Sunday, March 24, 2013

Girl Against Beauty

I just realized that I haven't posted anything creative yet this week and I recently wrote a creative-nonfiction essay that I like, so ... Here it is.

I do not remember the last time someone called me beautiful. Looking in the mirror, I see none of the beauty that grants my peers. I have neither alabaster skin nor silky hair, nor stunning eyes or perfect lips. I have zits, and I make no efforts to hide them. My nose is reddened by years of slightly too little sunscreen. My eyes are rimmed with purple glasses. How can I possibly compare?

I don't wear make-up. Why would I wake up an hour earlier just to beautify myself? The money and time I save on not being concerned with my appearance is more valuable to me than mascara, lip gloss, blush and foundation combined. In several years, I'd rather be concerned about my character freshman year than if I hid my zits with enough concealer every day. I have no qualms about wearing makeup for yourself, but when you wear it to garner others' approval, it becomes a problem. Especially today, beauty comes at a cost. In our society, we've been taught that we only have value if we act a certain way, look a certain way. How many teen and preteen girls spend hundreds of dollars on makeup just to fit in?

A few weeks ago, I went to Sephora with my mom. Its lustrous products and ideals of glamour had always entranced me; as a young girl, why wouldn't they? When my mom finished buying her beauty products, she asked the cashier, "Do you have to wear makeup?" She, looking surprised, replied, "Well, not technically, but if we don't, it's a big no-no." She was a pretty woman, striking enough. She stated having to wear makeup as a simple fact that she didn't particularly like but had grown accustomed to. As I walked out of the mall, the event stayed with me. As a young woman, to be resigned to wearing makeup just to have a certain job is too much of a sacrifice.

Of course, makeup isn't the only beauty ritual girls go through; their hair matters disproportionately as well. My hair, naturally, is a mess. I inherited a mass of thick, wavy, curly hair from my mother. It rarely stays still, and picture day is awful, every single year. Whether it's a weave, straightening their hair, dying it, or curling it, most girls my age don't keep their hair natural. Sometimes I'm envious of the girls whose hair always looks like they're in a Pantene commercial. Do I really want to spend the time on using a hair-straightener just so I can look the same as everyone else? Sometimes my mane may look disheveled, but if I really care about the way my hair looks, I think I should change my priorities. In time, my views may change, but for now, they're constant.

I only shave about once a week. By the end of the week, stubble starts to creep up. Two weeks ago, I was sitting in gym. One of my classmates looked down at her legs, and said, "I've got to shave!" It had only been two or three days since she last used her razor, but in her mind, this was crucial. Obviously, we are nothing if there's a slight shadow of hair on our legs. Aren't we supposed to be mindless beauty objects, after all? Sometimes, I too look down at my legs with a pang. Oh, I'd better shave. Then I catch myself. It's been drilled into our heads that we can't have any body hair whatsoever, but at the end of the day, it doesn't matter. If someone judges me on the amount of leg hair that I have, that's their problem.

We've been taught that beauty is manufactured. It comes with attaining certain things: the perfect look, the perfect style, the perfect body. In reality, it doesn't matter how ugly and unshaven my legs are. It doesn't affect my athletic ability, my intelligence, or writing abilities. Whatever messages the media sends, not wearing makeup, or  doesn't make me some hag who's destined to live alone and kidnap children. I'm often stricken with self-doubts, just as every other teenage girl is. Sometimes I look in the mirror and wish that I cared enough to conform to unspoken peer-pressure to look good. But I'm different, and false beauty is not my priority. No matter how others may see me, I refuse to strive for perfection at a cost to myself.


  1. Thank you. As a guy, I'm sometimes completely exasperated by this seemingly constant need for girls to look perfect. And guys too, of course, but it somehow seems to matter less if a guy doesn't look awesome.
    Sure, I admit I might look more at people whom I consider to look good, but once I get to know them it doesn't really matter how long they spend in front of the mirror (well, it kinda does: if it's too long, that's a deterrent); if their personality isn't compatible with mine, I tend not to like them. If it is, it doesn't matter one iota what they look like, because to me they're beautiful the way they are. Not sure I explain it in a good way, though ^^;

    I had a friend several years ago whose girlfriend wore such heavy makeup/foundation that it had started to actually crack all over her face. It made her look at least fifteen years older (and at ~17, that's quite a bit of a difference), but somehow she was convinced that if she didn't cover herself in makeup like that, she wasn't beautiful. I would have said she'd have been far more beautiful without any makeup at all.

    It's one thing if you (collectively) want to put on makeup for special occasions, but when it goes from that to, "If I don't put makeup on, I can't be seen in public!" that's when it becomes a problem.

    My opinion is about the same on shaving legs too. Stubble can chafe if you want to snuggle, but that doesn't mean I want my snuggle buddy (whether a friend or a girlfriend) to run off and shave. I'd much more prefer if she left her legs as they were. Again, special occasions are a different matter. Fishnet tights, for example, rarely look good on anyone -- guy or gal -- without shaved legs.

    Then again, it's not really MY choice what my friends or even girlfriends do to keep up with some sort of female ideal. As long as I have something in common with them and not too many things at odds, I enjoy being around them anyway.

    I applaud you for not falling to peer pressure. If you meet a guy who's only interested in how you look and not who you actually are, how interested would you really be in him?

    1. Yeah, I mean, I'm fine with makeup for special occasions, but I don't want it to be this big thing that I seriously worry about. It is weird how guys can look however they want, basically, but when a girl forgets her eyeliner, she flips out. I agree: I'd much rather have a guy for my personality than my looks, and of course, if he hasa good personality and is actually a good person, then I'd go out with him, not because he looks awesome. I'm not the kind who goes crazy over shallow guys just 'cause they're "hot." Looks are initially a factor, I agree, but they're going to fade eventually, and for the most part, you only stay with someone if they have other redeeming characteristics.

  2. This is a really great post, Katia.

    I agree with everything you said. Sometimes when I'm wearing makeup I feel like I'm lying, even though I barely take time to put any on at all. eyelashes are blond and so when I have black mascara on, it really brings out my eyes. But I don't /really/ look like that.
    I don't want to be repulsive to the point that people avoid me, but I don't want to deceive them into thinking I'm something that I'm not.

    It's a weird, twisted funk of society. :P

    1. I know what you mean. My aunt, ironically, worked at Sephora for years, so we'd always have all of this beauty stuff lying around, perfumes and makeup and all of that. But then last year, just when everyone else was getting into the whole makeup thing, I just realized that I didn't want to.
      As for me, I try to be repulsive, but maybe that's just not your style? (shrugs) Weird.
      I guess it's about balance and moderation, really. I don't like makeup because of how it limits peoples' acceptance and for the pressure that it puts on me/us, but if you wear makeup to feel moe comfortable (although of course, that's still succumbing to the twisted ideals of beauty, and you can guess how I feel about that), that's fine. I just hate how beauty-oriented society is, to the point that you might wear makeup just to fit in, and even more so you could stand out. It's a personal choice, I guess.


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