Past vs. Present: Are We Destined to Stay ’13’ Forever?

By Arden Edelcup

“Normally I am pretty Zen about my looks, but I have my days.”  — Julia Roberts

Earl Sklare’s bar-mitzvah on June 21, 1977 was the date that I decided that I truly hated my ginormous, monstrous nose. The exact moment was right after the horah, when the enthusiastic band leader announced that the generous Sklares had hired a cartoonist to draw caricatures of the rowdy young guests. My best friend Lisa and I galloped over and joined the long line of yelping, giggling, hormonal teens all anxiously awaiting their chance to sit in the cartoonist’s chair. When my turn arrived, I smiled nervously while he squinted in my direction for a few moments and then quickly squiggled some strokes of artistry. After a few anxious minutes he presented his signed piece of art with a satisfied flourish. The drawing was a profile depiction of insecure teenage me with a long hook nose and … aghast … large, bold exclamation points at the tip!! Not just one exclamation point, but THREE just to drive home the point that the nose was indeed quite a sight. Now, you may think that my memory of this photo is an exaggeration but I dug up that drawing in my treasure trove of wonderful teenage memories last week. I texted that picture to all of my friends just to see if my recollection was a bit skewed. And all these years later and the universal cyber reply was: “OMG”.

Sometimes a picture doesn’t speak a thousand words — there are those times when there are truly no words at all.

A few short years later, I did get a nose job and that “offensive” nose was eradicated from my teenage face. And one would logically think that I would have long forgotten that cruel man with the wicked paintbrush. Yet I never did. While it would be a gross exaggeration to suggest that he destroyed my self-esteem, it did tear a little hole in it. Even today, as I strut though this life with a totally non-offensive “schnoz” — a part of me still remembers that cartoon and all of its crushing devastation to a 13-year-old girl. Those exclamation points magnified the very thing that I was trying desperately to hide but had miserably failed. My confidence around those teenage boys was shattered that day just as I was tentatively starting to enter those fragile teenage years. I slowly morphed into the safe and comfy role of that “funny girl” who accepted her role as the “buddy”. Even as the years went by and I was no longer that gawky teen, a teeny part of my perception was still reflected in that picture.

Of course, being consumed with the complex subject of beauty, I decided to delve deeper and present this question:

Are ALL women still harboring their 13-year-old selves deep inside their psyche?

I began this “study” by making observations of those women closest to me. How was their self-image impacted by how they felt as a teen? I started with my friend Lori, who claims that she never met a man that didn’t find her absolutely delightful. The word most often used to describe Lori is “adorable”. She was first an adorable kid; then an equally adorable teen who matured into an adorable adult. She has never met a pimple or suffered from unfortunate bad hair days. We all have friends like Lori, or you may even be lucky enough to have had her easy glide into womanhood. She doesn’t brag about her good genetic fortune, it just sort of surrounds her being. She possesses the inner confidence of a woman who never had to deal with the blows to her pubescent ego that some us had to endure. Her teenage memories consist of popular boyfriends, cheerleading competitions, and lifeguards stalking her on the beach. No vicious cartoonist rocked her ego to the ground and, understandably, she still oozes “adorable”. When we girls all lament about the ravages of aging, she looks a bit confused. She just laughs and says, “I still think I look pretty cute for my age.” She is simply stating her truth —  plain and simple. She does not obsess about something that has never bothered her to begin with. When we see a cute neighbor Dad at a school function, she always whispers with a giggle, “I think he just checked me out.” I am never quite sure if these hunky Dads really do, but I am always a little envious of that level of confidence.

As I continued my very unscientific study, I began to reflect on the delusional hair obsession of my stunning friend Ellen. Ellen has spent a lifetime battling her so-called “difficult” hair. This is a woman with an adoring husband who is insanely attracted to every single thing about her. After 30 years of togetherness, he still comments on her “smoldering” beauty with a sly smile. Yet despite this, she would still spend her last dollar on the latest magical frizz fighting serum, or an obscure Japanese straightening technique. This confident woman becomes comically fixated on chasing the illusive dream that one day her hair will magically transform into long, silky effortless locks. Having been friends since third grade, I do recall a certain hairstyle (circa 1977) that turned into a teeny tiny catastrophe. Like so many of us, she thought it was a good idea to try out the trendy Farrah Fawcett hairdo. This involved cutting her thick frizzy hair into the “feathered” Farrah-Flip Bangs. To be brutally honest, those feathers looked more like two wiry Brillo pads glued onto her forehead. Now to truly understand her irrational hair obsession today, we have to journey back to that fateful bus ride in seventh grade.

Both of us climbed onto that junior high bus sporting our new fashionable matching “hairdos” and we were feeling pretty “groovy”. Then “IT” happened. The most popular 8th grade boy leaped up from his seat and “honked” her bangs. Yes, he put his hands on those fuzzy bangs gleefully and actually laughed as he loudly said, “honk-honk!” Needless to say, we made a vow all of those years ago to NEVER EVER speak of that fateful bus ride. Yet, in the interest of my “study” I took a chance and very gingerly asked her if she still remembers that bus incident.

After a long pause, Ellen tentatively admitted that the honking asshole kid still appears in her mirror every single time she fights with her challenging hair.

Then she changed the subject. Well, I put another curse on him, and then we changed the subject.

As I write this, I also reflect on my two daughters who are both young women today. I often wonder how they reflect back on their teenage years and whether they, too, suffered from the inevitable assaults bombarding their fragile young egos.

Were they able to march through those years unscathed, or do they also have the battle scars that have shaped how they view their own beauty today? As Moms, do any of us really have the power to protect our girls from all that bombards them today?

You may have heard about the disturbing teen Internet phenomenon called: “Am I Pretty Or Ugly?” This disturbing trend is of course focused on 12-13 year old girls who post videos on YouTube while boys weigh in with their judgment on their beauty. Over 500,000 girls have engaged in this potentially devastating endeavor, and it is only gaining in popularity. How do we protect our daughters from the masochistic temptation to be unfairly judged by those strangers who cannot even BEGIN to see them in all of their complex beauty and utter uniqueness?

I believe we can start by reflecting back fondly on that adorable 13-year-old girl residing somewhere inside of us all. We need to remind “HER” that she will grow up faster than she can imagine and, she should learn to embrace all of those “imperfections” that make her own blend of beauty so special. We need to gently remind her that even if she suffers along the way, we promise that she will ultimately find special people in her life who will see that unique beauty, too. We need to remind her that she is just at the very beginning of a long and complex journey into becoming the woman she was meant to be. We need to remind her that we will grow up and discard those shallow judgments made by wholly irrelevant people whose names we barely remember. We need to remind her that those painful moments are fleeting, and we must not allow them to seep inside and continue to cloud our perceptions for the rest of our lives.

And most importantly, we need to lovingly protect that internal tentative young girl, as well as the fabulous ones in our lives today and constantly remind them just how fucking awesome they are.

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Beauty Babe’s Product Review: Is ADORAtherapy Mood Boost Spray the New Mood Ring?

This innovative aromatherapy formulator launched this Gal on The Go Mood Boost Collection that I was lucky enough to test for them. Inspired by the idea that within each woman exists a self-affirming nature and sense of personal style. The collection includes seven Gals on The Go, including Seductive, Smart, Beautiful, Balanced, Inspired, Awake and Peaceful. I tried the Smart Mood Boost body spray, which had a refreshing blend of Lemon & Grapefruit. While I can’t attest to the fact that it increased my IQ, I did love the refreshing scent and adorable packaging. Such a cute idea for holiday gifts and I loved the positive, Zen-like messages the line endorses. This collection is exclusively launching in Indiegogo.com.

Lisa Barr, Editor of GIRLilla Warfare:  Arden Edelcup is a Mom of three “Indiana Hoosiers” and owner, with her hubby Earl Edelcup, of Ross’s in Highland Park, Illinois. Check out her website: www.rosscosmetic.com.

* The fabulous image of  “Dealing with Reality”  is a painting by artist Ronit G. Wiener —  a portrait of a woman who gives the right messages on the outside yet really wants you to see who she is and what she fears on the inside. Her eyes challenge you to look at her. The larger print around her face are what she tries to tell herself and positive messages she shares with others. The smaller print on her face across her eyes is her truth depicting her fears, her loves, her vulnerability. But most importantly, the image reminds you to honor your inner truths above all. To view more of Ronit’s beautiful and provocative artwork check out her site:  www.ronitgallery.com

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