There’s a phrase—an insulting, snide, sneering sort of a phrase—that tends to be preceded by the word “She”:
“She’s let herself go.”
“She’s let herself go” usually means that, as she’s aged (whoever “she” might be) or as time’s gone by, or since the last time we saw her and assessed her appearance, she’s somehow become less attractive, less well-kempt, less physically acceptable, somehow, and that she really ought to have done more to fight the decline.
Even when I was a very young woman, I used to feel uncomfortable with this phrase. I was acutely aware of how unfair it was, to judge a person in this way. To say that she (almost always, she) somehow owed it to the world to stay as young-looking and as conventionally attractive as possible, for as long as possible, despite the fact that time, let’s face it, passes, and life happens, seemed breathtakingly impertinent.
The older I get, the more my discomfort is replaced with a sort of righteous indignation.
How dare they suggest that anyone owes it to the world to (presumably) hold themselves in, or keep themselves back—to fight against their natural progression into maturity and a deeper knowledge of themselves, in favour of a superficial, inevitably doomed and all-consuming struggle to retain elusive youth?
What an individual woman chooses to do with herself, in terms of her appearance, is entirely her prerogative.
What I choose, on any given day to do—to make-up or not to make-up, to eat healthily or not to eat healthily, to wear clothes that flatter my form or to wear saggy, baggy clothes that show up my aging for what it is—is entirely my decision to make.
And, yes, despite the fact that sometimes I make an effort to look my physical best, I am, on the whole, letting myself go.
Not in the sense of not caring anymore about myself or my health or my life or the way I project and present myself—in fact, I love to live healthily and holistically—but in the sense that I will not be imprisoned by the dictates of what the world in general thinks constitutes “presentable” or “acceptable”.
Absolutely right: I’m letting myself go!
I’m setting myself free—and I’m thoroughly enjoying it!
Letting Myself Go
I’m letting myself go!
would-be wild thing that I am,
the bold, bright and beautiful thing,
with wrinkles and crinkles and folds that sing
Yes— I’m letting myself go—
to the four winds, to fly,
to pot, to sleep and dream
and to seed, to blossom all over again.
Yes—I’m letting myself go,
and no! I do not owe myself to anyone,
to keep myself in,
scrubbed and trimmed,
painted and slim,
well-kempt and presentable
like some prized vegetable,
whilst my beauty outgrows
the eyes of those particular beholders;
Yes—I’m letting myself go—
and I want all the world to know
that I don’t care one whit what they think of it—
what they think or say when they look and see…
I’m letting myself go—
I’m letting myself grow older and bolder and more wonderously
Yes, I’m letting myself go;
I’m letting myself BE
and the whole world can like it or lump it,
scorn it, applaud it, discuss it and score it,
like some kind of social judiciary.
I’m letting myself go.
Yes—I’m letting myself go.
I’m letting myself,
Author: Ruth Calder Murphy
Volunteer Editor: Kim Haas / Editor: Renée Picard
Photo: Hartwig HKD/Flickr