I have a friend, let’s call her Sara, who has led a dramatic life.
She was raised in a very religious Jewish community where women don’t tend to pursue challenging careers, and are taught to appear modest both in terms of attire and make-up. She married young and had a child, but her marriage soon soured thanks to an overbearing and manipulative husband. She gathered the strength to leave and go out on her own. But she didn’t stop there. She studied to become a mental health therapist and created her own practice.
At 41 she’s one amazing, beautiful and powerful woman.
Given her background she’s also had to come to terms with her womanhood and, as you could imagine, is hyper-aware of anything or anyone who demeans women.
Sara and I have become friends over the past few years while sitting next to each other in the back of synagogue. She and I discuss anything from our kids, to her latest boyfriend, to our looks. Sara dresses nicely and used to wear the barest hint of make-up. Every now and then she would ask about my make-up or skin care routine. Any chance for me to talk beauty gets me going, and I go into great detail talking about what techniques I use, my latest and greatest products, and who advises me. She surprised me one day a year ago and announced she was going to get her make-up done as a birthday gift for herself. It was fascinating for me to see her slowly blossom and get excited about her appearance. Perhaps because of her upbringing and then the usual conflicts we all go through as modern women, i.e., to care or not to care about our appearances and the signals both strategies give off, she has come to putting emphasis on her beauty a bit later in life. Since our first beauty discussions, every so often we chat about what else we’ve learned that makes us look and beautiful. As she said to me most emphatically just yesterday, “I look at myself in the mirror, and I want to look good.”
I am happy that she feels free to indulge and go in this direction. Though I can’t take too much credit for this shift in Sara, I think seeing a high-achieving (well, at least some of time ;)) woman, like myself, talk unabashedly about make-up or skin care regimens may have given her the boost to start putting more effort, no LOVE, into her appearance. And I feel great about that. Not only is it fun to talk about make-up, but if it can encourage some of our late-bloomer-friends to embrace their own beauty, even better.
So the next time you have the urge to gush over some new lipstick you found or hairstyle you’re looking forward to try, don’t hold back. Yes, you may get some eye rolling from a few ladies out there, but I bet you’ll also get a lot of dames leaning in to get a bit of extra encouragement.