The ironic confluence was nearly impossible to miss. Just a day after Joan Rivers passed away on September 4, we celebrated the birthday anniversary of another woman who has made an impression on the world, Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta.
They were both in their 80s when they died, just six years apart in ages of death: Joan was 81, Mother Teresa, 87, and yet what a contrast.
I think Joan Rivers was a gorgeous woman, especially before plastic surgery. Here she is in the 1980s at a premiere of “Steel Magnolias.”
I wish she could have embraced her beauty the way Mother Teresa embraced hers, not through searching the mirror for affirmation, but seeking beauty in the faces of the sick, dying and destitute all around her.
Mother Teresa was on a mission to find Christ’s face in everyone whose path she crossed, and it was there, too, that she found her worth. Botox would have been the furthest thing from her mind and heart.
I don’t write this as a criticism of Joan Rivers. She lived in a different world altogether, and she had her own motivations for living her life the way she did, but I think the images of these two women and their two different approaches to beauty can teach us so much.
I’m looking at myself now, and my own weaknesses, which became strikingly apparent to me this morning when I accompanied my youngest son into the elementary school “in the raw;” in other words, without a stitch of makeup — an unplanned event.
I will admit, I feel better with my mask intact. I’ve become accustomed to my morning routine, and it’s what I most often present to the world. But I also know it’s a crutch, and that on some level I’m bound like Joan was.
What’s perhaps different is that I am resisting it, internally at least, and I’m going to keep working at how I can let go of the external fixes with the goal of becoming as free as Mother Teresa, who, I’m thinking, never rose in the morning with the thought of applying mascara to her eyelashes before dashing off to go about her business.
I’m not quite there. I am in the world and need to figure out a balance. I don’t think it’s wrong to want to present oneself in a way that instills confidence. At the same time, I’m going to keep challenging myself on this point, because we have so many influences all around us, every day, that lure us toward more fixes, and there should be a healthy limit to the lengths we go to to make ourselves feel better about ourselves.
Joan Rivers was the ultimate example of what can happen when we get carried away by trying to manipulate the exterior beyond what is reasonable or fair to ourselves.
God rest her soul. I truly hope and pray that now she is free and understanding how much she was loved all along.
Let’s learn from her. Let’s see what we can do differently, day by day. Perhaps we can take a hint from Mother Teresa, aiming to focus less on what we see in the mirror and more intently searching out beauty on the faces of those around us who are in need and begging for us to respond in love. We don’t have to go far. As Mother Teresa pointed out many times, it often begins right in our own homes.
Q4U: How has our culture’s concept of beauty challenged you? What lengths are you willing to go to challenge back?