Satisfaction in old age: When was I beautiful?

You want to be beautiful on the wedding photo. At least that day. A white veil, a size 36 wedding dress, chic shoes and a bouquet of lily of the valley in her arms. And a husband by the side. Anyway, it has to be like that, later on, the grandchildren say: Grandma - was that you? And every viewer understands why the somewhat embarrassed groom has married this adorable girl. My wedding picture does not keep up with that. There was no veil and no waisted white silk dream because I was six months pregnant. I had a white inconspicuous hat on and rings under my eyes. My husband wore a black suit, buttoned on three buttons, which was outdated at the time, but he came from the costume rental business, where we also borrowed the carnival clothes. He also had rings under his eyes because he had been celebrating the night before. We both grin pretty stupid in the lens. That was in 1955, after all, our marriage lasted until death divorced us.

Ulrike Lebert wonders what age she liked.

© Ulrike Frömel

Was I more beautiful than a young mother? Somehow not, as recorded on the family photos. At that time, a fellow sculptor cut my hair, it was his hobby. You can see it. Today I would say, I was slim. At the time of the Polaroid prints, I found myself too fat. Clothes size 42, impossible. In one picture, I'm standing on the edge of a sandbox and look exactly what a woman looks like when she watches her little son on the edge of a sandbox. Since two hours. When was I ever nice? When I was born, my parents had no choice: They found me sweet, even though I had no hair on my head. I was her first child. Later, with the communion candle, white dress and a flower wreath over my thin braids - forget it. My grandmother had a saying on it: "Beautiful babies, desert street children, beautiful people." Not always true.

I remember exactly the feeling, when entering a ballroom (in my youth there were still balls, also balls) to meet immediately the first girl, which was doubtless prettier. I had tried so hard to dress myself. And now I urgently needed someone who looked me in love with the eyes. But it did not always exist. Sometimes. Just then I had a pimple on my nose. Today, girls like me become anorexic with grief. I can understand that well. It was not trendy at the time. But one also had certain ideals in mind. That's what I want to look like. The word cellulite did not exist yet, the small dents in the thigh already. Never, never did I put on a bikini. In a bathing suit, I held my hands behind my buttocks. My God, how beautiful was the Bardot. Now, as an old woman, I see the photos in the album with leniency. I was not ugly. On some even very pretty. Why did not anyone tell me that? To emphasize the external was considered in my generation to be vindictive, vain, conceited. Especially my mother saw it that way. When a neighbor once remarked, I, her daughter, have beautiful eyes, my mother said only: "But too short eyelashes." I'll never forget that.

"Today, girls like me become anorexic with grief."

Can it be that today too much cult is driven by the look. Therefore, the feminists of the sixties probably wore mainly purple and knit dresses, and the sacking was invented. The young girls today may be more self-confident by nature and thus more confident of style. They put on what they want, colorful eyeshadow and minis and groovy hairstyles - not all, but many. I admire a girlie with thick thighs that stands in the ice cream parlor with tight-fitting Bermudas. Well please, there are men who like thick thighs. The ex-President of the United States Bill Clinton liked and apparently likes fat legs in women. It is no longer good sound to be ugly or unimpressive - as in traditional Japan, where you had to answer the praise "You have a beautiful nose": "Oh no, I have the ugliest nose in the world." Or on "What a pretty baby" fended off: "The sky has unfortunately given him no beauty."

I am now an old woman and look at my old face with indulgence. I'm a bit angry that I'm happier with myself today than I used to. My mother would say, "But you have many wrinkles." My mother died forty years ago. Did she sometimes secretly think that her daughter looks nice?

What makes a good life? Lessons from the longest study on happiness | Robert Waldinger (June 2020).

Contentment, beauty, transience, age, youth, wedding photo, retrospective, satisfaction, wrinkles