I am not a pretty girl. That is not what I do.

This is a picture of some of the magazines I threw out in recycling today, all of them unread. I had been keeping them, waiting for the day when I wanted to read them, but I realized it was never going to come.

Fortunately, I spent very little money on the subscriptions, having taken advantage of special deals. But I was starting to feel like a year’s worth of unread magazines, five titles in all, was getting scarily close to hoarder territory and it was time to purge. (Yes, I’m a little obsessed with avoiding becoming a hoarder. I’m not the most amazing organizer but I find it very satisfying to get rid of possessions, and I similarly avoid acquiring too many things I don’t actually need.)

Armloads of magazines went to recycling. They were in two categories: Christian magazines and women’s magazines.

Surprisingly, even though I no longer really consider myself a Christian at all, those magazines had content that was much less disturbing to me than the women’s magazines. After all, the Christian magazines I read were Relevant, at least half the content of which was about indie music, and Christianity Today, which occasionally had some interesting trend stories and reporting on social conditions around the world.

However, the women’s magazines were a different story. There was no artful arranging of how these landed in the recycle bin, but the Allure issue with Alicia Keys was a perfect example of why I had no interest in reading the magazines. (And not because I have anything against Alicia Keys.) The issue below it had an article about birth control access, definitely an issue that’s changing for the worse even if not personally relevant to me anymore…but I’m not going to get my political info from a magazine that’s also trying to sell me $300 perfume.

But “vaginal beauty is having a moment”? No no no no. Unfortunately enough trend stories have filtered into my brain and I know what they mean by that. Stuff like vaginal steaming (thanks a lot, freaking Gwyneth Paltrow…google it if you want to know because I ain’t linking to it) and bleaching and deodorizing and tightening…just no. If you think I need any of that stuff then 1) you don’t deserve to see my vagina anyway and 2) you’re probably a raging woman-hater. Is everyone on staff at these magazines a misogynist?

“Is Botox feminist?” I didn’t read the article but I’m just gonna go ahead and say no. There. Saved you some time. Unless you need it to treat migraines or some other legitimate medical use — which isn’t really a feminist issue — then I’m going to say there’s no way a feminist case can be made for using Botox.

Then the “hair tourism” story, I don’t have any interest in reading it, but I can say it sounds uninteresting and stupid.

Really, I think all these articles have one major thing in common: the idea that there’s something inherently wrong with women’s bodies as they are, and with aging women in particular. They say we should all spend lots and lots of money trying to be “perfect.”

Look, I have smile lines around my eyes. That’s a good thing because it means I’ve been smiling enough for 44 years to cause those wrinkles. My vagina looks like a vagina and anyone who doesn’t like it doesn’t get a vote. My hair is normal-people hair: some days it looks cute, some days it doesn’t. I don’t have enough money right now to regularly go to the salon, but frankly, I don’t care that much anyway. Most of the time, I can think of better things to spend $50-100 bucks on.

I’ve realized that a lot of stuff that’s promoted as essentially female are things that I just really don’t care about. Unless it’s a special occasion, I don’t care if my bra and panties match. I am pretty secure in knowing that I don’t have to dress a certain way for my husband to be interested in me.

I also don’t care much about keeping up with fashion and beauty trends. Supposedly, women in their 40s aren’t supposed to wear statement t-shirts or graphic t-shirts anymore and you know, I just don’t care. I want to have the opportunity to dress up a little better for work, but I’m not at a point yet where I also want to dress like I’m at work when I’m at home. I’m also really freaking short but I’m not wearing heels (and that was true even before MS affected my balance.) I also don’t need to buy everything I find cute.

Similarly, with makeup, so much of it is designed to look good on 20-year-olds. If glitter and extreme contouring are really your jam, then by all means, do it no matter what your age. But if I try to wear it, I’m just going to look like an adult trying to look like a kid to keep up with the trends. Like Chrissy on “Three’s Company.” And I am personally not a fan of the extreme contouring that’s trendy now; it often seems more like performance art or stage makeup. I think makeup should mildly enhance your features, not make you look like someone else entirely.

I like to browse Sephora and Ulta but most of the time I don’t get anything. I wear the same makeup regularly, so how many new lipsticks and eyeshadow palettes can I possibly use? Eventually, it’s just more clutter (see above about my fear of becoming a hoarder) and more wasted money. I’d rather save that money to make my future more secure or spend it on something more meaningful (travel, for example, which is still one of my biggest goals.) I’m not going to spend $45 on something I might only use once when I first get it and then forget I have it.

Sigh. I am pretty much an advertiser’s worst nightmare. You have to work pretty hard to convince me that I really need something frivolous. I’m not trying to get a man and I see that as a pretty pointless mission promoted by women’s magazines. I don’t want someone who only wants me because I have a “pretty vagina” acquired through lots of expensive maintenance or a wrinkle-free face that doesn’t move. I don’t think that’s what most people find attractive in a woman, anyway. I want to be interesting to people much more than I want to be sexy.

I’m convinced that the mainstream messages aimed at women are designed to make women poorer, more insecure, and less interesting. Nobody on a date wants to hear at length about a person’s shopping finds or beauty rituals. You’ve gotta have more interesting things going on in your mind and in your life.

It really is true what people say: the older you get, the less of a fuck you give about what people think about you.

During my years in the church, I was being pretty untrue to myself and therefore I cared more on some level about appearing like I fit in. But now that I’ve cast that aside, I’ve realized that I truly don’t care much at all about what anybody says I’m “supposed to” do. I was like this before, but only more so now.

My biggest discomfort with aging is about feeling like some possibilities in life are less likely. For example, it’s very unlikely I’ll ever go to med school now (something I once wanted but ruled out because I thought I was too old…at 24.) But I really don’t lament the loss of my youth or my beauty. I still have quite a ways to go on this front, but I am so much less insecure now than I was when I was younger. I may have had a much more attractive body and had more interest from other people then, but I was a mess. And I didn’t feel beautiful anyway, even when I was more conventionally so to more people.

The phase I’m moving into now is to appreciate myself for how I am. Not to try to beauty-product my way into self-acceptance or try to live up to misogynistic messages in women’s magazines or live vicariously through my children. Life is really too short for that. I have to learn to love myself. Love other people better. Make peace with my mom before it’s too late. Work on accomplishing some of the things that will make me feel like I’ve had a life well lived.

And absolutely none of those things are going to be achieved by listening to society’s shallow messages of femininity.

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