“Beauty is pain.”
I’ve heard the saying a thousand times before; it’s often uttered to me before a pair of hell-bent tweezers come at my eyebrows, when I come home to discover my feet bloodied and scraped from a pair of heels, when I squeeze myself into a too-tight dress.
It’s an adage used to justify an entire beauty and fashion industry set on making you “better,” which essentially translates into doing whatever it takes to alter your body from its natural state.
It comes in many shapes and forms — hair removal, plastic surgery, bleaching, dyeing, nipping and tucking — all in an effort to be the prettiest we can be. Most women are guilty of taking part in some way or another. We dye away the gray hairs, wear makeup, pluck, shave, and wax the hair off our bodies and try desperately to lose weight or pump up our boobs. And honestly, most of these procedures are damn painful. Getting your legs waxed, eyebrows plucked, wearing Spanx or suffering through high heels generally hurts like a bitch.
So why do we women (for the most part) do it? Why do we paint our faces and deck ourselves out in clothes we can’t breathe in and shoes we can’t walk in? It’s all a part of some grander scheme to live up to our expectation as the fairer sex. It’s something that, most unfairly, men never have to suffer through to be considered attractive or desirable.
As far as women have come in the last 100 years, our views toward dressing and beautification haven’t moved forward in leaps and bounds. Women are still generally expected to be made up and done up at all times; no lumps, bumps or unsightly hairs should be visible to the general populace. Women still have to live up to certain strict standards of beauty on order to be considered “proper.”
We spend thousands of dollars every year on a spectrum of beauty products that are marketed to us as being absolutely essential to being as beautiful as possible, and it’s hard not to fall into the trap; perfectly airbrushed models with perfectly windblown hair, unblemished skin, long lashes and full lips stare back at me, beckoning me to buy some product that promises to make me as “irresistible” as the woman is on paper. Basically we are being told that how we look naturally isn’t good enough. Advertisements tell us we need to shill out our money to make ourselves more pleasing to others. The problem is that women of all shapes and sizes tend to internalize these sentiments.
As much as I have a problem with the beauty industry and the way it brainwashes consumers though false advertising, I can’t say I don’t buy into it. I refuse to leave my house without my face properly painted and powdered; I’m super insecure about my skin and I’m constantly looking for some miracle cure to make my face soft and un-splotchy. My friends always tell my I’m crazy, and that I’m unnecessarily paranoid about the state of my face, but I don’t hear them. I obsess over making sure my naturally thick, Armenian eyebrows are perfectly shaped and groomed (a process I have despised ever since I was 13). I go through the intense pain of having all the hair on my body ripped off with wax (again, being Armenian and naturally more hirsute makes the pain that much more acute). And for years I’ve dealt with issues of weight because I’ve been told over and over again that being overweight is inherently unattractive, and that I should never be happy with the way I look, until I fit into the physical mold that is deemed acceptable by others around me.
I’m not going to go so far as to say that I think using beauty products is a sign that you’ve been totally brainwashed by the corporations or that it makes you vapid and shallow and self-obsessed; all I can do is suggest we take a less critical look at ourselves in our natural state. If women learn to embrace their bodies without all the hassle of body modification, then won’t we all be a little happier? If we could wake up and see ourselves in the mirror, with all our blemishes and stray hairs, and try to stifle that immediate reflex that forces us to reach for the straightening iron and concealer? It’s not that there’s anything wrong with wanting to look good with the help of makeup or clothes. There are just certain extremes that women are pushed to when it comes to looking their best that I think can be dangerous; plastic surgery and other more permanent forms of body modification are lengths that no one should feel so pressured to suffer through.
I say, if beauty is pain, then we’re doing something wrong. Beauty is not forcing yourself to change your body for someone else — it’s about looking at yourself and learning to like what you see. But hey, if putting on some eyeliner or foundation makes you feel good, then there’s nothing wrong with that either.