In A Relationship with Beauty: It’s Complicated

I am, I’m sure, and AWESOME girlfriend.  So when my boyfriend observes: “You have a complicated relationship with beauty,” my first instinct is to say, “All women have a complicated relationship with beauty, it’s because of society,” and while I still believe this is true, I must admit, I Have A Complicated Relationship With Beauty.  And what do you do when you have a complicated relationship with someone?  You make them a mixtape of course!:

Track 1.  “You Must Have Been A Beautiful Baby”

Take a stroll through the baby aisles and you’ll see that clothes and toys marketed to boys are very different than ones marketed to girls.  While in the “boy” aisles, form and function rules.  On the feminine side, it’s fashion and frills.  Girls’ toys feature makeup, fashion, and hairstyling toys – perhaps training them for a lifetime of constant beauty upkeep?  I’m sure we’re not far off from seeing the “My First Eyebrow Wax” kit.

Track 2.  “I Know What Boys Like”

I can speak from my own experience growing up that I was warned that I would not be considered “attractive” if I did certain things such as biting my nails.  I remember being 8 years old, warned against chewing my lip (a habit I’ve yet to break) because “Boys won’t want to kiss a girl with lips like that!”  Did it stick?  Oh yeah.  Cue a lifetime of lip-balms, lipsticks, creams, and lip scrubs and I’m still biting my lip, still wondering if it makes me unkissable!  But I learned young that “beauty” means “being attractive to boys”…yeah, right.  

Track 3.  “Hot Child in the City”

Many years later, a hot trend was sweeping my school:  all of my friends were wearing that goopy, snotty eye glitter gel on their eyes.  Oh, you remember glitter eye gel!  It smelled like cake and it made your eyelids sticky?  I had discovered the fun of makeup, and I wanted IN!  …and I was told by an adult I trusted that I looked like a “hussy” and wasn’t allowed to leave the house like that.  I should mention here that this was 1996, and I was eleven years old AND not, in fact, an underage prostitute, which is what this song is about (“hot child”! How did we not know?!).

Track 4.  “Dress You Up (In My Love)”

I spent my 20’s reading fashion magazines, getting bombarded by “What not to wear” and being introduced to the notion of “unflattering” clothing – the idea that your body and your self was a battle you could beat with enough cunning, concealer, and empire waistlines.  Bodies, according to these media outlets, were not to be celebrated.  They were to be camouflaged to fit the One True Standard of Beauty.  The only acceptable Way.  Everyone who doesn’t fit that narrow scope was OUT.

Track 5. (You Are) “Beautiful” (No Matter What They Say)

But then there was hope!  Companies like Dove came out recently, patting you on the back to say “don’t worry, we still think you’re beautiful,” like, what do you mean, on the inside?  And we all lapped it up because we were just so happy to see REAL ACTUAL bodies portrayed in ads, ignoring the condescending tone of “We’ve decided to broaden the standards of beauty to include you ugly broads, buy our products or we’ll take back everything we said about you being pretty!”  Can’t a gal feel good about herself without any strings attached?

Track 6.  “Rip Her To Shreds”

Yes, as a woman, our whole lives hinge around what we look like.  Step one toe out of line, and you’re mocked mercilessly.  Even if you do make it, you must never age.  Take a look at what the media does to aging celebrities.  Or celebrities who have babies and gain weight ugh!!  Or celebrities who step outside without makeup on!  We’re obsessed with tearing apart even our most lauded beauties – more often women than men.  If even the World’s Sexiest Women can be plastered across OK! Magazine as “DISGUSTING! CELLULITE! FLAWS! EW!”  …what hope is there for any of us?

Track 7.  “Rebel Girl” (You Are The Queen of My World!)

So we’re doomed to have an unhealthy relationship with beauty.  What can we do?  How can we repair this relationship?  Our buddy Society is not kind to those who seek to deviate from his narrow definition of “beauty”:  I have seen my favourite fatshion bloggers forced into silence by relentless trolling.  My beloved tattoos are a constant source of contention with my own family: I’m sure they mean well when they say things like “why would you make yourself even more ugly?”  Stuck in the struggle between pleasing myself and pleasing everyone else, there’s a no-win situation here.  Still, I look up to those retro-glam, inked-up, badass goth chicks who own their relationship with beauty and don’t take a lick ‘o crap from anyone!

Did you have similar experiences growing up?  Is your relationship with beauty complicate, too?  Lastly, what good is a mixtape without a playlist?  I ask you!  Courtesy of my shiny new Spotify account:


8 responses to “In A Relationship with Beauty: It’s Complicated”

  1. First off love the Bikini Kill song. I'm going to be singing that all day (yeah).

    I totally agree, Sometimes I feel I'm a failure at basic female grooming as I don't know how to contour my face and constantly refer to BB cream as BB-8 cream!

    1. I think that sucks, that people would make you feel bad for not knowing how to make up your face like they do. My understanding of contouring is that it's like highly advanced 3-D special effects face paint but…my face is already in 3-D. I've started filling in my brows lately and I like that although I definitely had Bette Davis Eye…brows for a while there. like THICK MARKER LINES. I may have gone out this weekend looking like Bert and Ernie did my face. There's a part of me that wants to be like "Yeah I look like Frida Kahlo get used to it" but another part of me worries "OMIGOD is everyone looking at my eyebrows?!?!"

  2. love this!! I think most girls, especially in this day and age now have an unhealthy relationship with beauty. I mean it's always been there but its getting worse… now it's in your face on the regs. More and more young girls are suffering with anxiety, depression and other such mental health issues and is it any wonder??

    ps totes found my glitter gel eyeshadow the other day! probs not a good idea to use it now, it may burn my eyelids off! x

    1. OH MAN that glitter eyeshadow is probably way toxic! What were we THINKING?!? And yet, I'm SO nostalgic for the stuff. The cool wet feel on your eyelids, then you'd have to sit with your eyes closed so it didn't crease…but like it would all crease into a greasy glitter graveyard in an hour!!

      I think there's always been obsession with beauty but the more we've got technology, the harder it is to keep up. In the fifties, you used soap and rollers and only Bad Girls wore lipstick. Now you have to contour, pluck, plump and line EVERYTHING before you take a selfie and THEN you have to put a filter on it.

      It makes me mad how much pressure there is on all this artifice. I love makeup tho, so my asshole kneejerk reaction is to go out with like triangles painted on my eyelids, bright Mondrian shapes and glitter and dance down the streets like "ALL MAKEUP IS FACE PAINT! IF YOU LIKE IT, PUT IT ON YOUR FACE! IF YOU DON'T LIKE IT, DON'T PUT IT ON YOUR FACE! YOU HAVE A CHOICE!" but then I'm an asshole.

  3. "Don't Speak" by No Doubt. Because I'm tired of the societal rules about beauty. 🙂 Great post, by the way!

    1. Thank you!!! Oh man now I wish I had put "Just A Girl" on mine! I love that song so much: "What I've succumbed to is making me numb!"

  4. My relationship with beauty isn't as complicated as it once was. Most days I feel pretty good about my looks, but it took 36 years to get there. I spent most of my teens and 20's thinking I was fat, and worrying about my crooked teeth. I got my teeth fixed and learned to accept my body like it is. And that feels great! 🙂

    1. I spent most of MY teens and 20's thinking I was fat! I wonder if this is a universal thing, that everyone just hates their body quietly until the day they don't…if they're lucky enough. I still blame society for that, BTW

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