Tuesday, June 10, 2014

You Don't Like the Way I Look? Okay.

Today I read not one but two blog posts by women who are considering going naturally gray and shivering with fear at the prospect that they will look older than they did when they dyed their hair. Yesterday I (stupidly) commented on a friend's blog that I didn't like her friend's tattoo, and her friend exploded.

What do these events have in common? The striking amount that some people care what other people think about what they look.

For the record, I have some gray hair. Not a lot, but some. And I'm 58, so it's understandable. I've decided that I'm never going to dye my hair. It is what it is, and I kind of like it. But then, I don't wear make-up, either. I don't even own any. I've never painted my nails, and I don't want to. My ears have no holes in them. You've probably guessed that I don't have any tattoos. And the only jewelry I wear is my wedding band. (Most of the time, that is.)

Part of the reason for all this is that I'm pretty much convinced (though I'm working on it) that I'm ugly or, at best, plain. So why bother trying to look pretty? It would be a lie, right?

As Barbara Walters said, "I am the way I am, I look the way I look, I am my age." In other words, I yam what I yam. And that's fine with me.

It's almost a religious tenet with me, though I don't think it's necessary for salvation or anything like that. It's just that going to pains to look different would make me feel dishonest. And applying cosmetics or getting a tattoo—there's nothing wrong with the way I look, so why paint over it? Poking holes in my body to hang jewelry on seems ridiculous. God made me just the way I am. Why try to change that?

What puzzles me is why hardly anybody else seems to feel this way. Why does everybody else want to look different from the way they really look?

However, if you do any of this stuff, I'm not attacking you for your choices in appearance. You do what you want. I don't get it, but I don't mind it, either.

Still, let's pretend that I did attack you. Let's imagine that I said I thought make-up was stupid and so is everybody who wears it. Why should you care what I think? Why should my opinion matter to you at all?

I'm not putting this well. Maybe somebody will comment and we can figure this out together. In the meantime, I'm going to take my unadorned self back to the pumpkin patch.


Rabia Lieber said...

For the sake of starting a discussion: I wear jewelry because I like getting dressed up and looking fancy. It's the same reason I like to wear nice clothes for work. I have worn makeup off and on. I don't wear it to look "better" I just wear it to look fancy. I would rather sleep an extra ten minutes than get up and fix my hair or apply makeup, so that's why I usually don't. I like to look like I take care of myself, but I'm honestly not concerned with other people think.

Rachel Kadel-Garcia said...

We all make choices about our appearance and we all communicate things about ourselves by doing so. There is no neutral, there is no opting out, and you would *never* take your unadorned self back to the pumpkin patch. At least, not in the light of day and not to do actual work -- it'd be both impractical and socially unacceptable.

Since going naked and doing nothing to our hair ever are both radical social statements and usually impractical, we have to make choices about how we're going to look, and humans being the pattern-matching social creatures we are, that's going to carry meaning, and how other people react to that meaning will affect us.

When I go without makeup and dress and do my hair in ways that feel neutral to me, other people see me as younger than I am; if I want them to see me as experienced, adult, professional, I have to consciously change how I visually present myself. (Or I can hope/trust that people will override what they *see* in favor of other aspects of their experience of me.)

I'm working on getting past the idea that I'm so unattractive that I'm not worth adorning, that it would be "putting lipstick on a pig", that trying to look nice would be both a lie and a doomed endeavor. And for me trying out different ways to look is an important part of recovering from the copious doses of self-loathing our culture has prescribed for me.

A tattoo is very often an expression of something that's deeply important to the wearer. If someone says "Here is something about me that I care about a lot" and you say "I don't like that," it seems unsurprising that they would be hurt. Which doesn't mean you have to like everyone's tattoos! Just, y'know, telling them that is hurtfully-personal (and sometimes online we lose track of who's in earshot).

Your last set of questions there seem really strange to me. Do you actually really not care if people you know think you are stupid?

Rosie said...

See, for me I find it important to look nice in part because of the perception that babies ruin your life and every mom is going to look frumpy because babies are the end of the world. So showing up in public with my herd and looking decent sends the message that, hey, my life ISN'T over because I have kids, and it's possible for me to look attractive and not haggard. AND that I care enough about the people I see not to subject them to a haggard, exhausted appearance because I don't feel like putting forth the effort to look decent.

Bonnie said...

I completely agree with you! I never really understood makeup, although I wear it sometimes just to fit in. :-/ I think your mentality is much healthier! I love this post.