“It's not my responsibility to be beautiful. I'm not alive for that purpose. My existence is not about how desirable you find me.” ― Warsan Shire
it makes sense that we put a lot of effort into our appearance. looking and feeling good is a gateway to success in many regards. we buy into it pretty easily. what’s the saying, "if you brush your hair 100 times, prince charming will appear"? or it might just be that your hair gets shinier, which I guess is kind of the same thing. but that feels a little misdirected, because we aren’t clearly defining that success or what it means to us.
we should be asking ourselves whether we brush our hair or put on a fresh coat of mascara to impress others, or whether we do it for ourselves. if we find the right answer, at what point does the fiction/fictionalization of making ourselves up become reality, an authentic presentation? maybe it gets darker from here: the lengths we go to for the sake of another's judgment sometimes stretch beyond the limits of a healthy dose of pretend. we are willing to fundamentally change ourselves, physically and otherwise, in order to be better perceived. it might be some manifestation of hair removal, it might be restrictive dieting or excessive exercise, it might be putting on behavioral or verbal affectations and mannerisms. the list goes on. all things that we believe will be better received than our natural selves. we must learn to differentiate between the reasons we do these things. and thinking about the ones that refer directly to our physical appearance may be an easier place to start.
I’m personally very interested in presentation. I care a lot about how I express myself and how I project myself to the world. and that doesn't always come from a healthy place, but i'm trying to figure out my motives. i'm not always sure for whom i'm dressing. when speaking, i hedge until i find exactly the right word. i end a lot of sentences with question marks? and say 'like' a lot, because as a woman i'm not supposed to be confident in my own opinions. and i shouldn't wear a short leather skirt for the fun of it, because i'm not supposed to feel confident in my own skin.
I often fear that, because i care about the way i dress, I come off as self-centered or materialistic, even if this expression is an attempt to make myself feel healthy and collected, fun and sexy, smart or otherwise respectable. and i care about my grades in school. doing well in my classes makes me feel all of those same things. but if I want some serious-ass volume on those lashes, I can’t also want to be an academic. because, naturally, a woman who cares about her appearance can’t care about her intellect. so for whom, or for what purpose, am i trying to reconcile these aspects of myself?
this paradox is rooted in misogyny: the various roles females play in their lives, as professionals and academics, as friends and lovers, as mothers and partners, and beyond, ought to remain discrete. and it's up to us to test those boundaries, without guilt or reservation. we are allowed to want to be taken seriously, and we are allowed to act on that desire. but we should keep in mind why it is we care.
let’s brush our hair for our own sakes, because it’s fun and because it feels so soft and healthy afterwards. let's wear that leather skirt because we look baller in it, not because of someone else's expectations. and let's learn to recognize that. there's nothing wrong in challenging our motives and through that, learning to accept ourselves as more than just objects onto which a one-dimensional role is cast.
pro tip: purple mascara is a little sneaky surprise when you catch the right lighting in the library bathroom mirror. it’s ok to relish in that for yourself.