My 81 year old grandmother’s journey to feeling beautiful.
Gulf Shores, Alabama
For Christmas last year I bought my grandmother this subscription called Story Worth. This company sends her a question each week and she types out an answer. At the end of the year, they will bind all of her stories in a book--one for me and one for her.
It has been amazing to read these stories. Things from her childhood and life experiences to her thoughts, dreams and goals. Well a few weeks ago I realized she had not been writing her stories. I tried to call her, and there was no answer. When I was driving home from work a few days latter, I tried again. She answered and told me that she was just busy with friends visiting from Michigan. I had the sobering reality that my 81 year old grandmother has more of a social life than I do.
So, we got to talking.
Now I need to preface this by saying that I have always been a grandma's girl. I spent weekends with her growing up, and she was always the person that I turned to first for life advice. So when we get on the phone together, there is no telling what kind of dust we're going to stir up. Let's just say it is never a 'how's the weather' kind of conversation.
This particular day we somehow got on the topic: cultural standards of beauty. Now as a feminist and women's advocate, I have the belief that every woman is beautiful. The standards society set are not realistic; they are plastic and Photoshop. When I said this aloud to my grandmother she replied, "Well, I'm not pretty. I've never thought that. Even when I was younger and everyone would get dressed up for prom or something like that. Everyone would look so pretty, but not me. I have always been plain."
Tears started to stream down my face as she spoke. "Of course you are beautiful, " I said. I'm sure we talked a few more minutes before we moved on to the next topic, but my brain never shifted. My heart broke for her. You see to me, she is one of the most beautiful women I know. Her eyes are kind and her smile is genuine. She would literally give you the shirt off your back, and has biggest heart of anyone I know. The fact that she had never felt beautiful her entire life is simply unacceptable.
Fast forward to a few months later when Andrew and I took a trip to visit her. I had a something up my sleeve. I planned a girls day where we went to local salon to get our hair and make up done. Later I learned that she had never gone to a proper salon. She had never got her make up done or paid more than $15 bucks for a hair cut. When the ladies doing our hair and make up learned why we where there, they went out of their way to make her feel like a queen. I've never seen her smile so much.
With a glass of wine in hand, I will never forget her reaction when she put on her glasses to look at herself after this mini makeover. Tears filled her eyes as she said, "I don't look bad. I don't recognize myself. I look pretty." I'm convinced that this was the first time my grandmother saw herself the way everyone else has always seen her --as beautiful.
We had dinner plans and ended up at the day at the beach for a little photo session. Selfishly I wanted these photos to remember this day, but my heart filled with joy when she shared them with pride on Facebook. Everyone commented how beautiful she looked, and for months she talked about how much fun she had on her 'girls day.'