A few weeks ago, our team at WSP started to focus on creative nonfiction, a literary genre that Wikipedia defines as the utilization of “literary styles and techniques to create factually accurate narratives.” Basically, it’s supposed to be a true story but written in a creative manner that is supposed to entertain the reader. Learning more about the genre, I decided to go online and stumbled upon Creative Nonfiction, a website dedicated to the genre. Clicking around, I came across a short creative nonfiction piece that immediately caught my attention from the title: “It Wasn’t Until I Was an Old Woman that I Began to Enjoy Being Beautiful” by Tori Derricotte.
A few question arose before I started reading it. Did the author not think of herself as beautiful before she grew old? Did her definition of beauty change? Was she beautiful all along?
Those who know me quite well know that I value the physical appearance of people, places, objects and that this value extends to my own appearance. So it wasn’t exactly a surprise that the title caught my attention. Clicking on the link, I read the short piece in about ten minutes. And in those ten minutes, I was able to relate to the author on many things, even though I’m not an old woman yet myself.
The reason why I love this piece by Derricotte so much is that she relates the acceptance of self-beauty to the easiness and joy of writing—two concepts that although dance in my head every day, have never intermingled until now. The process of writing and the subsequent stories you create both expose our vulnerable side. It is difficult to accept our strengths and especially our weaknesses until we learn how to love ourselves; beauty is no different.
She talks about her feeling of inadequacy when compared to her mother, an already beautiful individual. My own mother is extremely beautiful, and I sometimes wonder if I can ever match her in appearance. And like the author, I just “[attend] [my mother’s] beauty in a priestly fashion,” appreciating her looks but acknowledging that I will most likely never be on her level either. This same feeling transfers over to my writing, too. I tend to read works by my peers and people my age, beautiful works that leave me deflated because I end up asking myself, “Well, what’s the point if someone’s always gonna say it better than I will?”
But that’s when the author closes this gap of inadequacy related to beauty and writing:
“But when you are old, you are willing to make mistakes for beauty, willing to wear a silver purse that might make someone wonder, Why would she wear something so obvious and loud when the rest of her clothes are subtle? You will wear something only because it makes you smile inside for its square of light against the darkness. It is your choice, and, for the first time, you dare to appear out of character. I’ve had students who dress in wild patterns or wear nylons with holes in them and outlandish jewelry. Perhaps they, too, are dressing from the inside.”
I understood that writing, like fashion, doesn’t always have to be aesthetically pleasing to everyone. It can be quirky and fun, and it should be you. It’s okay if it makes people question your choices, your style, your shirt or words because ultimately you shouldn’t wear and write to please everyone. You should write for yourself because it truly makes you happy.
The author didn’t make this connection until she became an older woman, but with her help, I’m on the journey to acceptance and self-love: it wasn’t until I was a young adult to enjoy being beautiful.