I Stopped Trying to be Beautiful – and Nobody Died

I have never really been into make-up.

In my whole life I have probably bought a couple of eyeliners and one lipstick. The rest of my meagre kit was either gifted or handed down to me.

To be fair, I started my working life in the Thoroughbred industry. But through administration and reception jobs, even front-line retail, I have never gone beyond foundation, eyeliner and lip gloss.

I used to take it up a notch for ‘going out’. Especially since my first boyfriend would shame me for wearing make-up. He would say ‘I don’t understand why you do that’. That was his way of telling me that he thought what I was doing was stupid or wrong. Wearing make-up was one of those things. Drinking alcohol was another. There were plenty of others. But you can see why, for a while at least, wearing make-up felt liberating to me.

Years later, my lack of everyday make-up use was passed off as laziness. Which is kind of funny, because anyone who knows me can tell you I am the opposite of lazy. But nobody questioned it. When I would talk about how I didn’t shave my legs because I was too lazy, people would laugh. And I thought that perhaps I was lazy.

It took a long time for me to take the leap to consciously deciding not to do the boring, painful, expensive and pointless beauty stuff. To say ‘I don’t shave my legs because why should I?’. To realise that deliberately not doing all the things was a legitimate choice, not a character flaw.

How do I benefit when I shave my legs or armpits? How do I benefit from wearing make-up? How do I benefit from having long hair that takes ages to dry and always gets in my way? The answer is that I don’t.

So why did I ever feel the need to do all those things?

We have it drummed into us, this requirement to be beautiful, or to at least make an effort. It is hammered into us so relentlessly that we find it impossible to separate ourselves from it. We make up reasons for justifying all the pointless tasks, all the expensive products, all the synthetic chemicals. We shame others for not complying. We never ask why we really do it.

I like to wear little shorts and singlets in summer. I like to go braless pretty much all the time when I am at home. I like to paint my nails with sparkly polish. I don’t give a shit what the rules say.

When I was compliant, I always felt guilty for neglecting my personal maintenance. I felt like I had achieved something when I spent a couple of hours waxing, plucking and spray-tanning. But the rest of the time, when I wasn’t perfectly presented, I felt slightly ashamed.

When I decided not to comply any more, that shame went away. I no longer have to worry about being ‘sexy enough’. I don’t have to worry about much, other than my health. I still colour my hair and like to try different styles, but I want quick-drying and easy-upkeep rather than extra body or super shiny. I don’t even fork out for shampoo and conditioner any more.

I don’t see the point of putting expensive chemicals on a perfectly good face. I don’t expect anyone to do it, but I can understand why many women do. But I want you to know that you don’t have to do those things. People will still like you. Shower, wash your hands, brush your teeth, clip your toenails. We all should keep doing those things for the sake of hygiene and sharing space. The rest of it is all window dressing. It doesn’t really add any value.

I can hear the murmurs of ‘but what will my boyfriend/husband think if I pull this caper? He expects me to look like a woman.’. He is presumably aware by now that you are a woman. I don’t think he will forget. If his attraction to you is conditional upon you looking a certain way, then you can either keep doing all the things to please him, you can gradually try different options and hope he gets used to it, or you can tell him that it is your body and you’ll do whatever the hell you like with it. It is trying to avoid disapproval and criticism from men that causes us to do all the things in the first place.

Honestly, it is your choice, now that you know all your options. Maybe you will be content to keep going with the flow. Maybe you can let your hair grow for a bit just to see what you think. Maybe you will find not doing the things to be as freeing as I ultimately have found it. But there is no harm in trying. You can always change your mind later.

It took making little choices, trying different options and sometimes going back to something a few times for me to get to the point where I don’t need to be beautiful. But having got here I can tell you that it is a blissful place. And the longer I am here, the more confident I get. This is a contrast to all the years I spent half-heartedly chasing the beauty standard and finding myself feeling ever more inadequate.

There is a freedom in allowing yourself to look like yourself. You may have noticed that men get around with their hair on and in the faces they wake up with and nobody cares. Nobody looks at them and thinks ‘did he even look in the mirror before he left the house?’. This is one freedom you can take back for yourself.

Imagine if we all did  it…

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