Monday, January 3, 2011

Natural You

I just watched a fantastic documentary on beauty on Hulu called America the Beautiful. I had a huge reaction to this film... much like my reaction to Good Hair. And now, I welcome you to a beauty slash health rant.
I will open with a confession that I have permed and dyed my hair, exercised obsessively and whined over every little lump and bump on my body. I also own makeup and a padded bra. None of these things exclude me from general disgust at the beauty industry, if anything these things help to instill my message: Nothing is more beautiful than normal, natural you.

America is a society where people are led to believe that what they wear and how they look defines who they are. It tells us that those oh so tight jeans, striped tee and possibly ironic tennis shoes... if properly accessorized can speak volumes about your personality. It also leads people to believe that others not only take note but care. (I am not encouraging everyone to run about naked --especially not in this Wisconsin weather-- nor dress inappropriately for the occasion. I will threaten a much shorter, louder rant on sweat pants.)

I find a lot of this paranoia based in insecurity. The beauty, fashion, magazine, food... health care etc. industry relies on women and men alike to think that they are less of a person, that they are broken, that there is something foul about them. It's a business plan based on denying people the thing a lot of them crave: The idea that they're okay and whatever they're doing with themselves is fine.

An article relayed to me through (a site that I highly recommend) touched me deeply and not in my heart, but in my brain. It made me realize that I have never been skinny, but I've always been healthy. I sometimes joke that my numbers (when tested at the doctor's) are always good. I have an excellent standing heart rate, blood pressure, iron count, cholesterol level. You name it. I have it, and it's all good. With the teeny tiny exception of my height to weight ratio. From the time I hit 100 lbs in the 8th grade until now I've always been marginally overweight. Right now, I'm a thrilling 156 lbs. (Naked, of course. Try washing that out of your brain.) I'm 5'2'' tall and a size 6 in pants, 10 in dress. (Mostly, from the boobs.) It's taken years of therapy and far too many grovels over dieting to realize that this is not fat. I'm not fat. In fact... until you've reached the point where you are endangering your health... who gives a fuck. Excuse my french. So, now I don't diet. I do eat well, not because I'm forcing myself to either. I just like carrots, bananas and grapefruit. I get twice my weekly servings of fruit and vegetables, because they are delicious. I also eat pink-dyed coconut covered Snowballs for the same reason.

I also am not a fan of makeup and hair enhancement. Some of that stems from laziness, but most of it comes from the fact that I look pretty awesome without a layer of paint. The other Universe sized problem I have with cosmetics is medically labeled as dermographia. I have pretty, puffy, red reactions to a lot of different products. ("Pretty" was sarcasm.) But why does this matter to you, the reader? Because my reaction to products can be severe and triggered [not instantly but] pretty darn fast. I consider this a great advantage. I get to know what's bad for me right away. I don't need to expose myself to a product over and over again to figure out it's filled with chemicals my body can't take. And, once I accepted that I can only buy Wet and Wild mineral foundation, it's cut down my beauty box to a tenth the size it used to be. Now, imagine what chemicals are absorbing through your pores and consider how long it's going to take your body to react.

I do want to take note that while I choose to go barefaced out into the world (except for special Wet and Wild occasions), I am totally cool with ladies who love themselves and love makeup. Those people who want to experiment and want to doll themselves up, but can feel confident without the extras... you guys rock! My message is to those who consider makeup the means to an end. The ones covering themselves, hiding their perceived "ugliness." I want to say to those ladies that I am all about the idea of letting your freak flag fly. Be you, exactly who you are... don't cover that up, because I want to assure you that it is awesome.

I watched a news segment this last year on a group of popular teenage girls who choose to not wear makeup once a week. I was shocked that these girls considered this to be a publicity stunt. Then I was more shocked that the stunt got such publicity. Imagine it... women whose faces are just faces. Shock and awe. This newscast added to the hundreds of reminders that I face everyday that looking like you woke up and washed your face this morning is a strange thing. How truly shocking is it to want to look the way you do lumps, acne scars and all? Why is the world so bent on covering the faces of women?

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