The summer of 2014 was a fascinating one. I found myself leaving a job at a waxing salon in Houston, Texas and moving to the great city of Austin. Going from a culture of perfect eyebrows and Brazilian waxes to a city where gender is irrelevant and anyone can sport a partially shaved head was an amazing experience. How can I explain other than “here there be hipsters”?
At the waxing salon, perceived social norms were perpetuated – pretty girls do their makeup. In particular, the ads we put out made the accepted standard of beauty clear. I went from emulating Marilyn Manson (because seriously, the dude does great makeup) to a girl who woke up early to attempt the ever-popular cat eye makeup.
Halfway through my employment with them, I stopped caring about appearances. It was summer, and I had decided to cut my shoulder length hair off. It was so short that it looked like I’d buzzed it off in the back.
Maybe it was the horrified expression of some (not all) of my coworkers that made me realize that I broke a cardinal rule of what was acceptable based for their particular standards. Though they were all wonderful people, there was a silent code of remaining “on point” and “fierce” in appearance. The way my boyfriend’s mother mourned my locks and his father sat there silent continued to add to my confusion. Was I no longer beautiful? Why did it take such a stupid thing like hair to have people drastically alter their perception of me? I think somewhere in my head, I channeled my high school self: If I was going to hell in a hand basket I would do it right. In protest, I stopped waxing my eyebrows (though, to be honest, I had only done it a few times anyway), I stopped plucking the strays, and worst of all, I refused to continue shaping and nitpicking. It was a personal decision, and a personal declaration of my intent to find myself.
One thing that came of my couldn’t-be-bothered beauty regimen? I found that at my very essence, I think I’m beautiful. Splotchy face or clear face, zits or clean pores, I think I look best when I look real. At my core, I fully reject the socially accepted idea of beauty. It makes no sense to me. The first thing my mother told me in my introduction to makeup was that the purpose was to extenuate your natural beauty: “It should be as if you aren’t wearing makeup at all.” I find this concept of applying makeup until we no longer recognize who is staring back at us to be damaging. I had a friend who made it a habit to wake up before her boyfriend every single day, put on makeup, and sneak back into bed. She would stop somewhere on her way home every day after work and reapply as well. How crazy is that?
After being hired to a full-time professional position here in Austin, I found myself once again attempting to conform: Up early every day to tame my (grown-out) thick and unruly curls, using foundation to smooth any uneven tones in my complexion, putting on mascara and eyeliner, the whole nine yards. I quickly grew sick of it. I have long since accepted that at my job I’m the 20-something who has mastered the “wild but contained” look. It’s my trademark.
I am by no means crying that makeup is terrible for our womanhood! Every blue moon I drag out the eye shadow and eyeliner to get made up for a night out. We all love to have an event to look hot for, and if you feel it, by all means do it!
But think about it, and truly think about it: What concepts of beauty do you consider to be beautiful? What have you learned to accept as beautiful, what have you inherited from family to view as such, and what do you find truly attractive? Heck, as a challenge to myself this summer, I stopped shaving, and much to my surprise, my partner loves it! It’s a fun side effect of my taking the time to truly examine what my values are, and reboot if you will, to rediscover what I find beautiful in myself. My progress thus far? I’m digging the underarm hair, but that’s a story for another day.
Cover image courtesy of Shutterstock.