Many years ago, when I was young, I listened to a friend describing an intimate encounter he had with an older woman the previous night. I was filled with a mixture of curiosity and disgust as he described the wrinkles, spots and flabby skin. “Holding her boobs was like touching the membrane of a raw egg…without the shell”. This image came back to me this morning as I cupped my wife Alice’s 81 year old breast in my hand as we lay cuddling in bed.
From the perspective of my youth, the physical appearance of any woman over 35 held no interest for me. I was only interested in surface beauty, which is the way beauty is usually defined. It concerns the outer surface of the body…the skin and its topography…the product of underlying musculature and supporting bone structure and the distribution of subcutaneous fat with its overlay of epidermis.
Today, in my late 70’s, I judge beauty by a very different standard. Now my definition of beauty has expanded to include inner beauty, beauty that originates within a person’s heart and soul and mind and includes their physical, emotional, mental and spiritual being. By this standard, despite the wrinkles, gray hair and sagging skin, I honestly consider Alice to be a stunning beauty. Characteristics other than the surface of her body contribute to the way I see her. The warmth of her smile, the sonorous tone of her voice, the way her enthusiasm and vitality plays out through her eyes and facial expression. Couldn’t these be considered a part of Alice’s beauty? What about non-physical factors like personality and character traits…her sparkling sense of humor, the incisiveness of her mind, the emotional depth of her feelings, her courage, compassion and authenticity, her kindness and generosity of spirit. Why shouldn’t these inner qualities be thought to contribute to her beauty? Those are certainly reflected in Alice’s physical appearance.
While surface beauty is dependent on youth, inner beauty is ageless. In fact, the passage of years has lent a fine patina to Alice’s appearance. Those years, fully lived, have stamped a soulful, indelible image on her flesh, an image of depth rarely attained by the young.
Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder. The feelings we have about a person influences the way they look to us. Because of the love in my heart, Alice has become more beautiful to me. A person passing her ambling down the street will see an elderly matron. I see an ageless beauty. There is a saying, “Love is blind” which is usually taken to mean you tend to be unaware of or ignore your beloved’s faults and imperfections. A statement that complements this, but is the reverse, is “Love enhances your vision”. Seeing with eyes of love has allowed me to view Alice with greater clarity. And what I see more clearly is her inner beauty.
When I wake up in the morning and look at Alice lying next to me, no make-up, hair disheveled and sleep still in her eyes, I see a beautiful ageless woman. I really do. I enjoy looking at her old naked body when she gets out of bed in the morning. When I run my hands through her gray hair, kiss the loose skin hanging from her arms, and yes, hold her raw egg membrane breast in the palm of my hand, there is truly no one in the world I consider more beautiful. Looking through the lens of my love for her has given me this vision.
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Images courtesy of the author