I am so happy to have found Rebecca Elia on Twitter and so excited to post her words and thoughts on Timeless Beauty on my blog. Please visit her website and the links she has generously provided.
Once again, I am thankful to Twitter for connecting me with like-minded people. More and more women are exploring our society’s refusal to accept death and aging, and, lately, they’ve been tweeting about it. Elissa Stein, author of FLOW is working on her next book project, Wrinkle and her recent Huffington Post piece, The Age of Invisibility, was about our mistreatment of the elderly. Through twitter, I also learned of Robbie Kaye’s work.
It’s time to address this peculiar societal dysfunction.
In the not so distant past, the anorexic teenager was our society’s single representation of beauty. The Twiggy template lived on, decades beyond her actual owner. Dove’s relatively recent campaign was one of the first to use normal-looking normal-sized women models. Their famous Evolution video revealed the false representation of the final icon of a female model that appeared on a billboard. By the time the initial picture was adjusted, it was so far removed from the original that it was difficult to connect the two. Our sense of beauty, both outer and inner, has become unbelievably warped.
It took my traveling to Greece to become aware of just how culture-specific beauty is. I was relieved when I discovered that the Greeks were blind to the dark hair on my body that was deemed socially-unacceptable in the U.S. I was thrilled that women who we would consider overweight showed no hesitation in wearing tight clothes in public or bikinis on the beach.
But there was another difference, and this one had more to do with inner beauty. In Greece, the elderly were cared for, honored, and respected by their families. Often, these elderly women provided the structure and foundation for the family. Many of my Greek friends were raised by their yiayias (grandmothers). Because the Greeks are a very social people, I had more conversations with elderly women there than I did with one of my own grandmothers. I could not return to my apartment without talking with a yiayia who lived in my neighborhood. She would pull out a seat cushion and rush to make Greek coffee when she saw me approaching her marble steps. In fact, I had to add an extra thirty to sixty minutes to my trip home if I didn’t return during her afternoon nap.
These grandmothers not only shared their life wisdom with me but provided me with such a strong sense of family and stability that it eased the 6,000+ mile distance from my real family. Looking at the world through their eyes provided me with an immediate sense of what is truly important. Linear time disappeared. Relationships and relating became crucial. It was clear that what we do is not as essential as how we do it, and that those we love are more important than anything else in this world. The emphasis on artificial physical beauty disappeared in a land where nothing could be more gorgeous than the dramatic scenery, weathered by the same natural elements that wrinkled the lovely faces of the elderly.
I became aware of another striking difference. These Greek women lived each day in the present moment, just as children do. In fact, they lived their entire lives in this way. This was a country in which the natural cycles of life were recognized and death was accepted along with life. The Greeks understood that in order for anything new to be created, the old must dissolve. They remembered what we have forgotten, that unrestricted growth is unsustainable and undesirable.
Both of my biological grandmothers died long ago. Now, more than ever, I absorb my mother’s memories of her mother and her mother’s generation. Not wanting to miss any of their wisdom, I grab hold before it disappears forever. By forgetting her, I lose. By forgetting them, we all lose.
Ours is a young nation. How can we expect to mature without the wisdom of our elders? We are quickly destroying our earth and ourselves. The longer we hold onto this notion of unrestricted growth, the more we destroy. When will we, as a nation, begin to face our fears about aging and death and, instead, honor the hard-earned wisdom of our elders? When will we see their true beauty? Until we do, we will remain blind to our own.
Rebecca Elia is a Holistic Gynecologist who is more interested in creating health than in curing disease. Her forthcoming book, Creating Feminine Health, Finding Balance in a Masculine World addresses the consequences of valuing masculine qualities over feminine ones, including our society’s difficulty in accepting, let alone honoring, aging and elder wisdom.
Website: www.rebeccaelia.com You may sign up for her free Creating Feminine Health Newsletter on the homepage of her website.
Links in Post:
Elissa Stein’s blog: http://elissastein.blogspot.com/
Elissa’s Huff Po post: The Age of Invisibility http://www.huffingtonpost.com/elissa-stein/the-age-of-invisibility_b_400896.html
Dove’s Evolution video: http://rebeccaeliablog.blogspot.com/2009/08/evolution-courtesy-of-dove_16.html