Tuesday, February 25, 2014

"As though all I had to offer the world...was my fairly nondescript face."

I really am, and I have been trying. I sort of have this idea that since society has conditioned us to be uncomfortable in our skin (I mean, why else would we buy half of the creams and potions they are trying to sell us?) it is my duty to unlearn those traits and accept myself as I am, in the hopes of passing on a better view of self to the next generation.

It's complicated, of course. Baby steps. I try to only wear makeup when I want to do so for myself, not because I feel like it. I try to focus my energies on my quality of life. Reading books. Watching documentaries. Enriching my mind. Going outside, being active. Caring for the health of my body. 

And yet. Two weeks ago, seemingly overnight, the few pimple splotches that are generally ever present on my face spread like wildfire across my jaw and chin. I've conditioned myself to accept a couple blemishes, but not this. It didn't help that that weekend I attended a bridal shower for one of my dearest friends, and one of my other dearest friends confessed that she finds herself bothered by other people's extreme acne, even though she tries not to be. And while I know she was talking about cases that were much worse than mine (and I do recognize that mine is mild compared to many), I felt ashamed under my layers of concealer and powder. Ashamed for what? Why? No one gets acne on purpose. And yet.

I've been coming to work without makeup because a) I get up really early and I don't feel like putting it on and b) I think that its better for my skin when it is acting out and telling me something is wrong. I come to work without makeup all the time. Sometimes this results in people telling me I look "tired," but that's fine. But there is part of me that feels I should be compensating for having more blemishes, like I can only show my bare face when it is clear and healthy and it isn't fit to be seen in any other state. 

Then this morning I was perusing my usual websites and read this article on Jezebel. I skimmed it, blah blah women statistically spend more time worrying about their looks than anything else including their finances blah blah I already knew THAT. I was struck, however, when I read further to the author's personal story of how she felt when her face was bruised after having her wisdom teeth removed: "I would see my face and cry like a child, as though the only thing I had to offer the world before the teeth came out was my fairly nondescript face — really melodramatic, whiny shit. "  

Boom. I had one of those moments where everything becomes clear. I've been behaving as if the only thing I had to offer the world was my face. My regular, plain Jane face. As if somehow my job performance would be affected (I'm not a model or spokesperson, so it isn't except in the usual way of how society perceives you based on attractiveness). I've told my husband this week that "I will be pretty for you again, I promise," as if his love for me is dependent solely on my face. I've worried about going to a wedding this weekend and seeing some of my best friends, who've known me for years, as if my friends won't want be around me and relate to me the same way they have since middle school if they have to be distracted by my less than perfect skin. Well, fuck that.

I can be pretty. I can not be pretty. Just like one day I can be funny and the next day I can not be funny. Just because I am not pretty today does not mean I am also automatically not funny. My qualities are not linked. My prettiness is not linked to my brain, or my job performance, or my ability to be a good friend and wife. I don't have to be happy about the way I look today or tomorrow, but I don't have to let it affect other aspects of my life. 

So I'm tucking the phrase "As though all I had to offer the world...was my fairly nondescript face" into my back pocket for when I feel like hiding to remind myself that whether or not I want or can to offer "pretty" to the world today, I can still offer a whole lot of other things too.

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