Tuesday, January 24, 2012

On Behalf Of Women, Continued ...

This post is a continuation of a post I wrote last month.

The day after I posted that entry, I wrote much of what follows. And then I didn't post it. It didn't feel done. But reading it again tonight, in combination with a comment I left for a friend on Facebook earlier today, it now feels newly relevant. So I'm posting it with new content at the end.

Yesterday, I was feeling glib. And so I wrote glibly.

But as my friend who first posted the question that inspired my post and I kept trading comments on Facebook, the discussion turned more thoughtful.

I mentioned that women, from an early age, are conditioned to be mindful of their looks. "Toddlers & Tiaras" is a horrifying example, but, I went on to point out, there is no male equivalent of beauty pageants, there are no events at which men are judged solely on their looks.

He replied to say he hadn't considered that before, that the closest male competition would be Mr. Universe.

But that, I pointed out, is a competition based on a pursuit. No man is born looking that way. They have to work hard to get those monstrous bodies.

In pageants, on the other hand, women strut around in their bathing suits and frighteningly white teeth and seek approval of their looks from the likes of – talking about adding insult to injury – Donald Trump.

It was a good discussion, as Facebook discussions go, and some friends chimed in with thoughts and quips. One female friend wondered why women of a certain age are only ever seen on television to discuss their irregularity. (Gales of laughter when I read that.)

But my brain continued to ruminate on the topic, and I realized that I was thinking about a woman I saw at the post office on Saturday. An older woman, in her mid to late 70s, I'd guess. Maybe older. Lovely white hair. She was in front of me in line, a couple of people ahead. She was wearing a long navy coat. She interacted with the clerk kindly.

On my way out the door, I noticed her behind me and held the door for her. She thanked me. "Some doors are so heavy," she said.

"They are," I agreed.

The door wasn't heavy by my standards, but it was by hers.

This, though, was the first time I saw her face, and I was struck by her makeup. It was applied beautifully, but I don't often see women of her age in full makeup.

And I wondered, yesterday, about why she still wears it. Habit? Did she grow up learning that she should never leave the house without putting on her face?

And that phrase struck me in a way that it's never registered with me before: put on your face. As if the face each of us was born with isn't good enough to show the world?

Of course, she may simply like to wear makeup. It may just make her feel pretty. And that's fine.

When I was younger, I couldn't wait to wear makeup. I used to badger my mom. (Hi, mom. Sorry about that.) But I never got into wearing it. Because, I suppose, my mom didn't wear it. Not the way many women do. She'd give her eyebrows a little oomph and swipe on a coat of mascara and maybe a touch of lipstick, but that was it. No foundation, no powder, no eyeshadow, no eyeliner, no lipliner, no blush.

Today, my routine isn't much different: a pat-down of powder, a smudge of eyeliner, a coat of mascara, a swipe of lipstick on my lower lip, rub my lips together and go.

I've had my makeup done a few times, once for my headshot, once because the makeup artist at the salon where J-D as doing my hair noticed that I needed help (I bought products from her that day, since that's what one is supposed to do when one has a makeover; the foundation shade she chose for me makes me look like John Boehner; I've never used it), and once before a birthday lunch. Ronnie, bless his heart, is very good at what he does, but I had to tell him to get rid of the metallic gold eye makeup. I looked like Cleopatra. (In more-than-my-usual makeup, I swing between looking like Cleopatra and John Boehner. No wonder I don't wear it.) Cleopatra notwithstanding, when I've had my makeup done, I've mostly liked the results.

But I wear very little is my point. At the end of the day, I don't wash off a flesh-colored mask.

And today, what made this feel relevant was Melissa McCarthy's Oscar nomination.

A friend on Facebook posted this link from Salon: "Melissa McCarthy’s great big win: The 'Bridesmaids' star and best supporting actress nominee proves success doesn't always come in a size zero."

I clicked.

I read.

I sighed.

I wrote on the friend's page, "It saddens me that a 'Woohoo! A fat person got an Oscar nod!' story is, in fact, a story. Meanwhile, Angelina Jolie looks painfully close to being anorexic. The whole 'beauty' industry is insane."


It saddens me. No one feels the need to write a story when a hefty man achieves a well-deserved accolade.

And tonight I saw Marie Osmond in a commercial looking almost nothing like Marie Osmond. What the hell did she allow to be done to her face? In the name of what? Because, Marie, dear, I hate to tell you, but that's not beauty. That's disfigurement.

And even as models die and photographs are Photoshopped to whittle images of women into impossibly inhuman forms, it persists.

Is there truly no end? It seems to be chronic and incurable, this hideous pursuit of beauty, this ceaseless pursuit of superficial worth.

There must be a remedy.

Mustn't there?


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