In this world there are stunning women. Long luscious locks, superb pocket Venus bodies, smooth yet chiselled beauties. Like a Cosmo cover or a JLo in the flesh. These women live surrounded by money. They love and laugh in glitter. They go to the gym and take care of their bodies. They have attitude and dance like tigers. They experience the world through travel, movement and socialization.
I was once one of those women. It was an incredible period of my life. But I no longer inhabit that world. I’m not an executive and I have long since left the party circuit. I live on an island with no shops, no cars and very little need for makeup. In the wild with my children, I’m retired, with cellulite and a flabby tummy.
I don’t know the real JLo of course, but there was a tiny part of me that imagined until recently I might be able to find something to dislike about her. That part comforted me in the loss of my old life and shapely body. That my versace jacket languishes ~ unworn~ in the storage box under my bed. Surely it’s not possible to have a great personality as well as drop dead gorgeous looks? Surely she’s bought into ‘evil’ consumerism that I abandoned? Surely I can justify my disdain on something more than my own pitiful envy? That tiny part of me existed peacefully, sparking and fizzing occasionally at the sight of the glossy magazines in the stands that I never buy anymore.
But then four months ago I met a JLo woman. She’s a ten. Oh, is she a ten. I’ve seen her in her pyjamas and no makeup. She’s still a ten. She’s my boyfriend’s new love.
At nearly forty, I love my life. But I look at my greying hair and my stretch marked belly with pragmatism. I can be beautiful… when I make the effort. Mostly it’s a different definition of beauty. I am ageing… sometimes awkwardly and sometimes elegantly. I have only just abandoned G-strings 5 years after I should have called it a day. With age I become more comfortable about stating my preferences and living in my skin. I buy larger jeans without sighing (much). I attack life differently now. I used to tear out large chunks and gobble it up. But now my own private soundtrack to life is chilled. I’m more often in my own sanctuary than amid the chaos and glamour of life over on the childfree side.
It’s a different kind of beauty than the one society teaches us.
I never expected to feel inadequate at this stage, nor to have life shove my inadequacy so brutally in my face in a period when I am confronted savagely by my own mortality through illness. In my fear and grief, I am brought still more conflict.
No, I wasn’t prepared for this gift. Are we ever?
But she came my way in a package of abundant beauty and a whirlwind of emotion. A new mirror, eight years younger than me. Along with the awestruck admiration I felt at her dazzling appearance (and indeed my boyfriend’s ability to attract such a creature) I felt pangs of envy. My waist was once that size. I once had the time to spend on myself, before the children. I once had the passion with my partner that she has now. At first I contemplated working out. Buying a new wardrobe. Dying my hair. But it’s a contest I didn’t want and would never win.
“You have an aura.” she said to me once. “I see you like an angel. The love coming off you makes a halo.”
She’s beautiful in body and in soul. My real life JLo wears her heart on her sleeve. She, like me, tastes life to every last morsel. She lives her passions as enormously as she can inside the restrictions that life has given her. She’s a party animal. She dances like she lives. With abandon. When it’s dark for her, it’s very dark. It’s at it’s darkest when she feels trapped. Like me. I know her. And because I know her, I love her.
We both crave freedom. We both feed off life like vampires. We both understand pain. And we understand what it is like to love the same man. That’s a rare experience.
Your biggest danger is that you live in your memories. Things change, people change but you cling to what was. The you today is not the same you as 10 years ago, 1 year ago or even yesterday. But because you live in your memories, you don’t properly appreciate what you have now.~ Postmodern Woman
She has brought me gifts. The gift of envy. The gift of humility. The gift of acceptance. The gift of gratitude. The gift of love.
It’s been said to be ready for an open relationship you need already to be secure. But until you are faced with life’s challenges there are few ways of knowing whether that is really the case. Let’s suppose you aren’t. Let’s suppose that a post birth tummy, cellulite and grey hair don’t make you feel particularly attractive. Let’s say that the hot white passion of attraction between you and your partner has mellowed into domestic bliss and squabbles.
Will you feel inadequate when faced with what you lost? Or will you embrace what you have?
Life is about growth. About facing and overcoming your demons. And so you have a choice. You can either appreciate what you are now and what you have now, realising that it is beautiful or you can cling forever after, to what you used to have, to who you used to be, competing with shadows of your past and never winning.