“My journey began in a 1969 Impala,” said Adrienne Gold, speaking in Jerusalem about claiming our dignity as females. This car was the setting where Adrienne’s childhood took a sharp detour that affected her image of herself for years. As the mother of two daughters, her story made me think hard about the role model I should be, and what beauty actually means.
A friend of her mother’s, who hadn’t seen her in years, mistook Adrienne for her brother while they were in a parking lot. “At that moment I internalized the vision of myself as masculine, not pretty,” she explained.
With wit and poignancy, Adrienne recalled how she kept her embarrassment to herself, and, after examining herself in a mirror, decided she looked like a boy which meant no boy would ever like her, which meant she’d never have a husband or children, and she’d “die at a hundred with a hundred cats.” She stole her sister’s makeup, wore low-cut, revealing clothes, and got body piercings because she wanted people to “stare at my clothes, not me. I was not interested in anything else but aesthetics.”
Eventually, Adrienne built a career as a fashion stylist, got married, and had children, but never dealt with her feelings from that day in the Impala. Until she worked on a job styling twin 12 year-old boys, and a model as their mother. The model was 19 years old. Adrienne tried to add a few lines to the model’s face, to age her a little, since there was no possible way a woman that young could be the mother of 12 year-olds, but the company she worked for erased all the signs of adulthood from the model.
“I thought this was mean to actual mothers,” Adrienne said, “that they’d be upset they didn’t look like the model.” With social media and the proliferation of advertising today, “you have internalized more images, in one day, of women, than your grandmother did in her whole life.”
Adrienne is right. There are so many times I see magazine ads of perfect women who make me feel inferior. And my daughters have had to grow up with constant images of fake, exterior beauty.
I thought about Adrienne’s story at the top of the AIG building, where I watched the sun set over Temple Mount and the Western Wall, the remnant of the Holy Temple. Then, when I stood in front of the Western Wall, beside Orthodox Jewish girls with their mothers, I saw a pure and simple beauty that moved me. I saw their faces, framed by scarves that covered their hair. I didn’t notice their clothing, or their body types, or their shoes. I saw their faces, and they were beautiful.