When I was a child I read almost everything that I could get my hands on, including my brother’s boy scout magazines. I would flip past the articles on knot-tying and how to get yourself out of a pickle in the woods and read the stories and cartoons. Whenever I would get a girls magazine I would study the articles on eye shadow application and what a boy really meant by what he said or did. This seemed odd because the boy's magazines were full of useful information and nothing about girls, and certainly nothing about the application of eyeshadow. Now, while I studied the pictures that showed me exactly where to put the highlight (under the brow) and the eyeliner (above the eyelashes) I was nagged by a feeling that this wasn’t so useful in the grand scheme of things. This certainly wasn’t going to help me if I was ever caught in the woods or needed to lash an extra paddle to my canoe.
The other day as I was putting on mascara I wondered how much of my life had been spent in makeup application. I’ve never felt the wearing of makeup to be necessary in life and have gone in and out of phases of wearing it and not wearing it. I also wondered how many minutes of my life had been wasted gazing at open pores and blackheads. Beating up my self-esteem for having these flaws. Flaws that I have never actually ever noticed on another human being. Flaws that have been airbrushed off every model, making you believe that there are people who do not have them.
I now have a hair ‘do,’ I have a style that needs some care or I look ridiculous. Before this ‘do’ I have had super short hair or something that I could pony-tail. I have realized that I spend a fair amount of my life undone. I often don’t shower until well into the day. So now I spend the first half of my day looking more than a bit mussed and making mental notes to expand my hat collection. So if I want to be presentable to any human with eyes I have to spend five or fifteen minutes scrunching or artfully mussing my hair. (Thirty or so if I want it straight.) What if I would rather be playing with Emma or running or writing a story?
One of the few channels that you can get on DSTV Africa is the style channel (yes, maybe I should just turn off the TV rather than wonder how much of life has been wasted on mascara and use that time instead), I have wasted more than a few hours watching style tips that grate me into believing that my hair and make up isn’t good enough and should be the main focus of my life. I find myself wanting to perfect the ‘goddess look’ (whatever that is) or that I should never just throw on jeans and a t-shirt.
While I do think that feeling beautifal is a part of being a woman and is validating I also don’t think I should spend hours perseverating over it, especially when I just want to throw on my boots and go for a hike.
Naomi Wolf wrote a book called the Beauty Myth and I believe it talks about how society uses a focus on women’s looks to hold us down. I almost wonder if there’s not something to this hypothesis. Maybe there would be more women in political science classes and less in beauty school.
I love maps. Part of this stems from being a wilderness leader, you get to love maps when someone drops you off in the woods, hands you a map, and says, ‘We’re lost, figure it out.’ I was sitting at a women’s Bible Study a few years ago and we were talking about traveling with our husbands and the navigation of all kinds that occurs therein (and the fights). A chorus of, ‘Ugh, I hate maps,’ and, ‘It must be a man thing,’ went up. I sat there with my bewildered jaw bobbing up and down, wanting to liberate them and say, ‘No, we can read maps too!’ I have often found my husband and I while traveling because of my proclivity for following along on our whereabouts with the map. Maybe if Teen ran articles about map and compass instead of eyeshadow there would be less arguing couples on the road...