Friday, March 7, 2014

Beauty and the Beast - Guest Post #2

The next guest post comes to you from one of the most popular bloggers in Miami, my friend Tere. She and I worked together at the American Heart Association.We had the same job - just she was in Miami and I was in Birmingham.  When I first met Tere, years ago at a work conference, probably in Tampa, I immediately saw this adorable, spitfire of a woman! She was outspoken, incredibly smart, and as it turns out, we had quite a few things in common. We hit it off immediately, and I want to publicly thank her for helping me through a rough patch in my life with the wonderful advice and encouragement she provided, and maybe.. someday soon.. while vacationing in south Florida, she and I can meet up for a good cup of Cuban coffee and some venting time. She is a fellow warrior and die hard fan of Wonder Woman. I am delighted to share with you her latest blog piece - Beauty and the Beast.

I'm disappointed in myself. No sense in beating around the bush: I'm frustrated with myself and feel stuck in a silly vortex that I can't climb out of. That I write these words now is my attempt to free myself from the terrible feelings, even if I can't find a solution to the actual matter at hand.

Of all my faults, vanity hasn't been one of them, and I sure as hell don't want to pick it up now. I fear I am, though. It seems that there is the way I see me, and then there's the way that my own actions lately have been showing me that maybe what I see, what I've long held to be true of me, is shifting, shifting into something I'm totally uncomfortable with and unhappy about. 

I was a fugly kid and learned early on to not let my (lack of) looks define me. And as I grew into womanhood I discovered that I liked clothes and make-up and jewelry, but as a form of self-expression, not to make people think I'm pretty and certainly not as anything that would validate me in the eyes of others. The way I've long seen myself is as a smart, nerdy, funny person who prefers to keep the beauty regimen simple and quick. I still love clothes and putting myself together nicely, but it's always felt like a personal thing. I've no idea what anyone else thinks about it, nor does it matter to me. I dunno, I long ago accepted my physical self as it was and that was that. 

To that end, I always said - no, I believed, truly believed - that I would accept the aging process the same way I'd accepted everything else about my face and body: without stressing about it or devoting too much time or attention to it. I could say that I'm just not that type of person who cares too much about her looks - because really, I don't. I care enough to want to look clean and appealing but not enough to devote more than 15 minutes and the simplest of tools to it. So I could say that's the deal and it'd be true, but a second truth is that I've always looked considerably younger than my age, and I've never really had any skin issues beyond dark under eye circles from hell, and somewhere along the way, that became my normal. Good skin, youthful face, the end. Forever.

But then I actually started to age, and, hot damn, it stressed me out, and it began to consume more and more space in my brain. Over the last couple of years, this has become the insidious little demon that lurks in and out of my life. It feels foreign and unlike me and upsetting, but because I can't solve the couple problems that have popped up, it's impossible to banish the negative thoughts and concerns.

The main problems, from what the mirror shows, is that my dark circles have gotten worse, and my skin can't decide if it's still dry, or oily, or both, or none. And with these changes, I'm having zero luck finding the right products to make them better, and so every morning I have my 10-minute "nothing can fix this crap" grousing, which just doesn't set a good tone for the day. Such shallow nonsense, right? Yet it's making me mad!

The dark circles - I had those down. I used my teen years and early 20's to perfect my concealer technique. But last year I had a baby, a baby who, 14 months later, is still a terrible sleeper and prevents me from getting more than two hours, tops, of sleep at a time. I can't even say that I'm exhausted because I'm 20 levels past that. But as a result, those dark circles have morphed into deep, permanent blotches that my usual concealer barely makes a dent on. I've been on this maddening quest to find something stronger and better, and half a dozen products and a chunk of cash later, everything I've tried is useless. Either I have to use a ton of product and it looks cakey (gross), or it creases all over the place, or it's too thin and makes me look like a clown. I've added eye cream (tried a few) to my routine (a routine that was once blessedly simple and quick: gentle face cleanser and Olay Complete for sensitive skin, and done), and they're pretty useless, as I notice zero difference. I don't know any more what it's going to take, or how much I'm going to have to spend, to get these suckers under control. What's the magic concealer? Who. The. Heck. Knows.

As for my face - likely it's been the pregnancy and the long, hard recovery I had that's messed it up. Or it could be, you know, hitting my mid-30's and my skin deciding to go nuts on me. Whatever it is, it's an utter mystery to me what the exact problem is, and not knowing that, I don't know how to fix it. My skin still feels dry but pores are noticeable, and there's a slight dullness. Diagnosis? Who. The. Heck. Knows.

I switched out my Olay when my skin was still dry and flaky after applying it, and tried a couple others before settling on one from Nature's Gate, but have been using Olay again to see what happens now that I'm not postpartum. I've tried nighttime retinol creams, and aqua glycolic ones, plus switching to a thicker cream for bedtime (for sensitive skin, no parabens, pure natural goodness, blah, blah, blah), and again, no improvement. I feel limited in my choices because I have sensitive skin, and I don't react well to products loaded with chemicals and fragrances. Yet it seems that if I really want to "fix" my skin, I'm going to need heavy-duty stuff. So, what magical potion, or combination of potions, can restore my skin to it previous loveliness? Who. The. Heck. Knows.

I share all this to make you understand how convoluted this whole thing has become for me, and how much I hate all of it. Sure, I hate the changes I'm experiencing, but when I say "I hate all of it", what I really mean is my own absorption with it, the way I'm taking way too much time to research what the problem might be and research products and worst of all, buying different things to try. Ain't nobody got money for that! 

So, what do I do with this now? Say it's a temporary situation and I'll be back to normal soon enough, or I find magical products that help a great deal, I'm still going to keep aging. It could be a slow process or next year I could look like a hag. When I think about this, I am at peace with the notion of aging, but I recognize now that it's only to a degree. I don't want to be ruled by this very natural part of life, but I also don't want to look older than my actual age, nor do I want to live with skin that was once normal and flattering enough but that's gone bad and can't be fixed unless I hack my face up with fillers and procedures - a realm that I don't ever want to step into because it's so terrifying to me. 

(And because this post is already long enough, I'll refrain from getting into an analysis of how messed up our society is, that we place such value on youth and beauty, to the point that even reasonable women can't escape worrying and wondering and devoting more time and energy to it than should be necessary.)

I guess I want my own aging process to be gentle. I see women older than me who look vibrant and healthy - that's what I want. That my face has wonked out this past year has alarmed me because it's not normal to me, and I fear it's the start of an unstoppable decline. And considering that never before in my life had I given any real, deep thought to the fact that, yeah, one day I will not look young and dewy, I feel caught off guard and am not ready to accept it. 

I'm trying, though. The absurdity of the situation is not lost on me, and I'm trying hard to get a sense of humor about it. Yes, I know I can stop obsessing and get some real perspective and peace. I can. I will.

But seriously, what's the friggin' cream and concealer that'll fix me up?

About Tere
Tere is a Cuban-American living in Miami, FL with her husband and two sons. She collects Wonder Woman memorabilia and has the uncanny ability to remember vast amounts of random, useless information but can’t remember that very important thing she had to do today. She’s obsessed with the psychology of crime and cults. In 6th grade, she missed the day they covered square roots and has never understood them.
Tere used to write about her life at A Mom, a Blog and the Life In-Between and is currently developing a new writing project.

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