Saturday, October 15, 2011

Insidious

My battle, like so many others, is accepting that--right here, right now--I am everything I need to be. I am enough.

This isn't complacency.
This isn't saying, "Meh, I'll never amount to anything more than I am right now."
This isn't giving up.
This isn't forfeit.
This is hope.

At this 24/7 rate of our media-saturated, technologically-driven, go-go society, it takes great--if not courageous--intentionality and grace to say, "Ya know what, maybe I'm okay."

A few years ago, I found myself at a department store at the mall with a girlfriend getting our make-up done. We had just found out they'd do it for free. So, why not? I extended the hand-held mirror in front of me as she began smearing flesh-colored foundation under each of my eyes. "There ya go," she said, looking at her work so far, "war paint."

I've never forgotten that. Since then I've recognized more clearly the charade (a.k.a. battle) I take part in every day. I'm really just a big liar.

We lie in innumerable ways:
-Bras: to make my breasts look, well, quite "unnatural" if you think about it compared to how we look without one
-Underwear: the right pair to avoid the "ghastly" panty-line (which by the way, five year-olds have picked up on for they can now purchase thongs at Gap). You wouldn't want people to know you're wearing underwear.
-Body Shaper (essentially ,way too much Spandex): form-fitting clothing? we may need some "smoothing" in certain areas to look, you guessed it "perfect"
-Heels: to imitate height, calf definition, and even butt perkiness
-Panty-hose: to cover ashy, varicose vein-infested legs
-Sunless tanner: to at least "look" tan
-Concealer/foundation make-up: to pinpoint the exact flaws and cover them up as to look..."perfect"
-Eyeliner: to make our eyes look more defined than they really are
-Mascara: to darken our eyelashes, because...they just need to be darker
-Lipstick: to make our lips more rosy and defined than they really are
-Hair products: to make our hair more of this or less of that
-Curling/straightening irons: to whip our hair into submission, whether our hair really wants to be curly/straight or not
-Razors: to look as though hairless comes standard on us women
-Waxing/Nairing: because there are just certain places that are not supposed to have hair, according to...
-Tweezers: to look as though our eyebrows are always so neat and defined

Don't even get me started on weight-loss gimmicks, tanning beds, corsets, hair extensions, eyelash growing medications, anti-aging creams, breast-enhancing pills, the $50 a month a woman could spend simply on maintaining her finger nails, nonetheless her weight, hair, skin, and teeth.

Companies and corporations don't want us to feel beautiful. They want our money. And they'll get it any way possible, usually by playing to the consumer's insecurities:"You're ugly. Buy our product and you'll be less ugly."

I wish I could say that even as I'm the one writing this, that I am somehow immune to this, but I'm not. I'm a sucker. I so badly want to feel good enough, whole enough, able to hold my own in this "race" for perfection, that I've bought many a product in search of the ambiguous: pretty.

I've had several friends have success with the ProActive skin care line. My own was not cooperating, so I tried it. It didn't work. I called to cancel. They convinced me they "just" released a new "extra strength" formula. I decided I needed this. It didn't work. I called to cancel. They offered to send me another variety. I said "no."

Two months after I said "no," they were still billing my credit card. I called to tell them about the mistake. They responded by saying they had no record of my ever cancelling to begin with. I asked to speak to the person in charge. She told me the same thing. I told her I felt that their company was being dishonest and I refused to pay for something I never received. She offered to send me a bonus/complimentary shipment of ProActive to amend the situation. It was at that point that I realized she was not listening to me. She was following a script.

Every month for the last six months I've received a letter in the mail from ProActive, resembling one that would come from a friend: bright colors, hand-written name and address. And inside it always says the same thing: "Won't you please give us another try?" They are desperate for my money.

I lie when I smear products on my skin to cover my "flaws."
I lie when I manipulate my body to look like this or fit into that.
I lie when I dump gels and goos on my hair then sizzle it into the shape I want.
I lie every day when I morph my body from what it looked like when I woke up, to what it looked like when I walked out the door.

Looking good and feeling confident is not a sin. I'm not advocating that we all stop wearing make-up and looking nice. What I'm asking is this: is there a way that looking good and feeling confident could be accomplished without all the cover ups, adjustments, and products?

This is why I so appreciate men and women who are starting conversations about this. People are beginning to shed light on the insidiousness of the "beauty" industry that is forever selling products that promise perfection.

Such as this one. An article written this month in O magazine about the plastic surgeries that would be required for a model today to resemble the all-American, all-perfect Barbie doll. The author writes: "Just because our distorted image of how a body should be is medically attainable, that doesn’t mean it should be attained."

Or how about this site: Healthy is the New Skinny?

Or how about Operation Beautiful? This site that has encouraged women to leave random/anonymous Post-It notes in places like women's restroom mirrors and dressing rooms that say things like, "Good God, you are absolutely stunning!"



I so appreciate these people who are opening the dialogue. I want to be part of that voice.

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