The Desert Muses is thrilled to announce our December guest blogger. Please help me welcome former beauty and fitness writer for The New York Times Deborah Blumenthal.
Are you happy with the face you see in the mirror?
Holiday party time is here. You have sparkly new earrings. A great new dress. Maybe a bright crimson lipstick. But when you look in the mirror, is there something that you’d like to change?
If there was a beauty genie who could grant you one wish, would you ask for clearer skin? Thinner thighs? Thicker hair? If Allie Johnston the 15-year old protagonist of my new young adult novel, A DIFFERENT ME, was granted one wish, she wouldn’t hesitate for a second: “Take away the bump on my nose,” she’d say.
Beauty genies are in short supply, but that doesn’t stop most of us from wishing they existed. In their absence, we take making magic into our own hands. It’s called plastic surgery, or Botox. It’s called cellulite creams and lasers.
When I was sixteen I would have killed for clearer skin. There was no Accutane then, and Retin-A was in the research stage. My friends and I avoided restaurants with bright lights and we combed the pharmacies for the latest camouflage creams. I don’t think we ever totally recovered from the pain. Today my skin is clear, but when someone says, you have such good skin, my first reaction is study their face to see if they’re making fun of me.
Granted, we live in a world that is photoshopped. Even supermodels have things that need fixing. But why let truth get in the way of our fantasies? We want to look like those models even if the real models don’t look like the models.
Makeup artist Bobbi Brown doesn’t buy into the Barbie doll look, and her take on perfection is an appealing one: “I find beauty in the flaws,” she says, “those characteristics that don’t fit society’s narrow definition of beauty. Sadly, women who have these characteristics have been taught not to like them. The challenge is to reverse this way of thinking.”
Can we? Maybe what it comes down to is attitude. “Darling the legs aren’t so beautiful, I just know what to do with them,” Greta Garbo said. And Diana Vreeland: “The only real elegance is in the mind; if you’ve got that, the rest really comes from it.”
Not liking yourself is hard work, so Allie Johnston decides to cut herself some slack. “I want to try dwelling less on perfection,” she says, “and focusing on my job at Google Mapping maybe the way to finding out who I am.”
Maybe dwelling less on perfection and refocusing should be a goal for all of us.
Deborah Blumenthal is a former beauty and fitness writer for The New York Times Magazine. A DIFFERENT ME is her latest young adult novel, published September 1, 2014 by Albert Whitman & Company.