Just Shelley

Self Image

Recovered from the Wayback Machine.

Not wanting to embarrass him, but how extraordinary, how uncanny that Jonathon posts a photo of Audrey Hepburn at his site, when I was thinking about her yesterday as I walked past ponds, surface water unrippled by winds or the movement of fish; smooth as glass, and as reflective as mirrors.

vtl_14.jpgA few years back, I was talking with a person who was/is a good friend. For some reason the conversation rolled around to Audrey Hepburn. My friend, who I also had a little secret attraction for — just a tiny bit, more harmless than not, and not something I took seriously — talked about Hepburn’s style, her slim and elegant appearance, her acting talent, her role in the classic Breakfast at Tiffany’s. He loved everything about her.

I can’t help but agree with my friend on everything he said about Hepburn — she was a unique and beautiful woman, as warm and generous and classy as she was elegant. But I grew up in a generation of woman living in the shadow of Hepburn, that impossible silhouette. My admiration and respect for her will always be tinged by a little resentment, and a little regret.

I imagine I’m not the only little girl that dreamed of dressing up in an elegant gown, floating serenely and elegantly, willow thin, through a crowd of people who parted in front of her. How bitter the reality for most, and lest you think this leaves you when you grow older, Ha! Think again. When the shop windows in San Francisco filled with the gowns for the city’s famous Black and White Ball, I am ashamed to admit how many hours I spent in front of the windows day dreaming. And I’m 48, supposedly too old for such nonsense.

I’ve long been fascinated by Dorothea’s frankness with her body shape. Frank, blunt, and in your face: I am fat she writes, and you can almost see the glare of her eyes peering out at the pages, defying you to murmer polite disagreement. Of course, she’s just as likely to bluntly and frankly take on any number of issues that leave one feeling as if there might have been a small strip of skin ripped from one’s butt, but I do admire her frankness about her looks.

For one reason or another I’ve gained weight over the winter, too much weight. Add to this with some health challenges past and current, and I find myself trying to see the tall Amazon that I was years ago in the plump, comfortable-seeming woman in the mirror today. This is not a woman who will ever wear a satin dress nipped in at the waist and hugging thin hips as it falls and flows past me on the ground; my shoulders bared, and my hair upswept.

I’ve always thought it was remarkably unfair that I was born tall, but not willowy. At one time I was a size 10, which for someone 5′ 11 1/2”, is quite slim. Too slim my doctor thought, and he was right. It was not a healthy weight for me. I am a curvy person, with rounded parts, but who can still be fit and healthy. Still dance, but not in hip hugging satin. If I had an ideal size, it would probably be size 16, which is comfortable for someone my height. Comfortable, but not willowy.

I’m not that size 16 now, though I am working on it, and not just to meet society’s standards of ‘beauty’. I couldn’t anyway, because aside from my height and green eyes (of which I am ashamed to admit, I am vain of), I’m afraid there is nothing out of the ordinary about me, now. No if I’m losing weight it’s because hiking is so very important to me, and excess weight is not only a hinderance, it’s a danger when one is hiking more difficult terrain. I’m not talking about just having a heart attack or anything like that — I’m talking getting into places that the extra weight makes it difficult to get out of, not to mention the upset to one’s balance. So I’m working on getting my weight down, but it will never be to a point when I can wear satin and costume jewelry with any flair. Khaki and shirts. One piece suits.

How odd — both men and women fixate on the ideal woman. Men because they want her, and women because they want to be like her. I wonder if men think about what they would like to be? Do they have ideal men in mind, that they compare themselves to?

I know for myself, when I think of an ‘ideal man’, I tend to think of a person who has a great sense of humor, is very patient, kind, open, affectionate, romantic, has a love and passion of the outdoors, music, movies, cooking, writing, travel, and photography. And who adores me. Of course, my list is unrealistic, but at least physical appearance doesn’t enter into the picture.

Perhaps that’s the thing — as both men and women get older, we learn to look beyond the physical to the what a person is, not how they look. However, if this is so, how come so many older guys marry (much) younger women?

Recently I’ve been reminded that physically my life is changing, and is going to continue to change, perhaps even quite drastically. This brought out my shade of Audrey that I keep within me, and she walked beside me yesterday as I peered into pools and quietly compared the fantasy and the reality. But then I got distracted as I always do, by an egret flying past, angry at me for disturbing it. You don’t know disdain until you’ve been treated to egret disdain.

Eventually in my walk I left the glassy ponds, and I discovered this fascinating bridge called The Chain of Rocks Bridge, and I crossed it, looking down into the muddy waters of the Mississippi, where I couldn’t see anything except what was floating past.

I will take a life of egrets and bridges over a dream of a satin dress.


Print Friendly, PDF & Email