Conforming to societal beauty standards just as valid as ignoring them
October 5, 2016
You know that feeling you get where you’re riding a roller coaster and you are teetering on the top of the big drop? That feeling where your muscles clench, and a swooping sensation of dread settles into the pit of your stomach? I had that same feeling of tense regret last Thursday when I found myself lying on a table, staring into a bright light, with a strip of hot wax waiting to be ripped off my face. And like being on that roller coaster, just waiting for it to go over the edge, it was far too late to turn back.
While there are many drawbacks to growing up in today’s world, I am thankful to come of age in a time where the struggles and pressures of being a woman in today’s world are being recognized in all areas of society. Namely, I am glad that women are talking about all of these insane beauty regimes they do or revolt against. It makes me, and I hope other women, stop and think about why I feel the need to never leave the house without my eyebrows done, or that I should always have perfectly shaved legs.
I have read many essays, opinion pieces and articles about this very issue, on women deciding not to wear makeup or shave to make a stand about taking their own image back from societal pressure, and I applaud and respect what they have to say and about their position on being a woman in the 21st century. I agree with many of those women who feel that they do not want to handle the constant insecurity of not looking like someone else’s idea of perfect and are deciding instead on how they choose to look and act.
I hope to get that same kind of understanding when I express my desire to decide to wear makeup because I like the way that I feel when I wear it, or that being at least somewhat hair-free boosts my confidence and allows me to be less self-conscious. Basically, wearing makeup and getting my eyebrows and face waxed is something I have decided to do for me. Or at least that was what I was trying to remind myself the other day while I laid perfectly still, with my face as relaxed as I was able, so as to not move around the hot wax cooling on my cheek. And as the white strips of cloth were yanked from my face taking away that wax and the unwanted peach fuzz, I could not help but think to myself, "Why are you doing this again?" Then, "If I pretend this does not hurt, will this actually not hurt?" Or, "Wait, stop the waxing! I don’t care if my face is hairy!" While this internal battle raged on, strips of wax continued to be applied with practiced precision and ripped off without any kind of warning.
After I had emerged from the room with the hot wax and too-bright lighting, my face resembled a cherry tomato with two perfectly crafted eyebrows on top. Along with the feeling of relief that all my peach fuzz had finally been eliminated, I also felt kind of silly – and not just because my face was the same color as Clifford the Big Red Dog. As I left the salon with giant sunglasses perched on the end of my nose to cover up the red, angry marks on my face, I had to wonder about some things. Why I had paid to have my face so abused? Because confidence! Did I need to do this? Probably not. Are my eyebrows perfect and my face smooth? Absolutely. But most importantly, will I be back? I don’t know, maybe. Putting aside what society suggests, what other women think, and how I ultimately feel about such an aggressive procedure, I am glad that above everything else, I have the ability and the space to decide for myself what I want to do and what I don’t want to do, which I think is the best outcome of all.
Lauren Simenson is a student at UW-River Falls.