I don’t know exactly when or how I stopped being insecure about how I look. It’s not that I learned to love my body and see all its flaws as beautiful. They’re not beautiful, they’re just human. It’s not that #loveyourbody movements on social media rewrote the negative messages I’d internalised since childhood. I didn’t undergo a weight-loss transformation or find the perfect hairstyle for my face shape or positivity my way out of insecurity with affirmations scrawled on the mirror in red lipstick.
I just got bored.
I don’t tell myself I’m a glorious goddess, I just go about my day. Being beautiful is irrelevant.
Insecurity robbed me of thousands of hours from my life; and thousands of dollars I didn’t really have and never intended to spend in such a way. I’ve never had salon treatments or designer clothes or even a manicure. I considered myself “low maintenance” yet I still spent. I was still preoccupied. It just happened, bit by unnecessary bit. Razor blades with conditioned cushions. Volumising mascara on curved wands. Multiple shades of lipstick to coordinate with outfits that never quite worked on me the way they worked on others, leaving them bundled in plastic bags by the door destined for the Sallies, back when we still used plastic bags. High heeled shoes that hurt my feet. (What the heck is with high heels? Walking in stilettos should be a recognised sport with relevant safety guidelines, and awards for those who can do it.) I’d get my eyebrows shaped by a calm woman in a shop on Cuba Mall whose chubby baby would sleep in a corner amongst pottles of wax and serums, until he got bigger and less quiet and went elsewhere, because having hair ripped from your body should be a peaceful, relaxing experience, uninterrupted by children. Most things should be uninterrupted by children, especially manly things like women’s beauty.
If you have medical needs, or a particular interest in nutrition, fitness, makeup, fashion, etc., then for sure they are appropriate conversation topics and expenses for you. But for the rest of us? Let’s just eat the pizza without apologising for it. Let’s dance in our living rooms or curl up and watch Netflix or run a marathon or just cuddle more without defining one as good and another as bad. Let’s go out to lunch together and order what we want without berating ourselves for the wanting or the consuming. Because we have stories to tell and laughter to share and the hiding and the apologising takes up precious time. We are so much bigger on the inside than we ever could be on the outside.
It’s not that I’ve “let myself go” after years of marriage. I’m single, so I ought to put more effort into my appearance, right? Except it’s still fucking boring. I’d rather men don’t compliment my looks when we’re on a date. It’s odd. Am I supposed to have a conversation about my face? My parents had more to do with making my face than I did, and I certainly don’t want to talk about that.
Telling me I have a “hot bod” sounds like something out of Girlfriend magazine which was bad reading even when I was a 13 year-old girl. It’s a sure-fire conversation stopper. There we are, chatting away, and suddenly, the non sequitur: “you’re so pretty,” or – cringe – “you’re cute.” And I say “thanks,” because what else am I supposed to say? Thanks, I showered and brushed my hair. Thanks, I put on pants and left the house and here we are and I’m not taking them off by the way. Thanks, did you see the pineapple on the way in? Returning the compliment feels forced, so I don’t, and we both scramble for a question to start the conversation up again.
Look – if we’re on a date and you’re not holding your nose or flicking your eyeballs to the edges of the room as you slowly inch away from me, muttering at your watch, I’m going to assume you think I’m attractive enough.
Thinking about the ways in which I fall short of society’s beauty standards is fucking boring. Trying to fit into those beauty standards is time-consuming, expensive, and fucking boring. I have better things to do, y’know? We all do. I’m not even talking about revolutions. Sure, low self-esteem and disproportionate investment of time and money into physical beauty is an oppressive patriarchal tool to keep women from fully participating in the economic, political, and social realms. But I’m not talking about that. I’m talking about the ordinary, everyday things that are still more important than worrying about how we ought to look.
I’m talking about scrolling through Instagram. I’m talking about binge-watching Stranger Things. I’m talking about eating the cheese, meandering through the park, sleeping a bit longer, lingering at the farmers’ market YES TO AVOCADOS NO TO SHAME, finally reading Last Night in Montreal because Station Eleven was so damn good, knitting a milo vest for your best friend’s new baby, building a fence, swimming in the ocean, subversively cross-stitching swearwords, making a cup of tea, and then another, and holding the cup with both your hands because all you’re doing right now is sipping that tea and staring into the distance. None of those things require us to be beautiful to enjoy them. The omnipresent and insidious preoccupation with grooming and attempts to control our bodies according to the zeitgeist takes time away from all the ordinary and extraordinary things we could be doing.
Let’s talk about more interesting things, like anything else. Let’s just go about our days. Let’s do things that are so real we forget what we look like or why it once mattered.