My raw, misguided idea of beauty

I woke up and glanced at the clock.

Overslept.  Again.

I had only about an hour to get ready for work if I wanted to stick to my walking schedule. I went to the bathroom, grabbed a shower, and got dressed.

With 45  minutes remaining, I had a choice. I could eat something, or I could do my makeup. For a split second, I considered just skipping the makeup and eating comfortably in my own house for a change, but as I kept staring at my reflection, a million thoughts flew through my brain.

I work at a front desk. People are judgmental. I hate when guys look at me and then frown, like I’m the worst thing they’ve seen that day. What if someone tells me I don’t look professional? Hell, I wish I was Alicia Keys. Apparently she just goes makeup-free now. Looks beautiful just the same.

I picked up my foundation bottle and put just a little on my hand. “This is nuts” I muttered to myself. “Why can’t I just go the way I am?” I peered most closely at my reflection. “Well, that’s why…” I grumbled, noticing the slightly purple tint under my eyes. “No matter how much sleep I get, that’s still there. And I don’t need some dude asking me why I look so tired. I just wanna hear something nice. Jeez.” I applied the thinnest layer I could get away with, making sure that some of my other blemishes were still showing. “Yep. Just covering up the dark circles,” I consoled myself. “Maybe I’ll skip mascara and lipstick then” I rationalize. I turned away to do just that, but glanced back at the mirror.

“I look 12,” I whined. “All these girls out there look like they about to murder every Disney princess in a beauty pageant. Mascara is the least I should do. Alright, um, I’ll skip lipstick then.”

Did I skip the lipstick, though?

No, eventually I just ended up “fixing” everything I felt needed to be fixed and left the house half an hour later.

With a snack in my bag.  No time to eat, which is clearly much more important.

Waiting for the bus, I felt defeated. Why couldn’t I just go and not feel like I had to “do something” with my face. Is this another hurdle that I need to get over?

A taxi driver honked at me. The look on his face told me that my beauty routine hadn’t been a total waste of time. But I didn’t smile or anything this time.

My mind drifted back to a certain day, 5 years earlier.

I was a teenager then. Didn’t know the first thing about makeup, and definitely wasn’t up to date on fashion trends either. I had thick brows, natural hair, and was really just your friendly neighbourhood bookworm.

And you see the guy I’m dating now? That’s how he met me. And he thought I was beautiful. Just like that. Still tells me everyday. Wonders why I don’t see it too.

A tear slipped down my cheek. I brushed it away, hoping no one saw. The bus was getting closer, and I didn’t feel like being asked what was wrong.

I paid my fare and got in.

Thank God it was mostly empty in there. I needed to think.

“What happened?” I asked myself. “What went wrong, Kim? You were so happy with yourself, and you even promised yourself back then that you would never stop loving that girl the way she was.”

I looked out the window. Silence. Nada. No answers.

Because I truly don’t know exactly what went wrong. I was 17 then, but for two years after that, I still didn’t care too much. But things did change. Somehow, I caught in the web. That sticky web society weaves out of the finest silk, so fine that you can barely see it. It started with the littlest things.

“Damn…” I breathed. All the memories were coming back to me. I remember it now. It was a year later. I was 18. Started reading less, and watching more TV. All the girls had these perfectly manicured brows. Over time, I started looking in the mirror and wondering …what would I look like if I had brows like that?

I tried plucking and shaving them myself. Looked terrible, but I think I was the last to know it. I was blown away at “how much better” I looked. Eventually I started going to get it done professionally and all the compliments came pouring in.

Then, it happened. I started noticing EVERYTHING that I never gave a hoot about before. Soon I was worrying about how short or long my lashes were. How thick they looked. I got into face shapes and which ones were more or less attractive. I never gave a shit before about my features, but now I was in the bathroom with a damn ruler measuring the length of my jaw because some beauty blogger had said that short hair only looks good on women with such-and-such a jaw line because of this-and-that scientific research study that found that people react positively or negatively to this or the other.

Of course, I was determined to be among the “non-ideal” configurations (I’m black, what did you expect from a mainstream ‘research study’). and there began a sharp increase in my beauty obsession. At that time, I wore my natural hair out a lot. That particular discovery that women with my facial configuration look SO much better with long hair had a subtle effect on me. I didn’t realize it, though. At the time, I had no clue why I was suddenly taking long romantic walks to the beauty store and watching YouTube videos on how to braid and twist my own long, goddess-level extensions. I mean, I could give myself a few brownie points for sticking to my own texture and usually going for the dreadlock look. I guess that was a plus, but the bigger question was still there:


Now, according to the rules of everything, this post should end with an epiphany. I should be an enlightened, unburdened black woman who has “overcome” my insecurities and “doesn’t care” about any of this anymore.

Well, nah. That’s not how this one ends. I am sadly, still that woman on the bus, realizing that I have drifted a very long way from the girl I used to be. People change in life, and it’s not always for the better. And I, for one, am just not about the lying. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t want to “be” anyone else. I have no desire to wake up and find myself in another woman’s body. I don’t hate myself. But I sure as hell have been letting the media and society’s expectation take up a lot of real estate in my head, and my little moment of truth today equates to the kick in the rear I needed to remember who I am and where I’m coming from.

I don’t want to be the woman who needs anyone’s approval to feel satisfied with herself, and as far as I can see, I am slowly turning into that woman. So I guess it can happen to anyone. But like an illness, the earlier you diagnose it, the easier it is to treat.  So, I’ll need to do some real soul-searching and figure out what’s actually bothering me why this change occurred.

Now that I’ve embarrassed myself enough for one evening, I’m going to go and watch Bleach. I’m like 358 episodes behind. :/

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