I can specifically remember the beginning of the end.
I wouldn’t call what we had a long term relationship. In some ways, I had just been trying it on for size. It didn’t feel natural or authentic. And more often than it made me feel good, it made me feel awful. It was bound to end. Bitterly.
Then one day my mom told me about a friend who, during chemo, slept in a wig because she didn’t want her husband to see her bald.
Have you ever worn a wig? They are itchy as snot. They are hot and sticky. They smell funny. They are miserable.
Hearing this woman chose to sleep in hers rather than be seen bald (by the man who loved her most in the world) made my stomach turn. I couldn’t blame her. But I could scream at the unfairness that one’s appearance could be of any (let alone the primary) concern when fighting for one’s life.
And I knew in good conscience, I could not continue my casual relationship with our beauty culture. It was time to begin the messy (and still ongoing, ten years later) breakup.
From the time we are capable of processing the world, we are pelted with pictures of perfect. And it’s so overwhelming and prevalent and everywhere, it just becomes the landscape of life. It is “you’re not good enough” wallpaper. We hardly notice its insane ridiculousness. Or its side effects and consequences.
And we can pound hard on that glass ceiling and talk about gender gaps, but if we don’t start pointing fingers at the commodification of women by so many different industries, we are pretending there’s no giant elephant in the room.
For me the breakup has been long and hard. It’s ups and downs. It’s writing off magazines in nearly every form. It’s giving as few pennies as I can (while still looking like a presentable human) to Big Beauty. It’s noticing and pointing out the absurdity of (sometimes barely dressed) “beautiful” (thin-ish, pore-less, frizz-free, under 30) women selling us EVERYTHING from office supplies to car insurance to magical cellulite creams and neck firming serums (for real, people). I am beyond over it.
But I am simultaneously not in love with the mousy and mostly gray natural color in my hair, so I simultaneously call my hair gal (Hi, Shannon!) and tell her to make me blonde because it makes me feel better. UGH. Being a person is hard.
And still, I refuse to return to an amicable relationship. Beauty culture and I are not on good terms. As long as entire multi-billion dollar industries rely on women not liking their reflections or girls not liking their bodies or cancer patients worrying about how they look while they’re just trying to stay alive, I will be extremely uncomfortable with this setup.
It’s complicated. But worth sorting out.