Thanks to the French

This month’s French version of Elle magazine features several celebrities photographed without makeup or photoshopping. And guess what? They are still beautiful. It’s a different kind of beauty, one that shows the imperfections in their skin, but a more important beauty for the world to see. Granted, they are still professionally lit and dressed and hairdressed, but, hey, it’s a start. Check it out.

5 thoughts on “Thanks to the French

  • Monday, April 27, 2009 at 1:16 pm

    Wow, they look so natural and gorgeous! Better than plastic, photoshoped air heads any day.

  • Monday, April 27, 2009 at 6:21 pm

    So beautiful… there was a no make-up issue of an american magazine a few months ago… I forgot which one, but the photos were just as amazing, really inspirational for un-famous women to stay true to their own beauty.

  • Monday, May 18, 2009 at 10:41 pm

    I’m 42 and my eighth baby is 17 months old. Mamas, you have given me a GIFT tonight! After reading many stories here, i have just now walked down the hall of my house with my hand holding my tummy, feeling the weight of my belly as i walk, the dimply skin, the fat stored there, the softness and dough-like heaviness bouncing as i walked, and felt actually proud!!! I thought about my “tiger-scratches” and actually caught a glimpse of my reflection in the window at the end of the hallway, and my hips were actually swaying just enough as i walked, like a woman is supposed to walk! My shirt was pulled up, I could see the roundness and fullness of my 8-babies-later belly, and instead of thinking “if anyone sees me through the window they’re gonna see my hideous fat stomach” I actually, truly thought to myself: “Good! I look good for what I’ve been through! I am proud of what I look like in that reflection!” (Seeing the photos here has really opened a door in my mind, actually double-doors and the light of joy and mutual understanding/compassion is flooding in right now!!!)

    This may sound unremarkable to you, but i have always watched women who have that feminine, sexy way of walking and felt most jealous; why couldn’t i also be that pretty, that womanly, that proud of my body, to let my “hips” (which are narrow and boyish) swing like lovely ladies’ are supposed to; to let myself push my chest out and lift my chin up and enjoy being a woman? (“Tall, and tan, and young and lovely, the girl from Ipanema goes walking and when she passes each one she passes goes “Aaahh!” When she walks it’s like a samba that sways so cool and swings so gently”…what a gorgeous summer song and image.)

    When I would try to “walk this way” it felt forced and stilted like someone badly imitating a fashion model on the runway. So seeing myself in the window reflection was really a shocker! I was like “who is that pretty woman?”

    (I haven’t felt proud of my reflection in many years. I have gotten into ruts where I usually don’t look in mirrors at all, actually.) (Bathing, also, during these times, seems to not have a priority place when babies are so very in need every second.) Which is a super bad habit to get into. If this happens to you, stop it now! It’s not ok to let yourself go down that hole. You deserve to look as beautiful as you feel like looking today, and you deserve to smell clean. Even if you are like me, holding your baby while you shower, and you can’t shampoo or rinse or squeeze the bottle or shave or whatever, just the water will help. Wrap the baby in a recieving blanket or a thin, old towel (I’ve even used the tee-shirt I’d been wearing) and just stay in the warm shower. If you have a toddler take them in too. If you have to sit down, sit down. Put something in there for toddler to play with like empty shampoo bottle or plastic cup. Nursing in the shower has saved my life sometimes. Baths for mommies are in fairy tales, but if you can, do it! My little kids take a lot of baths! It’s the only way to get the bathroom cleaned, or part of the bathroom. Gives you enough time to swish the toilet bowl or wipe down something or scrub something before they want out. Try to avoid harsh chemicals in general. Frequent cleaning with non-toxic cleansers should do the trick.

    I have always felt sorry for my mom and her little mincing “10-paces-behind-the-man” way of trudging forward and I dreaded being like her, and despite her self-sacrificing saintliness one can’t help be kind of awed by, I have a hard time respecting her lack of joy/revelling in what should/could be her femininity and pride in her womanhood.

    I also have always had self-esteem issues and body-acceptance issues. My forced tomboy-childhood (wearing 7 big brothers’ hand-me-downs and no feminine role models around to emulate) made me want even more to finally feel girly and FEMALE and being pregnant/nursing new babies and being mommy to many kids very much has kept me in that “i-am-woman” mode. My body looked actually cute pregnant and I got more compliments at 9 months then ever in my life, especially this last pregnancy, when I was actually exercising more than during any of my others.

    My weight has been a crazy yo-yo since my athletic teen days of relentless exercising to the point of amenorrhea and went from 117 in high school to 150 during a hopelessly depressing post-graduation summer-with-no-plans, to an excited-to-finally-be-away-from-home/anorexic/bulimic 104 my freshman year in college to around normal 127 and up … back up to damn 150 again … my college boyfriend waited 7 years to propose which made me depressed and gain weight; after finally getting engaged I ran 6 miles/day, did tons of push-ups and thousands of sit-ups and strictly “slimfast-ed” and lost weight down to 114 which at nearly 5’5 and very muscular was quite low. I (“we”) got pregnant on our wedding night, I had the kind of “morning sickness” that is 24-7-for 9 months and only eating abated the nausea (that and sex, but there was no sex to be had; husband too busy) so I weighed 166 when I “birthed” my sweet firstborn by emergency c-section (cord wrapped around neck/they told me she was in distress/and that her head was not getting any further through my pelvis after yes, 52 hours of labor, aaauuuugggghhhh!)

    I was beyond happy to have my beautiful baby girl. I could not believe God had entrusted her life to me. I had no one there to help me figure out how the heck to be a mother; zero support, friends, family or even kindly neighbors as we’d just moved there that month. Our “marriage” had fallen apart and “hubby” was not in picture, and I’d been somewhat in denial during the pregnancy. There was zero preparation. No layette. No nursery. No “what to expect when you’re expecting” or dr. sears.

    Clueless doesn’t begin to describe my experiences as a mother, coupled with a really unlucky draw of the joy of double carpal tunnel syndrome + chronic migraines, a 1-2 punch that will pretty much make life with a newborn and no help basically not a do-able thing. Oh, and and there was/still is also the fantastically unbelievable “M-I-A” or “AWOL” quality of my husband due to his attitude + career, plus we lived thousands of miles from family. No internet back then, no cell phones. Long-distance calls too expensive. Couldn’t afford books, magazines. No car, even! God bless La Leche League’s Womanly Art of Breastfeeding… my sole source of solace. I love you, la leche league. All I had was the book and thank God for that book, which i found out about from my otherwise-non-supportive ob. (“If you insist on breastfeeding, which I don’t advise, this is the best thing to read on it.” Thank you, Dr. Evers.) I wish I’d had it during my pregnancy, or ideally before, if the ideal could have happened and my husband and I would have planned, but then I probably wouldn’t have my children!

    Of course, it didn’t help our marriage that getting anything done when i barely make enough milk to keep baby alive just didn’t happen. The house? Yep. My hygiene? Yep.. I wish I knew then that you have to take care of yourself because no one else is going to!!! I still haven’t figured out the house part. oh well.

    After the c-section, I had to wait for hours for my baby. I finally pushed my i.v. pole down to the nursery, crying, and demanded my baby, who was also crying. I told them not to take her again. Best days of my life ever. So sweet! The nurse was quite taken aback when I asked if they had a scale. For me. I was sure I’d weigh 126 at the most. I actually had GAINED weight since the whole surgical procedure/anesthesia/i.v. etc. had caused some swelling! And I was as hungry as a very hungry hippo.

    I had dreams about my jeans. My little levis. I had been stretch-mark free until 2 weeks before delivery. Aauuggh! At 25, it wasn’t too hard to lose weight within a few months even though, like everything else female-related, the much-hoped-for boob-engorgement, milk-gushing breastfeeding happiness and the “great fat melt-off” didn’t happen for me like in the mommy-baby fairy tales. I have always had a profound assymetry with my right breast far outsizing the left, often by several cup sizes actually. It’s enough that switching doctors has meant seeing that look on their face again and even hearing “wow. this is quite pronounced isn’t it.” I can’t even begin to tell you how much fun it makes life as a girl. I’ve even had people ask if i’ve had a mastectomy or if I have a tumor on one side when nursing gives me that cup-overfloweth look. Or just the very blunt “What is that?” or “whaddaya got goin’ on there” and a pointing finger towards my right upper-middle chest area. Makes me feel so sexy. Not. Oh wait, maybe it was a pickup line? Nah!

    But, not to let my bad hand in the sexy lady deal keep me down, I refused to give up and relentlessly breastfed my babies, waiting til 6 months to give solids, and no bottles. (You’ll be relieved to hear that despite the pediatrician’s extreme concern [to the point of making me even more stressed-out and less able to nurse (aaauuuugggghhh!!!)] with their growth curves as infants, they’re all now extremely healthy and of fairly perfect stature; my eldest two girls just medalled in our state women’s run, and one of my boys is first 7th-grader to qualify for city track meet in five events.)

    But it has been crazy-hard to nurse babies on one uber-boob that barely puts out. And a few times it was tandem-nursing for even years at a time which you can’t know how it sends me over the edge…don’t know why but it’s a special kind of torture for me that when my husband goes to purgatory I know the good Lord in his justice will let hubby know what that felt like to me.

    I just have been I guess obsessed with just being a woman who can do the normal woman things. (yep, you guessed right. no orgasms either. please Lord, let me live long enough for some reward here on earth in that department! I don’t think they have orgasms in heaven, do they. DO THEY??!!)

    Anyway, not “just saying no” to mostly-absent hubby when that rare chance for sex would come around (usually it was our anniversary or my birthday or valentine’s day when i would plead for sex, pleease) meant that each baby followed with no spare time to get back in shape, but a year after baby # 4 I was back down to 116 and size 0/2 jeans.

    Then 30s came and metabolism changed… harder to lose, marriage issues continued: hubby never home and never interested so no natural family planning going on, then when he was I wasn’t saying “no” so I kept getting pregnant every couple years with very, very little sex going on. SAD!!

    I have a very high sex drive and desire for physical contact and affection, especially while I’m pregnant, so the loneliness and resulting depression has been a BIG problem. At least with babies, kids, now three teenagers too I really don’t have a lot of time to think about it or feel sorry for myself. I guess I have to keep “getting busier” to keep my mind off my sorrows. Reaching out to others and trying to keeep in mind one’s blessings and comparative great luck when others have much more tragic circumstances to deal with in their lives helps immensely. That and running.

    Now I’m in my 40s. I’d love another baby. I love my kids. I love my pretty high-school junior/senior who has navigated through what seemed like the rockiest, stormiest, most hellacious teen years to come out on the other side of the Bermuda Triangle alive, well, and a better person for it all. Everyone tells me what a wonderful, beautiful girl she is like you can’t help but admire a beautiful day; it’s amazing what a night we’ve made it through. I love my teenage boys; growing like corn in July, still so young, so cute and dear but chances of sullen, intermittently lovely but lately mostly cloudy with occasional outbursts and lightning-and-thunder-scary mood swings followed by periods of sunny sweetness and breezes of extreme funniness, as often awkward as at ease. My darling pre-teen girl, such a love, such a sweet little sunbeam on the verge of everything but oblivious, just leaping around and upside-down and being a kid. My dear little son, still such a frisky little boy and yet it’s gonna evaporate soon, that quick little moment where they’re old enough to not need you so much but they still need you so much! And still love on ya! My two little girls, my “kittens”, one so excited to be growing up and full of ideas, happy and dear, and the other, crazy-mischievious-naughty-adorable-funny and both so different but so cute! I love that squealing, barefoot-pattering, little-nakie-buns potty-training babyboy that is now sleeping in his lovely little footie jammies with the feet cut off them for the past several babies buns-up in my bed while I’m up at 3:57 am writing this (I almost never let myself miss sleep like this anymore, you should know) I love each one so much.

    And my kids love each other, even though there are ultimate cage-fighting moments of wrestlemania that result in the loss of privileges for days and the text to my husband that says “I can’t do this” or sass/bad attitude-thresholds breached which leave me calling him and saying “you need to talk to your daughters/sons” or the allhellbreakingloose kind of day like I had today (don’t ask) which leads to “This isn’t working, this is more than I can do by myself” which results in the text back to me that says “i can’t help you. I can’t talk right now.”

    I have made up two mottos/mantras for myself these days. “Don’t cry, RUN!” and “Got your run done, hon?”

    Ok, so I wasn’t going to write my life story. But if there’s any thing to take from this it is this: after all this, and so much more that I haven’t even touched on but is so unbelievable that it’s happened in my life… I am still here, I am 42, I am the mother of 8 wonderful kids but it is the most challenging, exhausting, demanding job I have ever had, and i am for all intents and purposes usually solo-parenting, albeit not having to leave my babies to earn the wages. I like hard work so that is good, and i do get bored easily, which is another asset in my job, (no boredom here!)

    and i finally am making peace with myself, with my body. My husband may not appear to appreciate the still-young woman that lies awake next to him on the nights when he’s finally home, passed out from exhaustion and beyond interaction, but my kids love me and “my fat” and since I try to run many miles a day, and push my jogger stroller as many times a week as I can time my babies to not mind sitting through, I actually feel in terrific shape. I like bending over to pick stuff up off the ground, and I remember not liking having to do that. I like when I am in a hurry and running across a parking lot feels good. I like putting my hand on my waist and its actually more concave than convex. If I brush the back of our barstool with my ribcage as I’m cleaning the kitchen, there’s not a thick layer of blubber in between, and i can feel my ribs and the closeness to the object and it feels good. When I’m pushing my stroller up a hill and looking down at my shadow, I can see that the blobs of backfat/sidefat that muffin out over the armpit-edge of my jogbras (I have to wear at least two to jog) are smaller than they were a month ago, and that my silhouette actually has a waist now!

    It’s miraculous what exercise does for the mommy figure!!! Thank You GOD!!! Plus as the number on the scale gets smaller, my knee pain subsides more and more! Which means I can run tomorrow! (today. Aauugh!!)

    Ok, goodnight out there, whereever, whoever you are. You don’t get do-overs. Give to yourself what you need to be able to give what you have to give to others. If its a glass of water and some vitamins, buy them and take them and drink it! If it’s a jog to your kids’ school to pick them up and walk home together, do it. If it’s more sleep, get it. If it’s an earlier bedtime or better nutrition, make it happen. If its emotional support, find it somehow. If it’s spiritual help, pray. The words in the scriptures help me. Especially now. I really have more perspective to appreciate what it’s saying and it really speaks to me.

  • Thursday, May 28, 2009 at 6:06 am

    thank you so much for that! i have two children, a three year old and a 5 month old. I thought that i had it rough- but you have eight! you are my hero! i am also a runner- but have found it increasingly difficult lately to make time for my runs- which in turn makes for a bad mommy. we’re building a house and my husband and i both work full time. i always tried to make time for them (my runs) but have been making up more and more excuses lately, not like me. your storey has reinvigorated me. if i can just get out there and do it, i know i’ll feel alot better. as far as hubby goes, well- thats a whole other story- how do you find time for each other when there is so much to do everyday just to keep the house/kids/ life up and running- i have no family here where i live and hubbys mom hardly ever helps out- even though she would say she does if you asked her- i can count the times on one hand that she’s taken our son in the past three years, and at the most for two hours…and thats a stretch. our relationship is failing misserably because we never get to spend time togeather- we don’t have any extra money to pay a sitter.
    thanks for the last paragraph you wrote. i just went and took my vitamin- and now i’m going to call a friend for some much needed emotional support. it’s nice knowing that there is someone else out there that feels the way i do with some things, and it’s nice to be reminded to take care of myself- “give to yourself what you need to be able to give what you have to give to others.”


  • Thursday, May 28, 2009 at 3:27 pm

    Heather, your writing is wonderful, and even more lovely is the obvious joy that permeates what could easily be misconstrued as complaints. You should have your own blog, I’d love the see the husband and kids!

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