This is a public discussion thread for anyone on The Unpublishable mailing list — free subscribers, paid subscribers, everyone!
Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about THE NEGOTIATION OF BEAUTY.
Like… the standard of physical beauty is not one static image of “perfection” but rather, a range of “acceptable” features — a set of parameters, right? And beauty culture conditions us to believe that if we don’t have THIS, we at least have to have THAT. So we negotiate; we account for the real (our own faces/bodies) with the hyperreal (our aesthetic modifications).
This thought popped into my head the other night as I was preparing for a date by applying a Crest Whitestrip (lol). I guess I feel like I need my smile to be as bright as possible because my bottom teeth are crooked, and if I can’t have straight teeth, I at least need white teeth. I’ve made similar negotiations with my skin/body in the past, too. Because I had such reactive skin, I was obsessed with staying thin — an “if I can’t have socially acceptable skin, I at least need a socially acceptable body” kind of thing.
Heather Widdows writes about this in Perfect Me: Beauty As An Ethical Ideal:
“In some contexts so much value is placed on skin tone that the failure to meet other features is negated: ‘fair skin makes up for other bodily flaws.’ In other contexts the opposite is true. For instance, skin color may be irrelevant as long as other features — for example thinness — are met. … That some features matter less in some contexts does not shake the dominance of the ideal as some of the key features are always required, in some or other combination. For example, it is possible to be bigger, if you are also firm, smooth, and young. It is less likely you will be considered beautiful, or just good enough, if you are bigger and hairy and have cellulite and jowls. The emerging global beauty ideal promotes thinness, firmness, smoothness, and youth — collectively or in combination.”
I don’t think this is limited to the physical realm, though! For instance, one might negotiate an internal sense of worthlessness by adopting external markers of worth (beauty).
If you feel comfortable sharing: What are your beauty negotiations? Or what were they in the past? Any other thoughts you have on the topic are welcome, too!
(TO NOTE: Obviously, I am not endorsing this practice! No one should ever feel the need to negotiate their existence! This is why we need to dismantle beauty culture!!)
(Also, I’m done with Crest Whitestrips.)
Reading this as a black person, I think the point not said or missed is that most yt women are operating under the yt supremacist ideal of femininity and the concessions you make to fit in that mold. Black & POC do make similar concessions but the goal is to lessen violence as opposed to vying for more privilege under yt supremacy. All that being said…braces & frying the crap out of my hair
I stumbled into this thread via "Substack Reads". I read Jessica's post and all of the comments.
Mind blown. Much to reflect on...
Thanks to Jessica and every single person who commented. This is an example of the positive power of folks sharing their stories online, in a relatively safe and supportive settting.
The negotiation of what can I do to be socially acceptable also makes me think about how facets that aren't socially acceptable subtracts from my actual worth. Sometimes not things I value about me as a person, surface beauty too. I think this is why it can be so painful to recognise that we participate in this negotiation behaviour - the standards we can't ever meet inevtiably take away from us regardless.
I think about this from time to time because I get comments from a particular family member about me getting fatter, hairier etc. and essentially wasting my youth,opportunity and potential as someone considered coventially beautiful facially(have lost jawline so TBC on that I guess!) This then gets conflated with the reasons why I'm not further in my career than I wanted to be by now and why I'm single and have been for a long time.
On the specific subject of this post though - I have to have the hair or the face right! If I do my hair right because of sacrificing my face that day, my face must still meet a minimum which is foundation, mascara and lip tint. Hair will never be right if not washed the day before.
Intrigued by Jessica’s post on how we negotiate beauty, I read through all the comments (155) on this thread and was amazed how many of us (myself included) have spent our lives chanting “at least I have this, which makes up for lacking that.” I could write a whole page detailing my beauty negotiations. I’m 69 and have had plenty of time to rack up a substantial list. So, why not add my issues/struggles to the thread? Well, say I did but then disclosed that I spent over thirty-five years perpetrating the objectification as a fashion model, would my negotiations remain as valid or worthy of reading as others? If I were to judge…probably not! In some areas, I won the genetic lottery; in others, my ticket was worthless. It’s taken decades, spent expanding and contracting, embracing and rejecting, conforming and rebelling, to arrive at what Heather Widdows so clearly states that “responses to the beauty ideal must recognize both the profound attraction of the ideal and the very real pleasures involved in its pursuit, as well as the significant, growing, and potentially catastrophic harms that attach to it.” In simpler terms, we have to be okay with what is considered ideal because what we perceive as ideal is always changing, sometimes moving forward, sometimes backward, and sometimes sideways. The danger lies in our perception of perfection and our desire to possess what we think we want that will make us feel happy and good about ourselves, or what Widdows calls the “ethics of beauty.” I’d gladly give up all my negotiating if I could really, and I mean really, enjoy my twenties again. At twenty, I never thought I’d ever get old, and now that I’m considered old (although I would tell anyone to fuck off if they said that to me) I see what a waste all the negotiating through the years was. Not that I don’t slip up and fall into old patterns every now and again. There are times when I catch a glimpse of my mother in the mirror, and I want to scream. I loved my mother deeply, but I do not want to see her looking back at me. It’s a face that is familiar and well loved, yet it is not mine. I yearn for the face that once was, but all the negotiation in the world isn’t gonna change the fact that my (almost) 70-year-old face is staring back at me through 20-year-old eyes. But when this happens and I’m caught complaining, my younger sister, who survived chemo hell and lived to tell about it, is quick to remind me that “it’s better than the alternative.” I’m not sure I believe beauty or the definition of it can be forced onto the world’s psyche. I prefer to strive toward what Buddhism eschews by following the art of detachment, that my body, in whatever form it takes as I progress through life, is simply a house for my soul. And that, I believe, is perfection.
it hit me recently that Jessica's brilliant idea of NEGOTIATION was NOT metaphorical for women for a long time and still is not a metaphor in many cultures! WE ACTUALLY WERE/ARE SOLD! There are many places that still have a brideprice. And what percentage of human trafficking is girls for sex?!! .As an American traveling in the Sudan as recently as 1983, I was sitting in a hotel lobby with a Sudanese man when I heard some men discussing me in Arabic and pointing at me in a way that made me uncomfortable. I asked him what they were saying and he answered, they are discussing how much they could sell you for. They are saying that you would be worth a lot more but your hair is too short! Whew, was I relieved that I had a crewcut at the time.
it hit me recently that this idea of NEGOTIATION was NOT metaphorical for women for a long time and still is not a metaphor in many cultures! WE ACTUALLY WERE/ARE SOLD! There are many places that still have a brideprice. And what percentage of human trafficking is girls for sex?!! .As an American traveling in the Sudan as recently as 1983, I was sitting in a hotel lobby with a Sudanese man when I heard some men discussing me in Arabic and pointing at me in a way that made me uncomfortable. I asked him what they were saying and he answered, they are discussing how much they could sell you for. They are saying that you would be worth a lot more but your hair is too short! Whew, was I relieved that I had a crewcut at the time.
I'm not sure if anyone has commented on this so apologies in advance, but I was thinking about this post, and I actually extend negotiation beyond my looks to my personality. i.e. ok I struggle with [insert a physical attribute] but at least I'm smart or [insert personality trait I like about myself].
I was always a little chubby as a kid but I had great clothes - I see that negotiation now.
I’ve spent days thinking about this. As a 40 yr old woman with two small kids, who doesn’t wear makeup, colour my hair, shave my armpits or otherwise much in the way of modification, the answer is “my hair”. As long as I don’t have “middle aged woman” hair I feel ok, needs to be an edgy cut. Oh and also I pluck my chin because long chin hairs worry me beyond measure, apparently.
When I was in middle school, I got made fun of for being flat-chested. As a 14 year old, I decided that if I didn’t have boobs, I would need to stay thin, since I imagined that was one of my sole draws in terms of beauty. That notion stuck in my psyche for years. In no small part thanks to your writing and podcasts/thinkers like Maintenance Phase (shoutout to Aubrey Gordon and Michael Hobbes) for helping me begin to unravel and work against anti-fat bias, plus other “sticky” beauty negotiations I wasn’t even fully conscious of.
This thread is just chock full of realness and vulnerability. Thanks for all of your posts, folks. When I hit 50 last year I definitely began noticing the “invisibility” that seems to come with it, especially after ditching Botox, Kybella, makeup, heels, etc. over the past few years. I, too, would negotiate - I could be plus size/fat if my wardrobe was edited and expensive. I could let my grays grow in if I had false eyelashes for a doe-eyed look, and on and on. But then I did a little experiment and started divesting little by little and looking at how much money I was saving not literally buying into the beauty machine. And I’m now saving for a house (can’t wait to experience home ownership for the first time as a middle aged person!) and planning trips to see friends and family. I’m happier.
In my mid-thirties and dealing with hair struggles. Going grey, that's been going on for quite a while... AND THEN I recently had a shedding event which left me with overall thinning and lower "quality" hair.
The negotiation is, "I will go grey gracefully BUT my hair needs to be thick, shiny, well-kempt." I've always been very low maintenance: no products and no heat treatment. Recently have started buying products, blow-drying my hair (doesn't even look good).
Trying to back away from that mindset. Yes, it's important to be "well-kempt"/professional for career and basic self-care reasons. But I'm happy with the way I've managed to opt out of a lot of beauty culture. I don't want to backslide now, just because I found the one thing that triggered me.
By the way, just found this substack and never subscribed to anything so fast. Such a breath of fresh air in a world filled with choice feminism BS.
Don't be done with Crest white strips. There is nothing wrong with trying to look your best. Do the best you can with what you've got. Age is the great equalizer of all of us.
If there is anything I have learned in the past few years, it’s that the most valuable attribute in the beauty marketplace is youth. Youth compensates for SO MUCH. I don’t think enough younger girls get it. I see girls in their 20’s doing all these ridiculous things to be hot and I want to grab them and shake them and say “don’t you get it? YOU ARE AUTOMATICALLY HOT JUST BECAUSE YOU’RE IN YOUR 20’S!” I wish I had gotten the memo in my own 20’s because I basically wasted that decade being insecure when I should have just been fucking a smorgasbord of hot people BECAUSE I COULD. But I also get what you’re saying about other women being resentful when you aren’t putting in the work they are (and getting away with it…they really don’t care if you don’t put in the work if you’re NOT getting away with it.) When you’re busting your ass for beauty, nothing is worse than seeing people who get to have it without effort.
I really enjoyed reading other’s comments here because it’s helpful to remember how much we all suffer because of beauty standards. When I remember that it’s not just me, that we are ALL suffering from them in one way or another, it makes it easier to let them go. And letting them go always results in my feeling better about myself (though the beauty industry would pretend the opposite is true). If I gain weight I feel like I need to try harder with “cuter” outfits or spend more time on makeup or hair to make up for it, or else I’ll be “too gross”. :(
I hadn't gone into it from this angle...under the chin...only because all features great and small somehow were good enough all together, as a whole. Like a club. Working together in balance to create an illusive make-shift appeal. Basically, the parts that are not mainstream predictable are perfectly supported by the other more acceptable brand of flesh display. Remember Cher's real nose? I thought it was superb against her pearly skin and dark eyes. You need the rough to know the smooth.
Note: Let's just remember WHOM ARE WE WANTING TO ATTRACT?
Remember whatTROPHY wives look like and who their partners are.
Love LA from Flying Bra 👩🏼🎤
This is a great discussion topic and something I think about all the time. I think as a fat woman we are expected to perform “beauty” much more, when I was skinny I would happily go out with wet hair no makeup in a t-shirt and sweatpants, I wouldn’t dare do any of that now I’m fat, lest I be perceived as gross and lazy... or, actually, grosser and lazier 😓 A few years ago I grew out my grey hair (about 50% grey) and at the same time got fat for various reasons. I only kept the grey hair for about a year. I was only 39 and I just felt like, I can’t be OLD and FAT, after a lifetime of being the beauty standard (white thin conventionally attractive), it was just too much of a mindf*ck, so now I’m back dying my hair blonde. So that’s my perspective. I am loving reading the other replies. Thanks for opening up this conversation
I discovered ONE WEIRD TRICK to shake the tyranny of beauty standards and live a better, happier life: I stopped dating men.
It’s hard to talk about the societal value of beauty without talking about how it almost entirely boils down to being pleasing to men. I know this is a hot take in this “I got plastic surgery for ME!” Culture, but if you don’t date men, you are off the hook on SO MANY THINGS.
Look, none of the middle aged straight men I know are getting work done, but all the gay ones are, because the male gaze is extremely demanding.
I wish I could say that I stopped dating men entirely by choice but it also turns out that after 45, men are just not that interested anymore. (I thought that “last fuckable day” thing was a myth or an exaggeration until it happened to me.) If dating men is the water you’ve been swimming in all your life, you don’t even realize how you’ve tortured and contorted yourself according to it’s rules. But once you’re out of it…it’s such a strange kind of freedom.
I am appalled by how much time and money I wasted maintaining long, pretty hair. Now I cut my own (short) hair and don’t even wash it. I either wear no makeup, or cake it on, not worried if men will think I look “fake.”
Weirdly, I think I look great even though I am invisible to straight men. (Sometimes the invisibility feels almost literal…there are men in my social circle who just never speak to me or make eye contact even if I am standing in front of them.) Women still tell me I look good. Women tell me I have a great body. Women like my Instagram selfies. Gay men love me.
I’m not trying to brag. I still have moments of weakness. Occasionally I will meet a man and be attracted to him and a downward spiral of thoughts will occur: maybe he would be interested if I got Botox and a thread lift and a skin rejuvenation and grew my hair out and plucked my eyebrows and got a nose job and…
But I don’t (and they are never interested, in spite of all the Pollyanna talk I hear about how men will like you for your personality or your confidence no matter what you look like.) I just repeat to myself: “you don’t date men anymore. This isn’t a thing. Snap out of it. Don’t waste money. Spend your money on art and vacations, not futile attempts to trick men into thinking you’re socially acceptable enough to like. Men are fucking terrible anyway.”
So yeah, anyway, consciously choosing to die alone is a great way to eliminate a good 90% of the negotiation.
I’m light skinned Black (biracial with white dad) and always had straight teeth and a gorgeous smile so I’ve always relied on that to fit Western beauty standards. I also have “nice” skin, have been skinny but not super thin, and I was raised by a (mostly) body positive mother. During lockdown, I gained 30 lbs and I’m now 5 months pregnant so my body has changed a ton. For the first time, I’m “plus size” and considered “obese” by BMI standards (I know BMI is the worst). I’ve struggled but have focused on what I do have that is still “ideal”- my smile, skin, and thick curly hair. But I still wince when I see myself in photos and have to buy larger clothes. I hate feeling that way but remind myself I’m deprogramming 36 years of beauty brainwashing.
I’ve long felt that having tattoos “allows” me to wear vintage or cutesy feminine attire and still have a base level of cool (signed, a former tomboy)
This is such a great topic, and thread. I’ve always had impeccable skin, been thin/athletic, cis and white-ish (half-Asian). Because of that I rarely wear make up (maybe once every other month), and I’ve played with edgy haircuts and wearing weird or lazy outfits. I felt like I could get by on my face and figure a lot. 18 months after having a baby I’m still not as toned as I used be, and I’m suddenly becoming obsessed with makeup and dressing in a way that other moms would “approve” of (and the Crest strips!!). I’ve become acutely aware of how much of my identity was wrapped up in my appearance, and how mothers in our culture are expected to be invisible and beautiful and accept all of the blame for their children’s behavior and have a professional career, and it’s starting to sound trite but the reality of it is so damn heavy. My baby wakes up at 6am on a good day after waking throughout the night (don’t even get me started on that), and then I’m supposed to get up and do crunches and not have bags under my eyes and have clean hair and clothes? I desperately want to say I’m done negotiating, but without professional work to prove my validity it feels like even more of my worth is wrapped in my appearance.
From an early age I tried to shift the focus from my large (and obviously unacceptable) body, first to my hair (straightened my lovely thick curls to look *sKiNnIeR*) and later to my face (think YouTube beauty influencers circa 2016—over a dozen products just to leave the house). Then the pandemic happened and I wore sweatpants and a greasy top knot and a bare face for 2+ years. The world didn't stop spinning, I didn't become less of a "woman" and I actually got more d than before somehow?!!
Now my curls no longer fall how they used to and I wish I could get them back, but I know I never will. I miss them. On the plus side, when I tried to get back in my mascara habit again last year, my eyes hurt and burned. I took that as a sign to throw it in the garbage and haven't worn it since. #blessed
Perceptive insight, thanks for dissecting this.
Very perceptive insight, thanks for dissecting this!
I feel this on a deep level.
Thanks for articulating, Jessica!
Wanting to be thin to compensate for other perceived flaws is something I also struggle with. In adolescence my body was heavily, vocally scrutinised by my family (my mum and her sisters mainly, but also my stepfather was complicit in questioning my puberty-induced body hair) and so because of that I ‘learned’ that being thin was a way to gain acceptance, and therefore love.
Luckily I’m older (and so questioning) and have a boyfriend who always tells me how beautiful I am, no matter what insecurity I express about my body. Having someone so loving to constantly rebuttal my negative self-talk has done wonders for my body image; I can see what he sees.
living in an area that is increasingly being gentrified// wanting to work in a customer facing role, I've seen my parameters shift. During the pandemic - when I didn't really have to interact with anyone - makeup and beauty were pretty much non existent for me - signifiers of cleanliness and hygiene were more important. But now that I interact with much wealthier people - specifically those who undergo regular beauty treatments (nails, facials, hair) as well as cosmetic beauty treatments - the parameters have shifted. Makeup that used to be 'I'm making an effort' is now ' I'm doing the bare minimum', especially since employers are increasingly asking for images of my face/links to my instagram ( applying for sales associate positions. not modelling. not acting. RETAIL)
I spent years in science research working in a cleanroom that didn't allow makeup, nail polish, or fragrance, so I went about the world bare faced. Now that I have my own business I feel obligated to wear makeup, not necessarily to be pretty, but to prove that I have made an effort. It feels like I'm asking other people to be invested, so my appearance needs to match my level of investment. Is this a big problem? No. But, I think about how much eyeshadow conveys enough effort a lot these days.
During the height of the pandemic, I decided to join in the head shaving fun. I’d always wanted to give it a try! It was so interesting to me, though, that every pic I looked up when making my decision showed a woman with loads of makeup and beautiful earrings. I felt like I wanted to experience truly stepping away from all the work and trappings of beauty expectations. It was partly a spiritual choice. Day to day, I went makeup free and loved the freedom of buzzed hair. However, the moment I needed to go in front of crowds on camera for work, I put on makeup and big earrings 😂 It felt like too big a leap not to signal my femininity in some clear way. I noticed myself comfortably tossing my makeup as my hair reached my shoulders.
What you’re saying here really articulates something I think about a lot! A lot of peoples’ advice for us fat people who want to learn to love their body is to follow bOdY pOsItIvE people on Instagram etc but I found over time it made me feel worse because when women are fat they better be gorgeous if they’re going to get any attention on the internet. It often made me feel worse because it reinforced that message to me: if I’m going to fat that’s only okay if my face is beautiful enough to make up for it. Stepping away from social media entirely is the only thing that actually helped me make progress toward peace with my body. Thanks for talking about this! ❤️
I learned from this thread that it’s still very triggering for me to read comments from other women about the body parts/features they like (that I don’t have), even in the context of talking about tradeoffs they come off as humblebrags. I have nothing to recommend me and given my age, never will. After spending oodles of money on cosmetic surgery, I learned mostly that beauty can’t be bought. I find that I feel best about myself when I don’t have opportunities to compare myself to others.
As an Asian American woman in a very white area, I grew up feeling like I was inherently not pretty. I have always been thin, had clear skin, etc, but I felt like these things didn't matter, because I lacked the essential building blocks of attractiveness (i.e. whiteness). I didn't know any "beautiful" women who had my large face, small eyes, and straight hair, so I assumed that it was simply impossible for me to be attractive. For me, this negotiation became more about sexual currency (being f*ckable), since I saw few or no paths towards "becoming" better looking. I realize this is all EXTREMELY sad and screwed up as an adult, but it's something I look back on as a teenager and wish I had had a better vocabulary for what I was feeling.
I used to feel proud of myself for resisting a lot of beauty conditioning/culture (I don't wear makeup, I don't shave, I don't keep up with trends in fashion), but upon consideration, I'm probably able to do that because of white supremacist beauty standards: I'm white, have blue eyes, and have hair on the blonder side of light brown. And yet, I *still* find myself thinking, "if I'm going to be this bare-faced and hairy, I had better not gain any more weight," or "can I really cut my hair, when I already don't wear feminine clothing? Is it safe to look that butch?" Sexual orientation isn't nearly as visible as factors like race or ability, but I think it also plays a big role in beauty negotiations. I think being closeted and appearing as hyper feminine as possible were deeply related earlier in my life.
So interesting. I have naturally curly hair. I’ve recently been blessed with adult acne and ever since it broke out I’ve insisted on wearing my hair straight every day to “cancel out” the breakout on my chin, in my mind if I can make my hair look conventionally attractive then my breakout is forgiven.
This is such an interesting thread - it seems like everyone negotiates in some way. I remember for years thinking there was nothing special about my looks - not curvy, thin lips, small eyes, crooked teeth, short, frizzy hair, small boobs, etc etc and comparing to other women who had at least some of those features and feeling less than. It’s weird how at 64 I’m happier and feel better about myself than I ever have, as I slowly become more aware of how relationships are most important in my life. I am often taken off guard at how invisible I’ve become - people don’t value age over beauty. I still do try to compensate at times usually by obsessing over what to wear and then discovering it doesn’t really matter. I recently had surgery for a tumor in my spine which has given me a different perspective on life. Still - society had embedded into women’s psyche our need to be pleasing in the eyes of everyone, like it is a moral duty. So many people are overlooked and discarded because of this mentality.
I am a 70 year old white woman who recently decided to go gray. For some reason people don't respond to the elderly in the United States. When a young man ran to open the door to a restaurant, I was excited until I realized he just wanted to get in ahead of me. It was a hard decision to stop coloring my hair and not embrace the youth culture.
Yes! I recently gave up make up (again) and noticed that my train of thought just goes there. Like if I don’t wear make up I should at least keep up my skincare routine and my hair looking decent. But as I contemplate what’s in my heart and if I want to stop any other beauty acts, I really feel the pressure of negotiation. Like if I don’t wear make up AND stop shaving, and as it is I’ve sworn to myself to only wear comfy…IE not fashionable…clothes, how will I express my femininity? I should at least keep my blonde balayage, my skincare, and keep my waves styled. That type of thing.
I'm almost 6ft tall. It's socially acceptable for a woman to be that tall if she's rail thin (still taking up a modest amount of surface area I guess) but tall and curvy? I briefly tried to offset my stature with thinness, and when I look at photos from that time I look DEAD INSIDE. There's no concealer or serum to hide your tall; I just had to stop giving a fuck. Or cut my legs off at the knees. So...
SOOO many things. Same thing re: white teeth if they're crooked as I never wore my retainer in hs and my bottom teeth shifted-- also down to the fact that my top teeth were straight so that made it ok that my bottom weren't. I also remember feeling wildly insecure about my strong calves, mostly out of frustration that I couldn't wear skinny jeans or boots easily but would tell myself it was "ok" because I have somewhat visible abs. I vividly remember thinking to myself at the beginning of my eating disorder recovery that if I couldn't be thin I could be muscular, and that it would be ok for me to not attain one version of an idealized body if I could "compromise" with another version. Of course, orthorexia and an unhealthy relationship with exercise is just another brand of eating disorder but it took some time to realize that. I also have this conversation a LOT as a pilates instructor as soooo many people say things to me that they mean as a compliment along the lines of "you have such an attainable body" -- which is a very weird thing to hear for many reasons but also because genetically I am more predisposed to show muscle..so it's attainable for me with exercise, but not necessarily for other people which of course doesn't mean that exercise is less important to one's overall wellbeing...could talk about this forever
i think i had the opposite experience. I needed to negotiate AWAY from beauty. Since getting over the miserable self-consciousness of middle school, I have felt mostly attractive by mainstream US standards; I am a tallish anglo-looking white woman with a decent face and nice legs and ass, now in my mid-60s. After I became a hippie in the 1970s, I found that most of the things I didn't like about my body had compensations: I was flat-chested but as a result didn't have to wear a bra much; my head hair was too thin but as a result I didn't have to shave my body. So I usually enjoyed my looks, as far as it went. But instead of letting myself become fully "beautiful," I sabotaged my appearance in little ways: I have always bitten my nails terribly, never wear makeup or do anything with my hair, and usually stay a bit overweight. Maybe I fear that being too beautiful will make me a target of male attention and female hostility. The history of molestation, sexual harassment, and sister issues that this brings in is not really relevant to this thread--but I think it's worth adding that beauty negotiation can happen in the other direction too.
Also, just adding thanks to Jessica for the great work you are doing!! It's so important.
A while back I saw a video in which Caroline de Maigret said that as her face got 'messier' she made sure the rest of her got 'neater' (What she meant by messier, in the context of the video, was that she aged, and started getting wrinkles). Curious what others here think about age-related tradeoffs?
When I was younger it was “i don’t have a pretty face but at least i have a nice butt”, now in my 30s after children it’s “i don’t have a fit body but at least I look younger than the other mothers at school”. Which is so many layers of fucked up.
This discussion has been so enlightening!
LOVE this article & reading through the comments. Been sort of strange to recognise that I participate in this behaviour, but without the concept of "beauty negotations" to frame it, I may have never have recognised that it forms a big part of my own relationship to my physical appearance.
My parents are a mix of south east Asian, Australian & Middle Eastern. I was "blessed" (trying to reframe for myself) with a very defined jawline and large masseter muscles and dark body hair. I've negotiated that I my looks therefore *must* be aggressively "femme" (aka always have exceptionally long hair, dress like a stepford wife & remain waif thin at all costs).
I think this got a lot worse for me (and a lot of people with these features) when the masseter reduction injections came onto the cosmetic enhancement market, which gave me a label for the muscles for the first time. "MY MASSETERS!!!" (a term I had probably never heard before an instagram ad telling me how easy it would be to get rid of them of) were obviously an offence against my ability to be good looking and suddenly I began to declare that I hated these very important muscles (even though I'd probably never really thought about them specifically in the overall list of things I'd change if I could). AH thank you for everyone who has contributed to this thread. Reading through the comments & writing my own has felt like shedding a layer. Thanks for letting me be a little freer! x
Crest White Strips 🖕🏻 hurt the crap out of my teeth. I tried them last year and gave them away after a few days because of the pain!
I don't often think about the connection, but my eating disorder really took off after I was fired from a job. If I couldn't be successful at my career, I was going to be successful at being hot and skinny. Apparently. Really I think the underlying theme was I had to be "better than" at something. Beforehand I always felt "better than" at school and sports, but then I lost those and it was like oh boy gotta pick something real quick! It's funny because my skin was actually pretty terrible the whole time I was very thin, but I didn't care because I was thin enough to make up for it.
This is such an excellent discussion. For me, it’s the comparison between my boobs and stomach. I don’t have a flat stomach, but I’ve definitely thought “at least my tits are big”. They’re so big and painful that I’ve considered a breast reduction, but then I actually worried that it would make my belly look bigger. It’s like, my boobs are making my lived experience actually *painful*, but they’re lovely, so the pain doesn’t matter? Makes no sense.
I also remember my mom praising me in middle school for having visible collarbones, and then that became another thing. “I have cystic acne, but at least my collarbones stick out”. Once I hit my 30s and they disappeared, I had to renegotiate that whole issue and move on toward a healthier mindset, and it was really difficult.
When I was out with two friends the other night, Botox came up (we're all 31 yo). As in, one of my friends wants her bf to get Botox on his forehead and has told him as much (discussion for another thread). We also talked about my two friends getting Botox, which they do semi regularly. I said I don't think Botox is for me even though I have visible fine lines. They both commented that that was fine because I have good bone structure, a clear face, don't need a lot of makeup, etc, etc. Which, combined with this thread, has me wondering, am I only okay not getting Botox because I have an otherwise pretty face by social standards? How many of my personal beliefs are mine and how many are mine because they're also socially acceptable?
Growing up, my closest friends would complement my face specifically, with the implication that my body, which has never been skinny, wasn't worth complementing. I think I've always subconsciously held onto, "at least I have a good face "
i stopped wearing makeup years ago so my prominent under eye bags are always visible - but was constantly fighting to manage my adult acne bc can't possibly have both. recently cut out most products other than basic face wash and SPF bc nothing was helping and it was stressing me out too much to think about it constantly! but we'll see if i go back eventually.
I feel more comfortable wearing no makeup if my very pale brows and lashes are tinted. I wouldn't leave my house without makeup for the longest time!
I recently cut my hair short (pixie) and now feel the need to "compensate" by wearing more makeup. Makeup makes my eyes itch and I'd prefer to ditch it, but now I have this irrational thought that I need to grow my hair out again before I can do that. I'm fully aware of how dumb this is, but the feeling is hard to shake off.
I had mild but cystic acne for years—still persistent in my 30s, and my fair skin really showed the hyperpigmentation. By mild I mean pretty much just on my chin, but almost almost more than one cyst at a time. I didn't go in public without makeup and I love red lipstick but wouldn't wear it if my acne was particularly red too because it accentuated my pigmentation. But my other thoughts were also "at least I'm 'pretty,' decent with concealer, thin, and have good hair." UGH.