What Does Sexy Mean to You?

judgingHow do we define sexy? This month The Three Tomatoes is hosting an event that will challenge us to think about the question, “Does Sexy Have an Expiration Date?” The Tomatoes’ answer is a resounding no. Sadly, I don’t think that is always the answer in today’s society. I feel so strongly about this topic that I decided to be a sponsor of the event and then it felt impossible not to write about it for this month’s column.

It seems there is a great deal of negative criticism surrounding what a woman has to offer personally and professionally as she gets older, not to mention what she should wear and how she should look. Who is judging her? The media, men, other women. That last one really gets me. I hear women passing judgment on other women all the time. I have come across articles that have criticized a sixty-year-old woman in a lingerie ad, Tina Turner for wearing a skirt too short for a seventy-four year-old, and Raquel Welch for being too old to wear her clothing as tight as she does. And they were written by women. What happened to supporting other women in their choices? Where did we get the idea that a woman shouldn’t be wearing a bikini at sixty even if it makes her feel good? When did that image become cringe-worthy or something that made other women feel badly about themselves or their own choices? It’s hard to think about how all of this came to pass. We somehow have this ideal image of how we think we should or shouldn’t look, we judge other women for not fitting the mold or for fitting it too well. I think far too often we women can get caught in the trap of being so focused on what an amorphous “they” thinks of us that we haven’t stopped to think about how we feel. What makes us feel good? What makes us feel sexy? If wearing a bikini at sixty feels good then do it, if wearing one-piece feels better than do that. Who is dictating what is beautiful or sexy and why aren’t we deciding that for ourselves? Further, why do we think there’s just one answer to that question?

So how do we go about exploring our views on this subject when our reactions can sometimes seem so ingrained and automatic that we may not even realize that we are participating in our own marginalization? Think about that for a minute, there is a very real chance that we are contributing to and perpetuating this cycle of judging and devaluing one another. Horrifying isn’t it? So in terms of what we can do, pause, notice, and question. Maybe we begin to ask ourselves where we get our ideas about what we deem beautiful, what sexy means, or what we should or shouldn’t be wearing at a certain age. Perhaps we pause to consider where the feelings are coming from within us if we judge another woman. And ask ourselves what it is that has really pushed our buttons and why?

It makes me sad that in our society, human beings in general and women in particular aren’t valued more as they get older. Here’s a thought for you. What if sexy isn’t looking a certain way, a hairdo, a piece of clothing, or the way you wear your makeup. What if there’s more to it than that and all the other stuff is just a bonus? What if it’s about what’s inside. When you admire a woman, when you look at her and it’s hard to look away, think about what makes that so. I bet you it’s not purely aesthetic. It’s something that is radiating from within. Something that conveys to you that she is comfortable in her own skin. I invite you to give some thought to your definition of sexy and how you feel about yourself as you get older. Where did your definitions come from? What things make you feel good? Notice if you happen to have a judgmental thought about another woman. Where is that coming from? As with all things, the first step is awareness.

The second step is to stop feeding into it. To stop participating in those conversations. And then when you’re feeling a bit more aware, maybe you try to spread the word. Be the woman who finds what I like to call the “teachable moment.” You know the moment when you hear a woman being critical of another and you try to kindly point out why that might not be helpful. And fair warning, this may result in you getting invited to less parties, but I believe that the more we women begin to feel comfortable in our own skin, appreciate all we have to offer, and support one another, we will be unstoppable. Imagine that world for a moment.

I hope this made you think a bit and I hope you’ll come and celebrate your beauty, joy, wisdom, and your own unique sexiness with your fellow tomatoes at Does Sexy Have an Expiration Date  on the 13th.

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