Discover a Lovelier You, Chapter 1: Just the Way You Are

We all become nostalgic for the things of our childhood. For me, it was two things in particular: an album of western themes, and the book Discover a Lovelier You.

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I kept thinking about bits from the book, until eventually I found a used copy.

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I remembered every picture, and great swaths of text.

Hairdresser in Pompeii

Hairdresser in Pompeii

There are twelve years between me and my older sister, and she left the house when I was just tweening. Mom owned one green dress, one tube of lipstick, and one cake (yes, cake) of mascara, and used them about once a year. If I wanted to practice girly stuff, she was going to be no help.

My sister, who enjoys the girly side of things, knew this. She sent help in the form of this book by Ann Craig. Written in 1972, it is a time capsule of late-60s attitudes, many of which turned out to be timeless.

The book helped form my entire attitude toward beauty. I read it over and over, and did every single thing therein that applied to me. Even the face exercises.

I was scandalized by this page. Naked wimmin! I could barely look.

I was scandalized by this page. Naked wimmin! I could barely look.

Considering it is a book entirely about conforming to current beauty standards, it begins in a surprisingly non-conformist manner.

The first chapter: Self-Image: The Key to Your Looks, instructs the reader to love herself, no matter what she looks like. Quotes from models and actresses complaining about their looks hit home with young Kitty. The message I got was that external pressure means every woman thinks she’s fatally flawed, and every woman is wrong.

The exercise for the chapter is to take a “soft” look at yourself in the mirror, and appreciate all your bits. My self-esteem was a horrible mess, but I can credit Craig with helping a little.

The chapter also introduced me to feminism (or “Womens Lib,” as the book called it), questioning the very premise that we should make ourselves beautiful.

While, naturally, Craig doesn’t agree with the “militants'” abandonment of beauty practices, she does agree that we are far too anxious about how we look, to our detriment.  She insists that we approach beauty first by liking ourselves, and ready to enhance our natural beauty, not to bash ourselves into fitting some impossible standard.

Your own unique physical existence is a gift to be treasured. You can like yourself just as you are, or experiment with a few things that will enhance your looks and deepen your pleasure in being you. Self-enhancement is one of life’s “optional extras”–and a delightful one at that. Basically, it should be a kind of game, in which you explore new ways of caring for yourself, expressing your individuality, and giving special pleasure to those you love.

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