On any given morning, I should be able to leave the house in less than 30 minutes: 5 minutes to wake up, 5 to brush my teeth and wash my face, 10 more to get dressed and accessorize, and then finally, 10 minutes to gather my things before I’m out the door. But, that isn’t the case.
What’s missing is that I spend 15 – 20 minutes each morning criticizing everything about me. My skin is too dry, my face has too many freckles, my body is morphing into something short of a marshmallow in a pair of jeggings two sizes too small, and I wish I had gone for that nose job when I was 20. This is my morning, every morning because I hate the way I look.
If I were to describe myself, I would say that you should imagine a monkey’s head glued to a barrel with toothpicks for the arms and legs. While people laugh when I say this, it is an honest answer to how I see myself when I look in the mirror. Sometimes, I’d say that I look like a gorilla because my shoulders round down in a oafish way and my arms are too long, my upper body leaning forward from my skinny legs. People reference my breasts constantly in compliments, but to me, they are the things that distract you from the real horrors of my trunk. It hurts to live like this even though anyone who knows me would think I am too confident to be so incredibly insecure.
My 16-year-old daughter recently was talking to me about the idea of not wearing make-up. I thought that she was so brave to consider the idea and that she was pretty enough to do it. I, on the other hand, like to refer to my make-up as “war paint” because it’s how I am able to leave the house without fear that people will mock the texture of my skin or comment about the circles under my eyes or notice that the pore left of my nose is too large. It gives me confidence to face the world and I need it.
Very clearly, I understand that no one thinks this much about me or cares. People don’t love me for my face, they love me because I’m smart, funny, and charismatic. All characteristics I’ve developed to avoid being judged on my appearance. I know I should value the moments when people tell me that they are impressed by my thoughts rather than my hair. But, the truth is that I crave compliments when I hear them and want for more despite what I logically believe is more important.
When little girls are born, we are placed in pink lacy dresses with shoes that tie with satin bows. We may be told that we can do anything, but we are also told to cross our legs, be “a good girl”, and are pinched on our cheeks with the words, “Isn’t she pretty?” I have done this to my own daughters and feel shamed by it. They are “beautiful”, but I hate that when I see them, my first words are always, “You look great!” versus “How was your day?”
This is a consistent behavior in my adult woman friends. We toss comments in the air around shoes, bodies, and faces over and over again. I was talking to a few gal pals recently when one of them told me that she was “hideous”. That’s the word she chose… hideous. I had to sit with that idea for days because I’m not sure if I’ve ever seen anyone that I would consider “hideous” and she was definitely far from it.
My reaction was to tell her that she was crazy, but I quickly reflected on my own thoughts over my appearance and that no matter what anyone told me, I still imagined a monkey-headed-barrel. As a matter of fact, when people dismiss that imagery, I get upset. Sometimes because I actually think they are mocking me (and how fucked up is that?). Instead, I wondered why. Why would this incredibly fiery intelligent pretty woman, a woman who doesn’t even need to wear makeup, think that she was “hideous”? I can’t understand.
Recently a commercial from Dove came out and it’s aimed at being body positive, which I can support. The idea is that women are going about their day, then when entering into a building they have to choose to walk between two doors – one that reads “Average” and one that reads “Beautiful.” Instead of focusing on the idea of body positive, my anger grew.
The best reason, as a friend pointed out, is that these women are going about their day when they are forced to consider their appearance instead of finishing their errand into a bank or wherever they are headed. There was also a moment where a mom grabs her daughter and makes her go through the beautiful door. What does it say when a mom emphasizes the idea of “beautiful” over “average? By stressing beauty, are we saying “average” is bad? And do men have a version of “beautiful” that they aspire to be and if not, why do they get a pass?
Don’t get me wrong. I love the word “beautiful”. If someone refers to me as “beautiful”, I melt like crayon in a hot fire. My focus here isn’t about fighting beautiful as much as it is to understand the power and the dark side to beautiful.