Sunday, August 24, 2014

The Frumpy Beautiful.

I almost never buy new clothes.

I paint my toenails on the order of every several months (quarterly perhaps?).

I don't [know how to] style my hair.

And usually my wardrobe is some hodge podge of whatever is clean (?) and minimally socially appropriate, generally about 70-80% Goodwill finds.

In short, I am not a stylish woman. Someone the other day said I was so feminine. God bless her heart.

It's so easy to compare though. I don't always feel the pressure to be chic. But sometimes, like right now, it afflicts me. I am the way that I am for several reasons. Largely, I am practical, convenient, don't know how to get curls to stay anyway, and somehow can't swallow spending $50 on a bottle of face serum. (Do you know what serum is? Serum is the stuff that separates when your blood coagulates. Advertising amuses me.) And $50 is my grocery budget. Fifty dollars is someone else's food for a month.

But then I look at the disparity between professionalism and my own closet, or notice the cute hairdo's of my friends and my own stick-straight wet-combed hair, I lament shaving woes, or the two-year-old pair of sandals I'm praying lasts another season. And I just feel a little inadequate. Frumpy. Unfeminine even. As if all of being a woman were contained within smooth legs, cute clothes, and demure eyelashes.

Ugh.

I don't want to villainize looking nice, because I think there is value in presenting yourself well. We convey respect by how we dress. But there is a line somewhere between dressing for joy and dressing for the sake of impressing others. Do I want to do my nails because I like them this way, or because I feel insecure about them otherwise? I think every woman has to find that line for herself.

There is also that nagging sense of what really matters - my hair? Somehow the importance of my skin tone flickers when I read about the terror of ISIS, or think of the beautiful friends I made not three months ago in Africa. When push comes to shove, I would rather be useful and inspirational than beautiful. And I can't let myself forget that, no matter how many times culture inadvertently tells me that my waist size matters more. Something in me cringes, fights, revolts against the idea that my value rests in my ability to play dress up. At the end of the day, I don't want to be respected for how I can make up my face (or show off my body), but for how I have built up my heart. Oh, please don't let me reduce myself to an ornament.

Because it is a choice. Culture puts the pressure on, but we are the ones who can choose to obey it. We are the ones, ultimately, who decide how much of our worth we believe.

Sigh. The last thing I want is to heap shame on all you cuties out there. If anything, I want to say, You are worth so much, and it's not determined by your profile picture. You're beautiful when your face comes alive, when you laugh at something you find hilarious, when you feel free and secure. You're beautiful when you are doing the things you love. You're beautiful when you're honest. And if you're honest and hilarious in a sundress and heels, then awesome. God bless the woman who can change the world in designer skirts, I'm just not one of them. All this pressure to be something outwardly stunning just kills me softly. Maybe it suffocates you too. We could be so effective. We have so much to offer. The world is at our fingertips, and I think in a different way than it is to men. (No debates please, that's a compliment.) The femininity of our soul is powerful. And I  just mourn for a culture that still tries to reduce us to how we look.

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