9 Feb

When searching for an image to attend a poem I wrote for another site entitled “The Mechanics of Being a Girl,” I typed in “beauty” as my search query. This image was the very first result.


And I thought, for today’s society, how apt.

The image provided of “beauty” is of something constructed – pulled, plucked, brushed, painted. Beauty is an external to be mâchéd onto the human body, not something intrinsic to be gently coaxed out. The goal is to get the girl’s body to conform to a set of standards, not to showcase the shape and form present naturally. Even the girl’s body itself is a product, wrapped in plastic wrap, packaged like a baked good.

Is this what we have decided beauty is in our Western, “modern” society? Something artificial, encased in plastic and fresh from the factory? I am no stranger to this paradigm – I straighten my curls for the sake of “looking better” (a.k.a. more controlled), I apply all sorts of powders and mouses and glosses to my face with the thinly saving grace of holding that it’s mere fun to use my face as a canvas, a statement that’s true but doesn’t fully own up to the fact that I also don’t think my face is “pretty enough” or even just acceptable enough as-is. If I’m honest with myself, I do constantly compare myself to a preconceived notion of what I “should” look like, every time I look in the mirror. Or get dressed. Or pass by my reflection in the window.

If I’m truly honest, it’s more than a preoccupation – it’s an obsession. I am my own judge and jury, day in and day out, passing rule – usually unfavorably – on the thing that carries me through life. I forget to appreciate the living mass of physical existence that I live in and instead view it as one more rough edge to be buffed into shape by life’s nail files.

I am compassionate towards others. I am compassionate towards animals. Hell, I’m compassionate towards a tree. And yet I am the cruelest I ever get toward my body. I channel my self-hatred towards the corporeal embodiment of myself. Yes, I know that much of this is the result of my own psychological shortcomings, but I refuse to assign the blame completely to nature. Nurture does not come off clean.

I am certain that there is a surprising amount of culpability in something as seemingly simple as a tube of lipstick.

Forget skeletons in the closet. What about the skeletons in your makeup bag?


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