Another great response to Nancy Rubenstein’s June 1 article, by Deb Breslow
Beauty is only skin-deep
Published on northjersey.com on June 24, 2017
Regarding the Nancy Rubenstein column, “A summer shorts statement” (June 1). Somewhat enraged, it has taken me a few weeks to formulate my thoughts. My initial reaction to her “statement” was a mouth-wide-open: wow! I’m not sure if I was more offended by the author’s derogatory judgment of those who “have no business donning shorts, black socks or form-clinging tees” or her justifiable rationalization that her opinion was valid because she has chosen to “abandon her sleeveless shirts and dresses.”
My best friend and I, now middle-aged, attend outdoor concerts at PNC Arts Center every summer. Sitting on the lawn, we people watch. Women walk by looking lovely. “Why don’t we look like that?” I ask my friend. “Because we’re no longer 22.” A therapist I know has shared that the three things that most of her clients struggle with are marriage, parenting, and losing weight in middle age. If everyone had the time, inclination and money to have a perfect body, we would all be looking pretty darn good. But that’s not reality. Not everyone can look like the models we see in magazines. Nor should we have to! Isn’t there a middle ground? A place where we have a level of self-acceptance about the bodies we were born into and what we do (or not) to take care of them?
I know women (of all ages) who have been shamed about their weight and body shape. I also know women who shame themselves into worrying obsessively about what they’re wearing, how much they’re exercising, and how they look. It is a lonely place to be. I have friends who have made painful and life-altering decisions to have surgery to remove large segments of their stomachs. They cannot eat the way they had previously. To them, body image is serious business. I am in awe of the men and women who have been successful in the 12-step programs she reviles. Shame on her.
My father-in-law is 92. He still walks, exercises, and just recently stopped playing tennis. Just yesterday, he greeted me warmly in shorts, black socks, and slides. His legs are pale white, age-spotted, and thin. He’s the most handsome man I know. My mother, at 81, was blessed (or cursed) with dark purple varicose veins that ran from her upper thighs to her feet. Self-conscious with Memorial Day approaching, she asked me: “Do I have any business going to the pool and exposing my legs?” I reminded her that my dad told her she had legs like Rita Hayworth. She proudly put on her bathing suit. My sister-in-law was a large-size model for a major department store. She was the most beautiful woman I have ever met. In the spring, she wore shorts and sleeveless shirts; not just because it was hot, but because she liked herself.
Every year, sometime around March, I contemplate the coming warm weather and consider the daunting experience of bathing suit shopping. I do not necessarily have what Girls creator and star, Lena Dunham calls “body confidence”, nor can I fit into the bikinis I adored 30 years ago. But I love to tan, I love the ocean, and I love to spend time with my family at the beach. I’m not giving up an opportunity to enjoy the sunshine because my physique is not what it was before career, kids, and life. Beauty is only skin-deep.