May 27, 2015

Beauty Treatments and Insecurity: How the Fug Makes You Do It

Practically with a weapon pointed at my head, I was told to 'have my feet done' today. Unfortunately, I am blessed with chronically dry heels, which no amount of home treatments, rubbings, soakings, or torture can heal. Strangely, though, a pedicure at a salon does wonders (I believe it's the fact that they're getting attention at all that saves them). But as I sat in the fug of acetone and the overwhelming scent of nail vinyl, I found myself considering having my nails done and wondering whether I should go have a haircut and style.

Now, if you know me, these things are not my forte - I prefer to seem resiliently unconcerned about matters of beauty. Strangely though, I felt more swayed by the beauty industry as I sat in that seat than I am looking at any amount of advertising.

Why was this so?

Was it because I was literally high from the fumes and thus entirely impressionable? Was it the wilting posters displaying bottles of nail varnish that piqued my interest? Was it the combination of this dizziness and the euphora of being amongst my own sex that contributed to the emergence of my subconscious desire to be beautiful?

Or... was it the shifty and sidelong glances of the other women receiving treatments - all of whom had hair impeccably styled and coloured and were sitting having false nails pasted onto their fingers - that inspired this feeling?

As I sat on a chair with my pants hiked up to my knees and my feet dangling in a foot spa below, clutching my unsightly fingernails deep inside the sleeves of my cardigan, and unbearably aware of my fly-away hair and clean face, I felt as insecure as a first-time bungee jumper.

You may wish to write this off as nerves but it's not as though I've never had a pedicure before. No, it was indeed the feeling that I did not fit in with the ladies having their weekly treatments done that caused me such a feeling of dis-ease. It was as though I were causing their own dis-ease by merely placing my unkempt self in their presence.

This situation is exactly what is meant when women say they feel pressured to care for their appearances. I hazard to guess that men are relatively unconcerned at the everyday appearance of their women, though they will judge a woman they're interviewing for a job. But it is other women who present the most pressure: these other women look successful, paying for people to scrape away their dead skin and put plastic on their nails. They look healthy with the glow of artificial chemicals on their faces and their hair treated with questionable proteins and more artificial chemicals. There was not a single man in that room and yet I felt the pressure to make myself keep up a feminine appearance and make myself meet the beauty standards that everyone in the room was adhering to.

This concerns me the most as a mother of a daughter. I cringe inside every time I hear myself tell her she looks pretty. I desperately attempt to mention other reasons why she is so amazing, but why is it that 'pretty' is the first thing I turn to? I don't want her to grow up believing that her appearance is the only thing that is important as a girl and as a woman. I want her to know that her value goes beyond the physical plane. I want her to feel loved just as she is by everyone in the world.

But how do I do that when other women - who may become some of the most influential people in my child's life - will judge her for not racing to the pharmacy for that stick of lipstick?

{Image credit: By Fing'rs ( [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons}

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