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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“Will older women be hesitant to talk about their changing image?”

My sister recently asked. We shall see. That is something I am curious to find out. In creating this project, I want to be as sensitive and respectful as possible.

For me, my questions present important issues. Why does the (lack of ) age of a face “enhance” its value? As women grow in wisdom and life experience, how is it that modern, enlightened culture is still socialized to “invisiblize” them as women and increasingly reduce their roles? Why are the young particularly valuable or beautiful?

Money and power are easy answers to roll out in response. The questions in themselves are not new nor profound. What is important though is to ask, giving form to unspoken ghouls that linger behind smiling faces in advertisements.

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