Conventionality vs. Reality
Where is the line between pretty and real?
April 29, 2017
Filed under Opinion
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I’d probably be the last to say I’m a feminist. I don’t care for the extremist associations with that term.
At the same time, I’m the last to say that women should have to follow the rules of womanhood, whatever that means.
Girls are people. I don’t know if anyone’s noticed that, but we are. We’re capable of becoming the greatest and the worst of humanity, just like men. That’s the message of feminists everywhere, with an emphasis on the “greatest,” not so much the “worst.” I think we’ve all heard that message before, though.
Here’s what I don’t understand: If we’re humans, just like all the male humans, why are we expected to be pretty? Conventional beauty something broadcast though the TV, envied on the internet, and replicated by girls everywhere, whether in public or in the privacy of our own homes.
When I think of conventional beauty, I think of the Golden Ratio (facial symmetry and an hourglass figure), stylish clothes (from whatever new overpriced boutique just opened in town), perfect hair (who has time for that?) and makeup. Lots of makeup. (Also, who has time for that?)
I also think, hey, that’s not me–especially the makeup.
There are days when I want to be a conventional girl, but then I remember other girls are doing that. I can’t do what those other people are doing.
I haven’t worn makeup, except for special occasions, in two years. I have mixed feelings about makeup. On one hand, it’s an art form used to enhance and beautify the features, and I love that aspect of it. On the other hand, it’s a lie. I don’t have defined cheekbones like my contour would have you believe, my lips aren’t naturally a shade of the sunset, and my eyelashes are very average.
There’s nothing wrong with looking nice and showing your face some love, but I’d rather let mine be naked. In high school, I was intimidated (and slightly repulsed) by the girls who perfected their looks each morning. Part of me was jealous of their skills, sure, but another part of me was sad that, for whatever reason, they couldn’t go a single day without makeup. It was like they depended on it, like it was a vital part of who they were.
I think that attitude only built on their own insecurity (or obligation to conventional beauty as a woman) and the insecurity of others. In their own heads, I imagine these girls felt that they couldn’t go out without makeup, because girls are supposed to wear makeup and look good. Besides, the comments people would (usually innocently) make to girls who had an off day without makeup were downright harmful.
“What’s different about you?”
“Hey, are you alright? You look sick.”
“Have you been crying?”
And, to the anyone with insecurities who looked at their “perfect” faces, it was a reminder of their own imperfections.
“Why can’t I be as pretty as <cakeface>?”
“How does she look so perfect all the time?”
Growing up, my troubled skin was a major insecurity for me. When the popular girls in my grade all either had perfect skin or looked like they had perfect skin, it made me feel even more alienated from that crowd. I didn’t want to talk to or befriend the girls in my class, because I felt that I was so different from them. I felt like less of a girl around them.
They put so much emphasis on their beauty, while I was just trying to get by with okay grades and my one friend.
My perceived reality was that I was Captain Acneface and all these other girls looked great. But, that wasn’t truly reality. Their faces were art, sure, but they weren’t real.
One of my favorite things about college is that the makeup dependency seems less common. There’s a “come as you are” attitude on campus that’s refreshing compared to the daily “impress everyone” routine in high school.
I find comfort in seeing normal girls looking normal. It’s real, and I think that’s beautiful. I’m a sucker for reality, for natural things. I can look at those makeup-free faces and say, yep, that’s me. Shoot, most of the time I don’t even notice other people’s acne. There’s no reason to cover up the masterpiece that is your naked face. That’s a lesson I’ve had to learn.
I’m not nearly as insecure as I used to be about my face. One of my favorite pastimes is Snapchatting zit pics to my best friend, and I’ll proudly wear a pimple popper to class if it’s not quite done doing its work. Being comfortable with my face is liberating. I thought about wearing makeup again since I’d learned the lesson of self-love, but I still don’t feel like myself when I’m cake-faced. Even a touch of eyeliner or a light powder makes me feel like I’m not quite in my own skin.
Of my two perceptions of makeup, art and a lie, I feel more strongly that it’s a lie.
I don’t want anyone to think I’m beautiful unless they’re thinking about me, the me under the makeup. I choose to be myself, with my oversized pores, my perpetual under-the-skin chin zit, and the oil swamp that my forehead becomes after 1 p.m. That’s me, a real woman, and I want everyone else to see it.
No, it’s not conventional. You’ll never see a chin zit like mine on reality TV and you’ll never pin “forehead oil swamp” on Pinterest. But, it’s real. Those are the things I laugh off and clean up every day.
I can’t be a conventional woman. There’s no fun in that.