I bought a new fancy-ass concealer the other day, to hide my increasingly pronounced under eye circles. I came out of the womb with dark circles under my eyes, and I have fought them nearly as long, as has my mother before me. So with YSL Touche Eclat in hand, I go to battle each morning, slathering it on, hoping for the best.
I was in the middle of this ritual the other day when a thought popped into my head: how much time, energy, and money, do I, do most women, spend hiding things? Concealer and foundation for our pimples and blemishes; Spanx, control top pantyhose, and built in shape wear for our bumpy butts and thighs, and our protruding tummies; bras to hike up less than perky boobs; colored contacts, hair dye, teeth whitening…. the list is literally endless.
Juxtapose all this hiding with the messaging we get everyday: Be yourself. Lean in. Speak your truth. Natural beauty. The right people will love you for you.
How am I supposed to be open and vulnerable, when I’ve spent so long learning how to hide, diminish, flatten, and smooth? What could I have done with all the money and time and energy spent hiding my flaws and sucking in my gut? Literally compressing my gut so that it cannot feel for me, cannot be my guide, the source of my intuition.
How do I dress for myself when I’ve learned so well that being pleasing to others is the only way to feel worthy? When I don’t wear makeup, the men in my office ask if I’m sick, or why I look so tired. What I hear is: “why are you not pleasing to look at today?”
How do I make peace with aging, when I’ve learned so well that youth and beauty-and your associated ability to reproduce-are your main currencies, as a woman? Lately I’ve been thinking about preventative Botox, because the lines of my forehead are bothering me. They’re not going to get any better. I’m not going to stop making weird faces, faces so weird, in fact, that often my friends ask me if I’m ok, and my response is, “this is just my face.”
Now, I honestly believe every woman should do what makes her feel best, and I would never judge someone for wanting to use Botox. Hell, I want to. But my friend Brandy said something to me the other day about these lines, and it really hit home: “You earned them.” And I did. Every night spent studying in law school, I earned these lines. I actually like them, when I think about them in that light. Those lines not only give my face character, but they show my character, as a lawyer. I’m proud of them. But I’ve still been thinking about injecting my face with poison to hide them, because I want to be pretty more than I want to be proud of my accomplishments. One is definitely valued more.
It is this question of the value of my accomplishments that leads me away from the beauty aisle to ask, how am I supposed to know how to use my full voice, when I’ve spent so long learning how to talk softly, and obliquely, to ask questions instead of make declarations? See, I’m doing it even now.
I’ve been taught to believe that no one could withstand the full power of my intelligence, or God forbid, my emotions, my anger, rage, hurt, joy, excitement, love. Out of fear I have learned how to blunt my force to make myself more consumable, to make others more comfortable. What others? And why is their comfort so much more important than my own?
We talk about empowering our girls, but the truth is that we do not want them to be so powerful. Not too powerful. Not powerful like a man. Not as powerful as a man. Why do we feel the need to reign in their power? Is it that we know that a woman fully grown, standing in the throne of her power is a force unmatched? Yes: it is the force that sank a thousand ships, and birthed a Messiah, and carries half the sky.
Sweetness, docility, attractiveness, these are not inherently *feminine* characteristics. These are fetters that cabin true feminine power, the power that pulls the ocean into the shore, that moves the planet closer to the moon, that creates life, knitting it out of existing flesh and bone.
I’m going to keep wearing concealer, and I’m going to keep doing a lot of the other things, because I enjoy doing them for me. But maybe I’ll do them less, when I’m tired, or I’m feeling lazy, or I’m running late. I’m going to declare things, not ask questions, when I know I’m in the right. I’m going to be honest, the next time someone asks me what’s wrong, when all I’ve done is not put on makeup. I will tell them, “This is just my face.”
Editors note: my friend Lindsay pointed out that this could be read as a contrast to my earlier piece, “I am My Beloved[s]”, and she’s not wrong. I like makeup, but I’m working on making it about what I like, not what I’m doing for others. Which, I hope, makes this more of a companion piece.