Beauty and Aging:  Can the Two Go Together?

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A common cliché is that “Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder.”  But have you ever stopped and asked yourself “What is beauty?”  Can you give a definition of beauty?  Would your definition be like mine?  Would old people have the same definition as young people?  Would Blacks and Latinos and Asians and Indians have the same definition as Whites?  Are some definitions more fitting or more powerful than others?

“Outer beauty pleases the EYE. Inner beauty captivates the HEART.” — Mandy Hale

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You can have your own definitions of beauty, but the world also sets standards.  We have lists of beautiful people all around us.  Magazines, TV and the media hype the “beautiful people” almost daily.  People magazine, Maxim and many others regularly maxim hot womenpublish their lists of the most beautiful people in the world.  Beautiful people marry other beautiful people and are constantly in the news.  The Kardashians would seem to have few talents except their almost incredible beauty.  Rich men marry beautiful women.  Beautiful actresses marry NFL football players.  Beautiful heiresses marry rock stars while beautiful rock stars marry record producers.

beauty and the beast

One common cliché is that true beauty lies beneath the skin.  We see the classic “Beauty and the Beast” movie wherein love becomes blind since the Beast is so kind and thoughtful.  It should surprise no one however that in the end, the ugly Beast turns into a handsome dashing the handsome prince

young Prince and they live happily ever after.  I am still waiting to see one beauty contest or pageant based on the “true beauty” that lies within.  Can you imagine the “Annual Miss Beautiful Beneath the Skin Beauty Pageant?”  Or the Top Ten People with the Most Beauty Inside?

“Beauty is not in the face; beauty is a light in the heart.”  —Kahlil Gibran

sexist men in the worldI once asked my MBA students whether they would rather be smart or beautiful.  They almost unanimously selected beautiful.  I was very surprised but the more I have observed about life, the more it would seem that beauty will get you further than brains.  Brains can get you some things but being nerdy is not one of the things that most people aspire to.  Anti-intellectualism is a fact of American life as noted by Richard Hofstadter in his famous book: “Anti-intellectualism in American Life, 1963.

“Here the politician expresses what a large part of the public feels. The citizen cannot cease to need or to be at the mercy of experts, but he can achieve a kind of revenge by ridiculing the wild-eyed professor, the irresponsible brain truster, or the mad scientist, and by applauding the politicians as they pursue the subversive teacher, the suspect scientist, or the allegedly treacherous foreign-policy adviser.” — Richard Hofstadter

I have many women friends on Facebook whom I regard as strong intelligent women.  They are smart independent and hard working.  They would never depend on a man for their lives or careers.  Nevertheless, let any woman publish a picture of her young daughter and everybody, women as well as men, will fall all over themselves to provide compliments such as “beautiful, pretty, attractive, gorgeous, etc.”  Even among women who should know better, a young girl is defined first by her looks.

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I once wondered how aging would affect my idea of beauty.  I wondered if I could grow old with a wife who would eventually look like any other “old” woman.  I am now 71 years old and my spouse is 73.  I always thought my spouse Karen was beautiful.  I had a harder time convincing her of this fact since one must accept their own beauty or no one can convince them otherwise.  Karen simply never saw herself as beautiful.  I confess I was not really attracted to her the first time we met.  However, I fell in love with her the second time when I watched her smile and laugh while we talked.  Her smile and laughter and kindness towards others have always held the secret to my attractiveness to Karen.

“How beautiful a woman can be if kindness is her true beauty.” Debasish Mridha

180107182313-14-golden-globes-red-carpet-2018-super-916As we both have aged, the process of deterioration taking place in our bodies is clear in the more wrinkled, wizened and paunchy body shapes we now exhibit.  While neither of us was ever beautiful by societies standards, we never had any chance of making any top ten beautiful lists before and certainly not today.  Nevertheless, when I see my spouse in her pajamas or in the shower or when she cuddles up in bed with me, I can’t help but think how beautiful she is and how much I love her.  While I still see the shades of societies standards of beauty in the many young models punctuating my daily life, the beauty I see in my wife is something I cannot describe.  It is a beauty that comes from who she is and not how she looks.  I only know she is more beautiful to me today than she was 35 years ago when we first started dating.

“True beauty radiates not from outer cosmetics, but from the simple joy of making a difference for those that need your voice, passion, and time without expecting or wanting anything in return…”  ― Deborah Barnes

six packYou can claim as you grow older that you either have regrets or you have no regrets.  I have had at least one friend who on his deathbed made the claim that he had no regrets.  I admired his attitude very much.  I wanted to emulate this attitude as I grew older, but try as I might it has escaped me.  I can tell you I have no regrets, but it would be a big lie.  I have enough regrets to write a book about.  One of my regrets is that I am shorter than my father was.  He was six feet four inches paul newmantall and I barely make five feet eight inches.  Mostly though, I wonder what it would have been like to have been born handsome.  To have had the looks of Paul Newman, Sean Connery, Brad Pitt or Robert Redford.  Would I have used my looks to achieve fame and fortune or would I have simply squandered it away on wine, women and song? How much different would my life have been if I had been a “beautiful” person?

“Instead of waiting for beauty to show up at your doorstep, create so much beauty within you that it will inevitably overflow in all directions.”  — Nityananda Das

Golden-Globes-2018-1200x675I understand and fully believe that like ingratitude, (Please read my blog on Ingratitude) wanting external beauty is another trap.  It is too easy to see all the glamorous people and wonder what our lives would be like if we had their looks.  But letting go of the standards of beauty that surround us every day is not easy.  No one believes that simply being beautiful makes anyone a beautiful person.  A very famous saying is that “beauty is as beauty does.”  I was taught that by my parents and I still believe it.

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A few weeks ago, a man I admired as much for his talent as his great looks passed away.  I have always said that if I could be born again, I would want to come back as an opera singer.  My father loved opera and I grew up in Brooklyn NY in an Italian neighborhood that also loved opera.  On a Saturday evening, you could hear arias up and down the block from people singing Verdi and Puccini on their doorsteps.

“I go to Topman at lunchtime and stare at these beautiful, beautiful people who work there and who are so well-dressed.  And I think: Oh! I want to look like that! They’re amazing, how well-dressed they are!” — Nicholas Haslam
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Dmitri Hvorostovsky was one of the greatest male baritones to ever grace an opera stage.  Add to this his ruggedly masculine looks, his wonderful shock of white hair and his six-foot four-inch frame and he had everything I could have dreamed of.  Should I add that his stage presence and charisma was incomparable.  He had a smile that you would not believe.  He always looked like he was having the most fun of anyone in the opera house when he sang.  Dmitri died on November 22, 2017 of brain cancer.  He was only 55 years old.  Would I change places with Dmitri?  No, I would not swap everything he had for the chance to grow older with my spouse Karen.  Be careful they say of what you wish for because you just might get it.

“The mortals never understand. They only see the prize. They never think that the price of getting what you want is having what you once wanted.”MorpheusThe Sandman

Time for Questions:

See my opening paragraph.  Try to answer these questions and leave comments please.  I would love to hear what you think.

Life is just beginning.

I use this byline not because I think I will die and go to heaven or even because I believe in a hereafter.  It simply reminds me of the saying that: “Today is the first day of the rest of my life.”  So, with that in mind, I try to wake up each day taking the responsibility that today is a fresh start and that my life is truly beginning right this moment.  I do not know what (if anything) comes next, but I do know that I want to live the best I can and do the best I can each day to help make a difference in the world.

Each day that I get up, I have a certain amount of fear that I must overcome.  I fear being useless.  I fear failure.  I fear ignominy.  I fear my friends and family getting older and dying.  I fear not making a difference.  I fear giving up.  I fear the thought that I will get sick and die long after everyone I love is gone.  Some days, it is easy to forget these fears and other days, the process of aging wears me down and I question the value of going on.  On these bad days, living seems to take more courage than I have.  I want to have the strength to go raging into the dark.  If life is just beginning, it is also just ending, and I need to face that as well.  I will continue to do the best I can, hopefully taking two steps forward and only one back most weeks.

 

8 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Jane Fritz
    Jan 28, 2018 @ 10:37:05

    Wow, you are really baring your soul! You should work on shaking off some of those regrets, John. I’d take brains over beauty, and I’d take kindness and a sense of humour over both of them. 🙂

    Reply

    • johnpersico
      Jan 28, 2018 @ 16:35:27

      Hi Jane, thanks for your comments. I try to be honest in my writings and let the chips fall where they may. The hardest part is being honest with myself. I don’t always like the person I am.

      Reply

  2. Jane Fritz
    Jan 28, 2018 @ 17:03:08

    It’s definitely time to change that! Being at peace with yourself is supposed to one of the biggest benefits of growing older!! 🙂

    Reply

    • johnpersico
      Jan 28, 2018 @ 19:13:08

      Jane, a very nice thought, but life is never what it is supposed to be. If it were, we would not have Chump for President. Nevertheless, I appreciate your sentiments and will keep trying. I thank you for taking the time to comment. It is very thoughtful. Nothing a writer loves better than a reader.

      Reply

      • Jane Fritz
        Jan 28, 2018 @ 19:30:15

        Sigh. Yes, there is absolutely nothing that can said that can paper over the grim state of your current administration. Nothing at all. It appears that the final veneer of civility and compassion has been torn asunder. .And it’s somewhat unsettling that you find that your MBA students do not exhibit a moral compass in business matters (from a previous post) and that also place a higher value on beauty, about which people have little to no control (like being white, or male!). Whoops, now you’ve got me going! 😉

      • Jane Fritz
        Jan 28, 2018 @ 19:31:32

  3. johnpersico
    Jan 28, 2018 @ 20:40:47

    I like your expression about the veneer of civility and compassion being torn asunder. Very poetic and a great metaphor.

    Reply

  4. SonniQ
    Feb 15, 2018 @ 21:09:07

    At 63 I’m at the age where most youth don’t see me. Its no big deal. They are the age of a few of my grandchildren, with 4 yet to hit puberty. I was never famous or graced magazine covers but I had a good run in the looks department. I had an active life as a singer and keyboard player. I still play and I think I’m better than I ever was. I love the music I record ( It’s important to love yourself). I wasn’t beautiful but I was quite attractive. I didn’t run in money circles. I’ve definitely aged but didn’t let myself go. For some silly reason I still have men in their 30’s quite zealous about wanting to “know” me better. I said, “oh goodness. One of my legs would probably break off at the hip!!” But it makes me feel good that someone would even want that with me. It would have to be with the lights off. Parts of me are very not 36 in case they have dyslexia and confused the numbers of my age. I’m okay with getting old. Life is good. Keep dreaming. For musicians, we’re called dinosaurs and I kinda like that.

    Reply

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