Sonia Marsh Bio

I’m a mother, wife, author, blogger, unconventional thinker and world traveler, who happens to love tropical islands. My upcoming travel memoir is about our family’s move to Belize.

Freeways to Flip-Flops: Our Year of Living Like the Swiss Family Robinson, Parents move their kids from Orange County, California to Belize hoping to find a solution to their family problems. Once there, mom questions the sanity of their decision to move almost daily, until an unexpected event reconnects her family.

I’m the author of a blog called: “Gutsy Living: Life is too short to play it safe.”

If you’re a writer and would like to submit your own, “My Gutsy Story,” please check out the following contest page with guidelines and sponsors.

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A little grooming makes heads turn

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

I wasn’t aware of notions of beauty. As a consequence I wore no make up. Nor did I go out and by any fashionable clothes ( financial restraints restricted my desire to deck out in fine clothes.) The circle of people I moved in did not spend time making themselves look attractive, as we did not feel the need to do so, because we were not allowed to date men. I did not wear make up until my 30’s when I got married and had two children. I wore make up in order to gain confidence, to feel good within myself, to go out, mix with people and socialise, hoping that the foundation that I wore would hide all imperfections that I had. The same went with clothes and visiting the hair dresser once a week. I was more aware of the need to make myself more attractive once I was out and about from the confines of domesticity (including bringing up the children).  At the end of the day, it really made me feel good, and I gained self confidence to talk to people etc.

If you look at Western culture, girls wear make up and nice frocks to go out on dates with boys, which was totally alien to us, because our (Indian) culture was different – it was not the done thing. I felt blase about beauty in this sense until I discovered a little grooming made heads turn when I left the front door – especially the male species.

What does beauty mean to you now?

Beauty is definitely as asset if you have it, whatever age you are. But with advancing years, if you can preserve it, all the better. To keep  what you have is important at my age, it makes me feel  happy in my inner-self. I sometimes look in the mirror and think, ‘I still look good at this age!’ Often people cannot guess my age correctly. It is a back handed compliment in a way!

I once had an interview with an Avon sales rep at my door step. When I told her my true age, she nearly fell backwards in pure disbelief. I think it was very flattering and made my day! If someone of your own sex says how good you look, that is uplifting, but its even more flattering when men pay you compliments. Beauty to me now is something that makes me happy.

I don’t give aging a thought. It is a natural progression which everyone has to face sometime. One has to accept the fact that one can’t be beautiful as you grow older, as I do not believe in cosmetic surgery or anything like that to preserve what I have got.

Why have your ideas of beauty changed over the years?
My ideas about beauty have changed over time due to environment and competition all around you – i.e women trying to look good to go out to work. This made me embrace the fact that to be beautiful inside and out can make me friends.
Shantala, over 60
London

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