So i’ve been reading a lot of articles on natural beauty. Part and parcel with the whole “Give up meat, use less plastic, be less fake” philosophy that has been growing on me. And it has me thinking… We women put a whole lot of money and effort into being “beautiful”, and even more so when we are trying to be “natural”, if for no other reason than “natural” products and services take more money and effort and to find.
I mean, i know there is a growing movement of women out there who don’t shave, wax, or pluck. I know plenty of women who don’t wear makeup. I know women who don’t care about their pores or their split ends or their scratchy heels. We are born with that hair on our legs, and our eyelids weren’t meant to be gold gilded. But most of us, when we talk about “natural beauty” are talking about doing the same beauty rituals we have always done, only with more earth-friendly products. Definitely better than mass-market beauty, and certainly better than the days of lead-based face powder and carcinogen-laden hair products. But still not really “natural”.
That being said, i can’t see myself going wholly “natural” regardless.
I DO care about the wrinkles over my lip and the lack of color in my cheeks as i get older. I DON’T like when my leg hair grows out and wiry spikes sprout halfway between my eyebrow and temple, like spearmint springing from the ground 3 feet from the rest of the herb garden. I DO like some opalescent sparkle on my face. And for the life of me, i can’t truthfully tell you why.
There is the age-old argument that we do it for men. But i will be honest here, even furless, accentuating my best body features, and spending time on makeup every morning, i still have no need for a social calendar. Dates come as rarely for me as oases spring up in the desert. So either the man theory isn’t true, or it just ain’t working.
Then there is the argument that we are brainwashed by the media. I grew up loving fashion magazines. I still do, tho i get a bit depressed at the lack of older women in them. And i take the photos with a grain of salt. We all know that these images are unrealistic; the models genetically gifted, and photo-shopped within an inch of their lives. I know that i can’t wear a dress to work that contains an actual, living fish. And no one wants to see my ass hanging out of my 3-inch rise dress slacks. But even still, i love the photography, the artistry, and the illusion of grandeur… Even if i will never master the Manolo-esque stiletto.
So maybe i do it because it is ingrained in me. Growing up, all the women in my life de-fuzzed, dyed their hair, and worked hard to look comely. Very few went without makeup, and even fewer let their grey hair or pit hair run wild. So it isn’t like i had a bunch of earthy-crunchy women setting the standard. I have to say, tho, that no one in my family ever barked at me for whatever macquillage i was sporting at any stage. When i took to wearing men’s clothes, or all black, or my combat boots with everything, my family accepted it. When my hair was short, blue, and combed into a perfect DA, my family made no more notice of it than they did when it was long and the black of my youth. Truth be told, my family has been supportive of nearly all of my appearance conventions – The lone exception being my decision, after 40, to let my white hair grow out. That caused all kinds of controversy.
Nothing having to do with me, i think; and everything to do with it making others feel old.
So why, then? Why do i do what i do to alter my appearance? Is it any of those things i mentioned? Is it all of those things i mentioned? I think it is at least partially the latter; and not just for me, but for all women. After all, it’s not like we see the bulk of men worrying about the sparseness of their eyelashes. Or giving themselves bunions and broken sesamoid bones so they can rock a slut shoe. Or paying money to have someone rub acid on their face, in hopes it will make them look 10 years younger. Hell, men score extra points just for wearing the right amount of cologne. So, obviously, there is a gender bias.
But even knowing that, i can’t imagine myself not going to at least some length of primping. I can’t imagine being comfortable in public with a completely unadorned face unless forced. I can’t imagine going to the beach unshaved and not worrying i looked like i was smuggling rabbis under my arms. I can’t imagine going out on a (painfully) rare date and not putting in some effort…
Maybe that’s it. Maybe it’s the act of putting in effort. Not necessarily what i do to make myself look “my best”, but the fact that i am willing to go to lengths. For my (phantom) date. For my coworkers. For myself. Proof that i care enough to do something. I do less now than i did when i was young: I no longer spend an hour on my makeup, and if a shoe isn’t comfortable, i won’t wear it. (Unless it’s for Liam Neeson. I’d wear them for Liam Neeson.) So i guess you can say that the amount of effort is relative. If you are male or female, young or old, city born or country raised, meeting a mere mortal or meeting Liam Neeson; the bar for acceptable effort moves.
I know that we as women should be content with the lot God/Goddess/Universe gave us. He didn’t make me to look like a model for a reason. Maybe because GGU knew that, as depressing as it is thinking no one is looking at you, it is far worse to think everyone is looking at you. Even if i get caught at the market with jacked up hair, the number of people who will find out is only marginally larger than the single digit number of people who will give a damn. If i had the level of objective beauty i pine after, my bad hair day would become the conversation piece for more blogs and websites than my ego could handle.
Thank you, Universe, for not making me a starlet.
So back to my original thoughts… Tho buying cosmetics that are made of beet juice and and free-range, wild-harvested sea grass is better for the environment than the chemical compounds marketed by the taste makers, i’m not sure it’s any better for our psyche. The implied message is still that we need this stuff to be “pretty enough”. And while it may be true that there are very few “natural beauties” in this world, each of us possesses our own “natural beauty”. Yes, we are all beautiful in our own way. Even unshaven and un-powdered and unadulterated. The Universe and the ones who love us see that beauty, and any adornment is unnecessary. Heaven only knows if we will all learn to see ourselves that same way, to love ourselves as we are and do the primping just for fun. (Tho i can’t imagine anyone waxing just for fun. That shit hurts!) And would it still be fun if it wasn’t considered more beautiful? I don’t know.
As for me, i know better than to think i’ll ever get to that point. I get more comfortable with myself with each passing year, but i doubt i will ever be satisfied. I will likely always strive to be more. Because, you know, there’s always that slim chance i could score a date.
I’m still holding out hope for Liam Neeson.