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Are you living in the wrong century?

April 16, 2011

I’m struck by how the human ideal of beauty and fashion is always changing. 
Just when you get the nerve to stuff  yourself into the style of the day, the “in crowd” is off and running in a different direction, even more outrageous than the last.
And hair.  Don’t get me started.  I’ve been wearing the same hairstyle for 50 years.  The old helmet-like beehive which I favored, went out of style back in the 60s when some hapless fashion plate discovered a family of bees had built a hive in her coiffure.  It was probably only an urban legend, but it was enough to steer most gals away from shellacked dos designed to last for a month.
Remember those Renaissance beauties of the fifteenth century who looked like they just polished off 16 milkshakes? I bet they jumped on the scales and whooped for joy when they added an extra pound.  Chubbiness was a sign of affluence, and I would have been in the royal court.
Paintings from the Renaissance period often focused on women who would today be considered prime candidates for Weight Watchers or, at least liposuction.  Yet, their ample figures and forms were considered the height of sexiness.  (The song “Born too Late” begins to drift through my mind.)
Now comes the shocking news that Cleopatra always regretted that she didn’t have varicose veins.  Well, double darn!  Now I know I’m caught in a time warp.
When you think about it, is there all that much difference in varicose veins and those colorful tattoos you see on the hip young generation today?  Folks with varicose veins are at a distinct advantage, since our “leg art” doesn’t cost us a cent, nor require hours agonizing at the point of a painful needle. Score one for the Boomers.
I will say that cosmetics have come a long way.  The Renaissance woman was likely to wear creams and powders laced with lead and mercury.  That might explain the abbreviated life expectancy in those days.  
I’m told that the ancient Egyptians often used crocodile excrement and mud baths in the belief that they would firm and tone the skin. Facial masks, made from ant eggs and face paints, were sometimes used to unclog pores and even out the overall skin tone.
Oh well, modern people tend to underestimate their own personal beauty because they are trying to reach the modern ideal. I’m just hoping we turn away from waif-like profiles and get back to that nifty 15th century look.  I have box of Reece’s Peanut Butter cups in the freezer, waiting for the end of Lent.
Emily Jones is a retired journalist who edits a website for bouncing baby boomers facing retirement.  She welcomes comments at

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