by Debby Hudson
I was on my own when navigating what being a teenager in the 1970s looked like. Well, not exactly on my own. I had Seventeen magazine to guide me. It was my primer for hairstyles, makeup, and teenage fashion. I didn’t have an older sister to teach me how to fix my hair or apply mascara.
The ‘70s was the generation of cool and defined in television shows like the Monkees and The Partridge Family. In those days, being a cool teenage girl meant wearing skirts a few inches above the knee, bellbottom jeans, and platform shoes. Cool was anything denim. It was the natural look with long hair, brown shades of eye shadow, and a few sweeps of mascara.
What we didn’t want was too look like our parents. Moms wore knee-length dresses, low-heeled pumps, and a scant amount of makeup. Not cool.
My mama’s style was never going to be mine. She chose comfort over fashion where I tried to combine the two—and still do. She had baby fine hair that barely maintained her weekly set from the beauty salon. My hair was thick and coarse and defied her ability to control it. Noxzema kept her skin clear and smooth but did nothing to help my oily complexion. I never saw Mama wear earrings or makeup; everything about her look was minimal. We were alike in spirit, but nothing was the same about our preferences in fashion and beauty.
Change brought new styles of fashion and beauty, and the magazines were there to continue guiding my way. When I outgrew Seventeen magazine, Glamour took over with its hair and make-up tips and my favorite “Do’s & Don’ts” column. After the Farrah Fawcett bangs and “feathers” in the ‘70s, we had Dorothy Hamill’s bob in the ‘80s and Jennifer Anniston’s haircut from “Friends” in the ‘90s.
I continued to find these “patterns” of beauty to follow into adulthood. My jeans were always the right wash, and my skirts were the right length.
What I couldn’t find was the confidence in which to wear me. I could wear the right clothes; my hair could be a fashionable cut. And sometimes that was enough to be the armor needed to cover my insecurities and fears.
Even today, I measure my insufficiencies rather than honoring who God made me. The sag at my jawline bothers me, and perhaps I wouldn’t be opposed to a little “tucking” if I had the resources.
Today’s cover models fool me with their natural looks. I’ve been tricked into patterning myself after them only to discover the moisturizer the ads tout aren’t miracle creams.
But I’ve found a better pattern from which to cut my own cloth.
Aunt Juanita is my cover model. She turned 78 last year and has embraced every stage of life without the grumblings most of us make about aging.
Her hair is a swirl of white and gray. She wears a smart jacket and scarf to Thanksgiving dinner with a sweep of soft pink lipstick that complements her complexion. She uses a walker these days but hasn’t given in to letting that impede air of confidence. In fact, her walker is just another accessory of Aunt Juanita’s ensemble.
The reality of aging isn’t pretty. There are sags and droops and lines and creases. But in a world that is busy trying to find ways to look younger, I am drawn to Aunt Juanita’s beautiful acceptance of life.
She may not be a traditional beauty, but she is confident in who God made her to be. She is certain of her value as a woman. She is clothed in the self-assurance of God’s love and wears it beautifully.
Perhaps what I need most is to be reminded that beauty isn’t what we wear but what we radiate.
“Charm can be deceptive and physical beauty will not last, but a woman who reveres the Eternal should be praised above all others. Celebrate all she has achieved” (Proverbs 31:30-31, the Voice).
Debby Hudson and her husband are ordained ministers working with men in a residential recovery program. Walking the beaches of South Florida restores their souls. Debby finds herself in many creative pursuits. She and her husband have two wonderful children and one granddaughter princess, none of whom they get to see often enough. Her photos are available at https://unsplash.com/@dhudson_creative. Follow Debby on her blog: debbyhudson.com; Twitter: @debby_hudson; or Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/debbyhudsoncreative.