I came across a post lauding a woman for posting a photo of herself without makeup. Some people called her brave for allowing the world to see her “naked.” Not long ago, I saw an article making a big deal over the fact that the Duchess of Cambridge dared to appear in public sporting grey roots in her hair.
These articles struck me as odd. (And yeah, it made me feel bad for women.)
Are we at the point where allowing yourself to be seen as you really are is a form of bravery?
Now, I understand the powerful social expectation of wearing a cosmetic mask — after all, this is what most of the culture does and we’re led to believe that aging is a hybrid of sin and sloth.
Certainly I’ve worn some masks myself. Years ago, I chose to hide myself under a hairpiece for a couple years and if you look in my medicine cabinet, you’ll find and old box of Just For Men to mute the white in my beard.
Certainly there’s nothing wrong with whatever you wish to do with your body and your appearance. Completely up to you. If it feels good, do it. Just make sure it FEELS GOOD, though, okay?
While I see women talking about “body acceptance” more and more, it seems like hair straightening, dye-jobs, and lots of makeup don’t merit much attention. It’s just what everyone does, right? Just a burden to carry in the name of attractiveness…
A couple points come to mind.
First, I can make a distinction between doing something to enhance some aspect of your appearance versus hiding something. When I did the hairpiece thing, I was most definitely hiding who I was becoming. Wearing someone else’s hair on my head was me digging my heels in against the tide. In my mind, going bald, especially in my early 20’s, was NOT okay. Not by a long shot. So, I took action, dammit! I fought the only way I could see… And in the two years I wore the piece, I never felt comfortable. I never felt free. Not for a moment. Too busy hiding. Too consumed with maintaining a facade.
When you don’t feel free, you’re not really attractive to YOURSELF. To my way of thinking, when you’re not attractive to yourself, you’re not as attractive to the world.
The tricky part is that for many people, the maintenance becomes such a habit, it’s hard to notice the weight of the burden you’ve been carrying until you drop it. (Few moments have felt as weightless as when I exited the bathroom with a smooth skull.)
The second point would be to ask yourself the question, “Who am I doing this for?”
On the surface, I took a hairpiece for myself in an attempt to feel better. But I really did it to try to manage the opinions of other people. I jumped through ridiculous hoops because I wanted you to think I was physically attractive. I didn’t know much about alignment in those days, but true alignment is making peace with who you are, not fighting tooth and nail against a reality you don’t like. In short, no part of the process felt GOOD to me, ever. But I trampled that feeling in hopes of meeting the perceived expectations of others, and paid an emotional toll. (And really, like anyone cares if I’m bald or not? Please…)
In full disclosure, part of the inspiration for this post are my personal preferences. I don’t find lots of makeup attractive. It strikes me as a form of insecurity and hiding. I find that excessive efforting ages and hardens a woman. And to me the most attractive thing about a woman is a strong sense of self. No hairstyle or dye job can compete with a woman who’s comfortable in her own skin. Back to the previous point, it’s not hard to spot the difference between women who make themselves up to enhance something that feels good (like some nice lipstick) versus hide something they consider a flaw. One person is free and the other is not.
My wife has some grey hairs. Sometimes she’s had them dyed at the salon and it looks nice. But soon enough they show up at the party again and getting touch up after touch up seems like an expensive, time-consuming pain in the ass. She’s free to do whatever she likes of course, but I’ve made it very clear that I am totally fine with her natural hair color whatever that might be. To me, it’s her. And I don’t find aging gracefully unsexy. Quite the opposite…
While I don’t expect you to care about my preferences, I share them because I don’t see women getting much support in this regard. The person you really want to attract will find YOU attractive. And it might be worthwhile to pay attention to your routines, pay attention to what they FEEL like, and experiment with what feels like FREEDOM to you.
Because freedom is super-attractive.
And not wearing makeup is natural, not brave.