Somehow, while I was busy being beautiful, time passed. Now, I’m just the mom you pass in the supermarket; the woman you don’t notice.
It feels like just yesterday I was youthful and beautiful, and then out of nowhere – BAM – I’m old and sagging.
Perhaps the onset of gray hairs is making me reflective, but I’ve found myself looking back over the years of my twenties and dwelling on only one regret: all that time I wasted being pretty.
I was a pretty teenage girl. Not the supermodel kind of pretty, but the kind that had people stopping me in the street to compliment my appearance. All that gushing did wonders for my ego, and my identity quickly became ‘the pretty girl’. In a society that idolizes aesthetic perfection above everything else, it didn’t take me long to figure out that the world fell at my feet with the simple flash of my dimples.
So I began wearing pretty like a badge of honor.
For years, I got up at the crack of dawn to paint my face, and as I sponged on my suit of armor, I felt all-powerful. Although the beauty regime was long and grueling – eyelash extensions, waxing and nail appointments, tweezing, fake-tanning, exfoliating – I did it with cult-like devotion. Hours upon hours of hair styling; not just my own, but also the dead hair of another human that I paid a small fortune for. But really, I needed those hair extensions to add extra body and bounce. So what if they induced a mild daily headache? Beauty is pain, everyone knows that.
Those waxing appointments where I paid good money in exchange for torture were justified, because the heads turned when I strutted along the beach in my teeny-tiny bikini. I knew that people’s eyes followed me with envy and want, and I loved it. I swore I got high off the feeling. Actually, I was high off the feeling for the better part of a decade.
And that’s just the problem.
I was so high off compliments, I forgot about time. Somehow while I was busy being beautiful and adored, it passed. All that time spent looking in the mirror compounded, and before I knew it, 10 years had ticked by. In that decade, another generation of beautiful twenty-somethings were born. Though I didn’t realize it back then, my days as a “pretty girl” were numbered.
One day I looked in the mirror and didn’t recognize the woman staring back, because she was no longer a pretty twenty-something-year-old, like I assumed I’d always be. I’d grown older, and had no idea where I fit in this beauty obsessed world. Age had apparently crept up on me while I read magazines in the hairdresser’s chair. Magazines targeted at beautiful twenty-something-year-olds.
Now, I look back at my twenty-something-year-old self and scoff. What I wish I could say to her is this:
“Beauty fades honey, so you’d better work something else out.”
I never bothered to work anything else out.
All my eggs had been placed in the pretty basket. All my time was spent on grooming when I should have been spending time learning I.T (which would have helped my current career in unspeakable ways). Thousands of dollars were spent on beauty products with questionable carcinogen levels. Now I realize that that money would have been much better spent on my brain, because when beauty fades, which it inevitably does, all that’s left is the mind to carry you on through.
I find myself thinking about all the things I could have learned in my twenties if I’d studied something other than my cuticles. How different would my life be now if I’d spent my time learning a second language? Taking culinary classes? Learning about the stock market?
Sometimes I wish someone would have told me not to invest so much time in being pretty, and maybe, just maybe, I’d have expended a little more energy worrying about what went into my brain, as opposed to what went onto my face. Then again, at that age, would I have listened? Probably not. I was having far too much fun being a beautiful twenty-something-year-old and letting my dimples carry me on through, instead of learning Mandarin.
Now even my dimples are beginning to sag.
These days, when I’m walking my hairy legs and bare face through the supermarket and see an overly preened twenty-something-year-old, I want to grab her by the shoulders and scream, “Don’t waste your time and money on grooming. Being pretty won’t help you in the end!” But I let her walk on by, because really, who am I to shatter the glass bubble and break the confidence that comes from being a beautiful young woman? As the pretty girls saunter out of the supermarket in their overly tight pants, I want to scream after them, “You’re a ticking time bomb!” But I don’t. Even if I did, they wouldn’t hear me – they are too distracted by all the heads turning in their direction, just like I was when I was like them.
Now, I’m just the mom you pass by in the supermarket, the woman you never steal a second glance at.
All the pretty girls out there, are you scared after reading this? Yes, you should be. The clock is ticking. My advice? Perhaps take time out of your contouring routine to learn Mandarin – in ten years’ time when your face has sagged, you’re probably going to need it.
Kelly is an emerging novelist, mother and retail manager who generally endeavors to spend as much time as possible in her pajamas.