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    BWS Stories - "You're So Vain"...Celebrating Physical Changes

    "You're So Vain"...Celebrating Physical Changes - Mirror Reflections of a Baby Boomer

    Mary Eileen Williams, M.A., N.C.C., possesses more than fifteen years experience as a counselor and workshop facilitator assisting individuals to make smart and ultimately fulfilling career and life choices. Her story, "Enlightenment of a Spandex-Clad Eavesdropper," is appearing in Chicken Soup for the Soul in Menopause (July, 2007) and her first book will be published shortly. You can reach her at

    Mirror Reflections of a Baby Boomer

    What folly! I knew it was a mistake as soon as the thoughts popped into my head. But, driven by pride, a bit of aging vanity, and a literal lack of vision, I plunged ahead.

    My husband and I had decided to remodel our master bathroom. Since this was our final effort at home improvement for the foreseeable future, we wanted to do it right. So, I wracked my brain for any creature comforts, within economic reason, that I deemed necessary to the creation of the ultimate bath beautiful. Finally, I homed in on a couple of ideas.

    Aside from a few practical considerations, I determined that it might be nice to actually see my face while applying my daily age defying, wrinkle reducing, cover-up creams. Accordingly, I placed a lighted, magnifying mirror at the top of my list of requested items. Then, adding to that bit of luxury, I thought that a full-length mirror would furnish crucial assistance in gauging how well my attempts at camouflaging the lower half of my body were succeeding. That reflective wall piece should prove a real boon to full-figured buttocks viewing!

    So, both items became part of the renovation plan and I eagerly awaited the installation of my new beauty aids. Needless to say, the invaluable and cautionary phrase, "watch what you ask for because you just might get it," never entered my mind.

    The morning after the workmen left and my bathroom was complete, I decided to take full advantage of my latest amenities. After luxuriating in the freshly tiled, pristine shower, I began my daily ritual of helping Mother Nature return to the days of yester-year.

    But ... wiping away the steamy fog from my newly installed magnifying mirror, I was met with a startling sight. Yikes! And, in truth, far stronger epithets sprung from my lips-this can't be happening! The face staring back at me was not the blurred version I was accustomed to viewing. Rather, it was a crystal clear image of an aging lady-wizened, wrinkled, bloated, and blotchy. And, to add to the already substantial shock value of the moment, all of my facial flaws were resplendently reflected with well-lit, triple magnification!

    Now, I was no dummy. I had seen and used magnifying mirrors many times in hotel rooms. However, these reflective pieces were mercifully placed in bathrooms that were windowless and often poorly lit. My new mirror, however, was situated prominently next to an over-sized window allowing the bright morning light to aid in full spectrum and all too up-close viewing.

    I stood transfixed with both a sense of horror and fascination at the effects wrought by years of sun, gravity, and a full life. What I had previously thought were fine lines were full-fledged wrinkles. My complexion had taken on the colors of the rainbow (running the gamut from reds and purples to blues and greens) and hair was now sprouting from what I had previously considered to be "male only" territories.

    Backing away slowly from that sobering and revelatory reflection, I decided to forego further beauty rituals in favor of a bit of enlightenment and self-help philosophy. In other words, I needed a "literary hug" and some "I'm okay" reading material to wash away the old-broad blues. I scanned my bookshelf for just the right material that would bring me some solace and encouragement and there it was-a book on body image and self-love.

    Reading swiftly, I came upon the exercises that were touted as surefire methods to self-acceptance, self-confidence, and total esteem for mind and body. The initial and principle exercise began with standing naked in front of a full-length mirror and repeating affirmations of appreciation to different body parts. Now, this was not only the chance to acknowledge and value my various appendages, but also to make good use of my other new mirror in the process. I proceeded, full of hope, back into the bathroom and began the exercise.

    However, rather than the desired effect and to my considerable consternation, this unobstructed and all too keenly clear view of my unclothed body elicited feelings akin to my prior experience with magnification. Yes, as viewed on both face and body, the years were piling up and the result was not a pretty picture. To put it mildly, I was feeling old, droopy, dimpled, and squishy.

    Exhausted from these visual assaults upon my vanity and well-practiced abilities at denial, I plopped myself in front of the boob tube. At least, I had a free day with plenty of time to wallow in my angst and horror at the all-too-visible ravages of age.

    But then, something miraculous happened! I came upon a program that focused on the life of the great Billie Jean King and all that she had accomplished for women tennis players and women and girls in general. Then it hit me! Each one of us female boomers had more or less taken part in an incredible movement that forever changed the role of women in our society. In fact, we ladies may well represent the greatest generation of feminine force and fortitude ever!

    Lest we forget, prior to the 1970s, women in the United States were not generally provided credit without a male co-signer, so they were unable to purchase homes or start businesses on their own. Girls were not allowed attendance in male-only universities, although these numerous bastions of higher education received government funding, and there were very few college scholarships awarded to girls. The workplace was fraught with legalized inequities and discrimination. Women were woefully underrepresented in the halls of government, in corporate management meetings, on television news desks and on and on and on-that is, until we boomers made our voices heard.

    Despite the entrenched attitudes and sex-determined roles of the time, we audacious ladies spoke up in the name of a full parity of rights for our gender. In fact, in little more than one revolutionary decade, we formidable females accomplished previously unheard-of feats and overturned centuries of discriminatory practices.

    Although it is easy to forget how deeply-rooted these gender roles were only a few decades ago, we cannot help but realize how the world has changed. The young women of today have a life and opportunities that we could not have imagined at their age. They have a myriad of careers from which to choose, they can rise to management positions based upon ability and effort, and they are, by legal and other means, in far more equitable marriages. These rights and privileges, in no short measure, they owe to us.

    Talk about a hot flash! This realization of my gender and generation's vast and noble accomplishments filled me with a deep sense of gratitude that I could count myself among this amazing group of women. No longer would I curse my cellulite. Never more would wrinkles get me down. Age spots and spider veins would become sources of pride. In fact, Father Time had actually graced my face and body with proud badges of my boomer sisterhood.

    So what if we ladies find ourselves facing sixty? So what if we're sporting a few droopy puckers? Who cares if standing naked in front of a full length mirror no longer serves to enhance our sense of self-esteem? Posing for Playboy never was our bag anyway.

    Yes, we female boomers share a memorable and gallant history and, together, we will experience an awe-inspiring future. There is no doubt that we will carry on to forever change the role of older women in society-no fading into the margins for us! How can such a proud and willful generation do any less?

    Forget the self-help books, we valiant gals share the greatest affirmation of them all. Say it loud and say it proud: "We are the mighty, female boomers and world, watch us roar!"

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