Remember when you first started caring about how you looked in public. I was a teenager and suddenly it became important to wear the right clothes, have the cool haircut, and maintain a high level of personal grooming.  I showered every day – sometimes twice a day.  When I woke up in the morning, I put myself together before heading downstairs for breakfast, just in case Cap’n Crunch was watching.  I never left the house without my blue eyeliner on.   I spent a good amount of time in front of the mirror. 

This diligence (I changed eyeliner color) continued into my twenties, until I had children.  Then, things began to go downhill.  When you are being pooped and vomited upon on a regular basis, you lose a certain amount of dignity.  But once the vomiting and diaper changing stopped, I fought back and pulled it together.  I dreamt of the days of yore when I looked GOOD.  I joined Weight Watchers and the gym.  I bought new clothes and some cool shades of lipstick.   I looked nice for Gymboree and parent teacher conferences in my 30s.  It was more of an effort – but an effort I was willing to make.

Now in my 40s, I feel myself slipping again.  I often leave the house without any makeup.  I have taken to showering every OTHER day.  I prefer t-shirts and hoodies to anything remotely fitting or attractive.  I refuse to wear shoes that I could not walk a mile in.  My legs get shaved maybe once a week, if I’m motivated.  The other day as I was walking into the CVS to pick up a few things, I looked down to see the front of my hoodie covered in Cheetos residue… and dog hair  At least I still cared enough to brush myself off before I went inside. 

When the kids were little, ignoring my appearance was a matter of survival; now it’s a matter of choice.letting go

An older friend of mine once shared with me that one of the benefits of aging is that you stop caring what people think about you.  At the time, it sounded so depressing.  Now it sounds kind of liberating.  Maybe it’s because I’m too busy with other things that matter more than my eye liner.  Or maybe it’s because I know I can still clean myself up… if I want to.  Or maybe I have entered into the phase of my life where I don’t care what people think because after 40 some years I have nothing more to prove about myself. 

The freedom that comes with not caring is beckoning.

So the next time you see a shoddy-looking forty something lady with Cheetos on her hoodie, wandering through the supermarket or grabbing a cup of coffee – remember that perhaps her indifference isn’t due to a lack of self esteem, but an abundance of it.

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