Monday, 24 April 2017

Beauty isn't policing your body under a reign of terror

Adolescence affects us all differently and we all react differently accordingly. For me, it was not a case of not wanting to grow up but, rather, that the sudden and drastic changes in my body made me feel attacked, as if I was robbed of a great sense of self and given this utterly new strange form to inhabit. A form that was no longer naturally and childishly slender but curved and cumbersome with bits that got in the way of climbing things and running freely and being freely. It embarrassed me and made me super aware of myself. I was always quick to rid myself of any signs of these changes, of this new, foreign me, that I could.

Hair - or body hair, to be exact - was the easiest to shed and, despite being warned against it by all the women I knew, I began to remove the soft blonde hairs that covered my arms and legs very early on. In turn, darker, coarser hairs took their place and I was quickly stuck in an endless cycle. It seems exhausting and downright ridiculous to the adult me now but, for almost a decade, I shaved my limbs daily and with an almost religious fervour.

Today, with newly changed sheets and warmer weather lying in wait, I shaved my legs and nicked my ankle badly in the process, something that is not uncommon for little clumsy ol' me. But, as my policing of my body hair is no longer a frantic beast, it had been a while - especially since I had done such a thoroughly good job of it. It stung and rushed with blood that, I knew, would not stop for some time. I stared at the reddening water at my feet and the throbbing wound on my leg and a rush of memories washed over me. Memories of a thousand other nicks, of bleeding through multiple bandages and all over everything, of being embarrassed by the whole thing and lying about how I acquired the cuts, of carefully navigating them a day or two later to repeat my routine...How did I ever have so much time or energy to waste on such painful frivolity?

Of course, I don't believe in judging how others deal with their own bodies and it's not as if I am against hair removal or ready to embrace a life completely free of hair removal myself nowadays. In saying this I'm also no longer willing to be embarrassed by something completely natural, to waste endless additional hours in the shower removing hair, to actually bleed for some ideal of beauty.

Looking down at that blood made me realise just how far I had come. In fact, I have these realisations often. Realisations of the fact that I'm closer to the woman I'd like to be. And, while I will forever want to be liked and approved of, the approval and opinions of others bother me less and less. Cliché as it may be: life is simply too short.

So, yeah, sometimes my penchant for ankle-grazing trousers will reveal the fact that it's been a while between shaves but now it bothers me less that the dude across from me on the bus or the girl next to me might notice. I can't say I'm completely over it. I'll still wonder if they see it but I won't stress out about it and I'm not going back to daily shaving in case strangers spot an errant hair.

In the time that this blog went from a fashion blog to a fashion, beauty & other stuff blog and I went from barely washing my face (I kid - mostly) to full skincare regimes and relatively advanced knowledge of (if infrequent use of) cosmetics, I grew to focus on the beauty industry a lot more. I've worked with lots of brands and tried all sorts of products. I've gone through brief periods of overly intense scrutiny of self. I've grown up and let go of some (some) of my body and appearance hang-ups. And I've come to realise that there is no beauty in policing your body under a reign of terror.

It's perfectly fine to take care of yourself, to want to look good, to want to present and groom yourself well but "beauty" should never cross the line into obsession and there should always be breathing room. Humans are hairy, sweaty, porous creatures that have bumps and lumps and will never, ever be perfect - no matter how close to it some people make it seem. The sooner you embrace your humanity and imperfections, the sooner you'll have more time, headspace and peace.




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