autobiographical

Mother’s Makeup

She would not leave the house without her makeup.

Whether to work or the bank or the 7-11 to buy cigarettes, makeup was not optional. My brother and I would question her and prod her about this, being impatient as children often are. She never really gave a reason why but never wavered in her need to hide herself until the makeup was applied.

She wore frosted pink lipstick, cream blush in a peachy shade, brown or green eye shadow, mascara.  All of this on top of foundation intended to disguise her freckled complexion. There was no shortcut, it all had to be in place.

My grandmother, her mother, was demanding and judgmental about female beauty and thinness. There was no pleasing her. By the time I was old enough to be developing my own self image, I had already inferred from the two of them that everything about us all was inherently wrong and shameful.  Whether it was the thigh that was too thick, the hair that was unruly, the unfashionable or classless choice of clothing, nothing was ever good enough. I never expected to like the way I looked, and I didn’t.

My mother berated herself as a rule. One day I realized her mother’s voice spoke through her even as she spoke to herself and to me. My mother rarely spoke negatively to me of my own appearance, but when she did it was framed in terms such as “grandma would not approve.” I sometimes wondered what my great grandmother must have said to her daughter.

I threw away all my makeup years ago. I will not allow my grandmother will not speak through me.

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rant

Beauty Fatigue

I am tired of beauty.

On one hand, we have the constant barrage of techniques and products for making yourself more beautiful. These include altering your appearance through the use of makeup, hair styling, skin products and procedures, wardrobe choices, body hair removal, and even cosmetic surgery. Some of these seem innocuous. Some women even state they ENJOY their beauty regimen. But some are downright painful. Others are possibly life threatening.

On the other hand, we have a counter movement that is attempting to spread the message that ALL  women are already beautiful! Instead of changing yourself, they say, simply embrace your own unique beauty that you had all along if you would just have the confidence to show it off. At the core of this message is the belief that every woman wants to and deserves to feel beautiful.

I prefer the second message, if those are the only two choices. But the second message is still problematic in that the underlying message continues to be that beauty is EXTREMELY important for women. So much so that in order to be empowered, we must all have it.

Ask yourself this: How would you feel about a campaign to convince men that every man is handsome? It is absurd, right? Because men are expected to go on about their lives whether they are handsome or not. Being handsome is not required.

I do not feel empowered by being told that I am beautiful; I feel suffocated by it. I feel that I cannot go through one day without hearing about beauty and how I must find a way to embrace it in myself. Yet I have come to realize that I simply do not want to.

I don’t find my appearance all that interesting to think about. Certainly I have gone through various stages or insecurity, rebellion and conformity. I have tried to enhance my socially desirable physical traits and minimize those parts that are wrong, wrong wrong according to the ideal. I have told myself in the mirror that I am beautiful but it never felt right.

The truth is that I am not beautiful. I am not hideous. I am an unremarkable looking woman. I make the bare minimum effort to look presentable for my job and would do even less if I could.

For a woman to say “I am not beautiful and I am fine with that,” is the ultimate rebellion in my book. Because when people hear that, they hear “I am unworthy and unlovable.” Because when people hear that a woman does not find herself beautiful they believe it means the woman is depressed and has low self-esteem. Because beauty is so important that nothing else you think about yourself matters unless you are also beautiful.

I am smart. I am hilarious. I am clever. I am creative. I have innate artistic talent. I am caring. I am compassionate. I am successful. I am independent. I am empathetic. I am out-spoken. I am confident. I am loveable. I am a good friend. I’m an all-around pretty fucking awesome person.

I can be all of those things. But if I say I am not beautiful, I have low self-esteem because clearly a woman’s self-worth comes from her feelings about her appearance.

I don’t spend a lot of time looking in the mirror, but when I do I do not negatively judge myself. There I am. That’s me. That’s what I look like. Do I have spinach in my teeth? No? Ok good. I do not berate myself for “flaws” but neither do I swoon over my own image.

And I am in a long term relationship with a man who finds me sexy. I don’t care if anyone else finds me  sexy because I am not trying to have sex with anyone else. Yet I cannot go one day without hearing tips about how I deserve to feel beautiful and sexy at every waking moment and it drives me crazy sometimes.

Women do not exist for the visual pleasure of others. We are unique individuals with hopes, dreams, aspirations, struggles, histories, and all the humanity of any person.

I Am Over It.

What is beauty, really? As an artist, I certainly do find things aesthetically pleasing. I find people aesthetically interesting, even if they are not beautiful. But beauty is a social construct and it has always been changing. What we find most beautiful today in our culture would be considered hideous in another place and time. Some people say beauty comes from the soul, but I think that’s bullshit. There are beautiful people who are vapid and awful inside. And there are ugly people who are saints. If everyone is beautiful, what can beauty possibly mean? What is it then, if it is not an outer appearance? It’s nothing. So can we PLEASE stop talking about it?

I would like to talk about ANYTHING else. Anything. Can we work on empowering women through our accomplishments instead?

Basically I have beauty fatigue. I am so incredibly bored by the idea of female beauty I don’t care to hear about it ever again. It either pits us against one another or we all have it, so let’s just move on to something more meaningful.

Maybe beauty is a complete farce to keep us distracted from things that matter. Instead of worrying about what’s happening in the world or your country or your government or your society, here look, Shiny Things! See how they sparkle! You want to sparkle too, right? Everyone loves to SPARKLE.
I don’t want to be a shiny thing. I want to do things.
I am worthy.
I am good enough.
I am loveable.
I am awesome.

I am not beautiful and I do not need to be.

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rant

Five Photos That Make You Feel Beautiful

This is a thing going around on Facebook right now.  One of those chain post things.  A person is tagged and they are supposed to post “five photos of yourself that make you feel beautiful” and tag 5 friends to do the same.  I’ve been tagged in this thing multiple times now.

I don’t plan to participate and here are some reasons why:

1. I don’t do chain mail.  It’s no different now than it was when it was on paper or via email, it just spreads exponentially faster now that we have social media.

2. I don’t care if I’m beautiful.  Yes, you read that right.  I am a woman who doesn’t find any pleasure or power in thinking about how beautiful I am.  Now you may be thinking that “true beauty comes from within” or some other nonsense but that’s just a load of crap to me.  There are beautiful people who look gorgeous on the outside and are hideous beasts on the inside.  They’re still going to look beautiful in a photo.  You cannot look at a photo and see someone’s “soul”.  Beauty is outward, aesthetic, ever changing, and superficial.  As women, we are taught that nothing we do matters unless we are beautiful while we do it.  I reject that.  You may be thinking “well you must be ugly then, only ugly women say beauty doesn’t matter.”  That’s fine, like I said, I don’t care what random strangers think of my appearance.

3. I spend zero time worrying about whether or not I am beautiful.  To me, looking in the mirror and telling myself how gorgeous I am is just a tiny step above looking in the mirror and thinking about how hideous I am.  Either way, it places a ton of importance on the outside package.  When I see a photo of myself, I don’t think “god I’m hideous” but I don’t think “Oh I am so beautiful!” either.  If a photo had the power to make me feel beautiful or not, I would see that as a problem not something to celebrate.  Vanity is still a vice in my book, despite what our society may be trying to tell us about the virtuousness of being obsessed with your own appearance.

4. “It is amazing how complete the delusion that beauty is goodness” – Tolstoy (one of my favorite quotes).

5. It’s sexist.  Can you imagine a viral chain FB post asking men to post five photos that make them feel handsome?  No.  It wouldn’t happen.  Why?  Because men are allowed to be things other than handsome.  They can be smart and talented and successful without also being handsome.  Their worth isn’t all tied up in whether or not they feel handsome.  They are expected to go on about their life either way.

To me, trying to convince every woman she is beautiful is just more of the same bullshit.  Call me when there’s a viral post to show five photos that make me feel powerful or intelligent or grateful and maybe I’ll think about it.

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