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: