I wanted to write about some of my deep thoughts on make-up and simply don’t have the brain power for it today. It’s all convoluted and involves all kinds of connected topics such as trans*women, the covering up of “blemishes” or scars, and my own experience with a changing face.
Aw, hell, let’s try for it anyway. Okay, here we go.
Basically, I wanted to talk about what’s real and what’s “not real” and ask us all to ponder some questions about that distinction. Let’s talk about me and my rosacea for a moment. A few months back, I realized that when I manage to successfully cover the redness up with make-up, I felt better about going out in public. I felt less ashamed to be seen and more secure. When I got stared at, I thought to myself, “Today they’re looking at me because they think I’m attractive, not because I look like a splotchy-faced clown.”
However, I also found myself dismissing these stares and any compliments on my appearance because I didn’t feel like it was “real”. I found myself thinking things like, “If they only knew how bad my skin really looks under this make-up, they wouldn’t be saying that.” So, that led me to wonder how make-up does or does not play into a trans*woman’s experience of feeling “real”. And what does it mean to women in general if they’re taught to feel most attractive by applying something foreign to the base version of the “real” them?
BUT those thoughts are a month or so old now and while they still apply, another experience has interceded and changed the flavor of them. In the last month, I’ve decided/realized a few important things:
a) due to her genes, my daughter is likely to have pretty severe acne in her teenage years. Her father had it and, physically, she is his mini-me. I realized that would be hard on her at that vulnerable time in her life, and in a massive, huge, wow-life-changing epiphany, I realized I didn’t want to model for her an obsession with my own skin. I didn’t want her to see me fretting about how it looked, or feeling ashamed of it, or complaining that I felt unattractive. Which, I’m ashamed to admit, she definitely has overheard many times in the past. I wanted to start modeling a behavior for her that makes it known that what her face looks like is so much less important than WHO SHE IS. So, I’ve stopped talking about my face. Ever.
b) I decided on a whim to not shave my legs again until the hair has entirely grown out. I realized that I’ll be forty this year and I’ve never really seen my body as it naturally looks because I’ve spent my entire life, since I was nine years old and started puberty early, shaving and making it out like my body is something that needs fixed.
When my eight year old started asking when she could shave and I found myself struggling to explain why she couldn’t yet and what exactly “you don’t need to” means (because who NEEDS to? we aren’t going to die if we don’t shave) I chose to do this “no more shaving” experiment. I’ll cop to the fact that I am still shaving my armpits because I don’t like how hair feels under there. I let it grow pretty long but it was bugging me, so I shaved it. My leg hair is not bugging me, though, so I’m going to keep letting it grow.
I might shave again when I’m done and I might not. It all depends on how I feel at that time and if it’s something that I want to do. I admit I’ll probably want to shave for bathing suit season. The social issues alone are something I’m not sure I want to deal with, but I’ll need to give that some thought, too.
c) By choosing to not talk about my face, or allow myself to even act like the rosacea is bothering me, and by choosing to let my body be natural in terms of the hair on my legs, I’ve discovered that I am much more interested in who I AM than in what I look like. And that realization has made me see how many years and how many hours I’ve lost being distracted with concerns about what I look like. I can’t fathom that men lose even a quarter as much time on that same question. The requirements for men are so much less time consuming and don’t boil down to these tiny nuances like the shape of their eyebrows or if their pubes are properly trimmed. When my husband wants to go swimming, he puts on a bathing suit and goes. When I want to go swimming, I have to tame a forest first. It’s exhausting and, frankly, makes me say no to swimming a lot more often than it makes me say yes.
Since I’ve stopped focusing on my rosacea and stopped shaving, my husband’s sexual interest in me doesn’t seem to have waned and may have even grown. Not because he gets off on hairy legs (which would be fine, but he doesn’t), but because I think I’m a lot less anxious and a lot more willing to just let it all go in the moment, which is, of course, a lot more fun all around. No more, “Sorry, I didn’t shave….” comments. Or turn-off conversations consisting of, “Why is my face so bad? I didn’t eat any corn. It’s so ugly.” Instead, it’s just me being me and me not apologizing for stupid shit like hairy legs.
So, yeah, so far it’s all been a big success and while I can’t say that I feel awesome about how I LOOK, what I can say is that I think about how I look a lot less, and that’s AWESOME.
If I have the inner strength not to shave and wear what I want…I have the strength and mental fortitude to do anything – L Kaur