Kristen, on beauty in the age of social media:

There is an interesting dichotomy happening right now. At the same time that we are embracing acceptance and body positivity in our culture, there is also a strange, simultaneous rise in social media and the immense pressure to look perfect in every way– flawless skin, fake eyelashes, filtered photos. There is this simultaneous rise in body positivity and acceptance in the culture, at least to some degree. But obviously, it's hand in hand with social media and filtering everything and you know, taking 300 selfies and only posting the one perfect one. I just think it's odd that those two things are on the rise at the same time.

I don't know how I would feel about that if I were a younger person. I don't know how I would, you know, square that circle, how I would make sense of those two things. As a woman over 40, none of it is really directed at me anyway. I'm not really sure how much I'm supposed to feel positive about my body. I don't think that female bodies over 40 are really thought about at all.

How does that make you feel?

It's a mixed bag. On the one hand, I am not a woman who is watching her beauty fade and losing something as a result of that. I was never a beautiful person, so I never put a lot of stock in that for myself. I can see how really, really beautiful, really pretty woman have that experience where it would be shocking and striking to see how differently they're treated later in life. I never was considered pretty so, in some regard, I almost feel like, "How much has really changed?"

I mean, of course, as a young person, I still felt the pressure to be skinny and dress a certain way, and wear makeup. I was still striving and trying to look a certain way even if I thought, or knew, I could never reach a certain aesthetic ideal.

I could see how there were some strange, unforeseen side benefits of this understanding that I was not attractive. I worked really hard in school because I knew I was smart, you know, and I knew I was good at school. 

Kristen, on how our ideals are constructed: 

I do have a mother, who is a very loving mother, but is also someone who has always presented as the martyr, you know, like, puts herself last? Because the house has to be perfect, everyone else has to be happy first, dinner has to be perfect. So certainly, my female ideal was that kind of perfection– not just beauty, not just physical, all of it.

As a woman, that's your job: to try to achieve that level of perfection. You'll never reach it, but always make the attempt. And don't make it known that you're striving. 

We're also supposed to not look like we're trying on top of everything else. We're supposed to make the effort to appear effortless.

When do you feel most beautiful?

I feel most beautiful when my four-year-old son puts his hands on either side of my face, he takes my face in his hands, and he looks me in the eyes. And he goes, “I love your face. I love your beautiful face.” He doesn't care what shirt I'm wearing, or how big my belly is today, or how my hair looks. All of that just falls away for a while.

What's the most beautiful thing about you?

I'm going with my brain: I'm smart. And my eyes, if I'm going to be superficial, And, I have good legs.


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