when i was little, my mom insisted on pulling my hair back into 2 long french braids. she liked having my hair neatly off my face and, in her opinion: the tighter to my scalp, the better.
she would retrieve her tiny steely pokey “mom” comb and prop me up on the kitchen stool. i would writhe and wince and whine and she’d frustratingly adjust me by the tails of my braids, all the while scolding me in dutch… “het is een pijn om mooi te zijn.”
it’s a pain to be beautiful.
as a kid, that was just the thing she yelled at me to get me to sit still. neither one of us thought twice about it. but as an adult, it’s just like, woah. i mean, when you really think about that message, it’s such a specific and pointed thing to preach.
i should have swung around and saucily said – let me get this straight. i’m supposed to suffer to be considered pretty? (for the record, i never would have saucily said any such thing to my mom)
but let me tell you, it’s a hard one to shake. (she says while squeezing into skinny SKINNY jeans). nowadays, there’s an expectation to keep up with the kardashians. literally.
i’m totally guilty of wanting to try the next best treatment/product/completelyuntestedexperiment.
“you want to take viles of blood from me and then scrub them back onto my face using tiny vibrating needles so i look young and refreshed? <pause> duh!”
i’m not a high-heel wearing, business-suit sporting, hair-extension toting kinda’ gal. but i have NO judgment for any of the things that anyone does to make themselves feel happy. my list may not jive with your list but let’s face it, it’s all the same shit.
i curl my hair using a 400 degree wand. it comes with a fire-resistant glove. because THAT many women have singed their skin just so their straight hair will be wavy.
my bra has padding that consistently itches by the end of the day, so i’m the girl scratching my boobs as i walk to the car.
every 6 weeks i sit with a lethal concoction of chemicals on my head. ON MY HEAD. mere inches from my eyes, nose and mouth! 3 of the 5 senses! the portals to my very being!
i ask – no, i PAY a woman* to slab hot wax on my most tender parts and rip the hair directly from its follicles. just think about that for a second. it’s kookoo. (*jane’s actually the nicest. it’s not her fault she hurts me.)
those teeny tiny botox needles look harmless. trust me. they’re not. i’ve tried them on for size and they’re evil and jabby and i could feel the liquid being shot into my face under a thin layer of skin. there is NOTHING pleasant about that.
speaking of needles. i would be lying if i said my tattoos weren’t part of my aesthetic. and as much as i love my tattooer*, having her scrape ink-laden needles back and forth across my epidermis is no treat. (*sherlane’s actually the best. it’s not her fault she hurts me.)
i’ve worn nylons that suck my stomach in. i’ve bought dresses that render me immovable. i’ve had fake nails, fake lashes, fake boobs. (not actual fake boobs. but those weird chicken cutlet inserts that sit inside your bra. what on earth even is that.)
lipstick-stained teeth, mascara wand in the eye, more hair colours than i can count, and i’ve let several people punch several holes in my ears, my nose and my bellybutton.
i’ve literally felt the pain.
what’s crazy is, i don’t actually consider the things i do to be a whole lot of work. it’s highly produced, precisely timed, self-appointed ‘maintenance’.
i think it’s safe to say… we become immune.
the truth is, most of it makes me happy. i walk out of the salon/tattoo parlour/waxing joint with a skip in my step. but i suppose i just don’t want to lose myself in the process. and i definitely don’t want to tell my girls that it’s a pain to be beautiful.
so how do we stay true to we. to us. the person under all the stuff.
i suspect it’s the acknowledgment and acceptance that people would think the exact same things about us even if all of that other gunk didn’t exist.
so i guess i’m asking myself who i am underneath it all.
…to be continued…