Tonight started like any other Tuesday night. I got home from work shortly after 4 to catch the last part of Ellen. Then I flipped on the news (insert “SHOCKER” here). After I cleaned up last night’s dinner dishes (left over due to the fact that the Bachelorette was on and that consumed
most all of my evening), I decided to start thinking about dinner. I knew I had a salmon fillet left over from grandma’s generous unloading of frozen meats she bought from some Schwan’s rival, and I decided to make a lovely salmon fillet with a lemon-dijon sauce, and a side of broccoli and tortolini. A little fancier than a usual Tuesday night meal, but it was the first thing I thought of, and I stuck to it.
I made my dijon sauce, and started the water boiling for my pasta. When I reached into my freezer, I remembered that the salmon had been in there for quite some time and I started to worry that it wouldn’t be good anymore. I was right. The salmon fillet was severely freezer-burned and had all the markings of “bad fish.”
[As a side-note, I should also tell you the following:
When I got home, I knew I didn’t have plans tonight so I washed my face, and took all my makeup off. At this time, I was reminded that I needed a new toothbrush.]
I had already made my lemon-dijon sauce, crushed my breadcrumbs, and started my water boiling, so there was no turning back. I decided to halt everything and make an emergency salmon run. I turned off my oven which was fully preheated, I turned off the stove, I grabbed my keys and out the door I ran. I was not even halfway down the first flight of stairs (there are six) when I realized that I wasn’t wearing any makeup. I almost turned around but knew that I just wanted to go and get back so I could continue making dinner. To be sure it “wasn’t that bad,” I pulled up the camera on my phone to take a look at my face to see if I was even close to publicly presentable. I wasn’t. But as they say in the ‘biz,’ “the show must go on,” so I forged down the rest of the stairs, and made my way to Rainbow.
Now is the time when I take a brief moment to be completely honest with you about something I’m sure you don’t care about only because you don’t need to and you’ve probably never thought about it. Ready? I NEVER leave the house without some kind of make-up on my face. Sometimes it’s to actually cover something up. Sometimes it acts as more of a security blanket. And before you start going and blaming my mother saying things like, “Why did she teach her that?” or “Why didn’t she instill more self-confidence in her?” please note that this has absolutely nothing to do with my mom. Actually, my mom has frequently tried to tell me that makeup doesn’t matter. She, herself, doesn’t even wear much. This obsession I have is no one’s fault but my own.
When I got to Rainbow (for you out-of-staters, Rainbow is a grocery store), I knew something was off. The moment I saw someone, I looked down at the ground- and my eyes never left it (except to look at which salmon, toothbrushes, and tupperware containers I was purchasing). I stared at the ground during the entire 7-10 minutes I was in the store. I went through the self-checkout because I didn’t want to have to look anyone in the eyes. Every time I walked by someone I was reminded that I wasn’t in my usually “pretty” state. I wasn’t wearing makeup. I was in a state that is only ever embraced when I’m alone in my apartment. Shame had completely consumed me.
As a woman, I’ve been conditioned to believe that “beautiful” looks a certain way. As someone with terrible self-talk and self-esteem, I’ve conditioned myself to believe that I am not it. As much as this is a problem, I don’t think it’s completely my fault, nor do I believe that it’s completely the world’s fault. Sure, media tells me that “beautiful” comes in pretty much one form- long, beautiful hair, big, beautiful eyes, thin, tan, nice boobs, and a nice ass (for all you ass guys out there). I don’t fit this mold—– AT ALL. For those of you who know me personally, you know that this is true. Yes, some of you will tell me that I am beautiful, however, the key to understanding where I’m coming from is that I don’t fit the beautiful mold. There’s a difference.
I’ve told a guy friend of mine, on at least two occasions, that “guys like him are the reason girls like me are single.” I usually drop this bomb when we discuss how “hot” Carly Rae Jepsen or Kellie Pickler are (I’m only using him as an example because I guarantee you he doesn’t read this). I really don’t mean anything by this when I say it, but then I reflect, and I realize how much I actually believe it. “Girls like me” don’t fit into his or most men’s cookie-cutter mold that the world has come to know as beautiful. And as smart as I am, or funny, or [insert endearing quality here] as I may be, I’ll never be, and other girls who don’t fit into the mold will never feel like we are a complete person because we know that men are looking for something more. Essentially, we’ll never be the complete package.
Now, I’m sure you’re trying to tie this back to the whole “leaving the house without make-up” thing, so let me help. The second I stepped out of my apartment, fresh-faced, and flawed, I felt the pressure of the world on my shoulders. I knew that, as a woman, I was supposed to be something in particular, and by stepping out without make-up on, I was failing to measure up to that standard of excellence. I couldn’t tell if I should be ashamed of myself, or ashamed that the world had conditioned me to feel like this. At that point, it didn’t matter. My reality was that I DID feel like that, and for 7-10 minutes, walking through Rainbow, I felt inferior to everyone around me, and I felt that I had little-to-no worth.
It makes me sad that my 12 year old sister will grow up in a world like this. It’s funny, because she’s starting to dabble in makeup, and worry about fashion while I’m constantly telling her it doesn’t matter, and she’s so beautiful. As much energy as I put into telling her that, I put just as much energy into telling myself that she won’t believe it because I don’t believe it for myself. The world (and I hope you understand that by “world,” I mean “American society”) has put these standards on us as women AND MEN (trust me guys, I know you’re dealing with it too, and women are not totally innocent in that), to live up to expectations that no one can reach. Not even celebrities. Do we need to talk about the significance of airbrushing and retouching photos? THIS is the world we live in- not only are the “realistic” levels of expectations too much for us to handle, we have a whole separate set of unrealistic expectations to live up to.
If you know anything about Brene Brown, you’ll realize that this post goes against everything she teaches and talks about. Brene Brown researches shame and vulnerability and encourages people to live into that vulnerability, and embrace who they are. I love her work and her writing and I will encourage any and everyone to read her books, but tonight was a clear indication that some of her teaching is total and complete idealism. What she talks about is not the reality that you and I live every day. We feel pressure to look right, to have enough money, drive the right car, go on the right vacations, be members of the right church, or country club. It’s hard for me to embrace myself because I’m living in a world that’s constantly trying to take who I am away from me. And guess what? You might not know it, but the world is doing it to you, too.
So, how do we get over it? I have no idea. The problem is systemic, and systemic problems are the hardest to fix. You can love yourself all you want, and embrace who you are as much as possible, but we are all fighting the exact same battle… and we’re fighting it against ourselves and each other. I can promise you that I will
probably never leave the house without make-up again because I can’t. It causes me to feel actual pain in dealing with the shame that I experience. Your battle might be something different. I don’t know what it is for you, but the battle is there and the key to fighting it is understanding what it is.
I will never be as beautiful as the FSN Girls (don’t even get me started), I’ll never be as charismatic as Jennifer Lawrence, and I’ll never look like Megan Fox. Don’t be fooled– celebrity women aren’t the only ones my struggle is with. I went to High School with a bunch of girls I STILL wish I could be. But there comes a time when the need to face reality overcomes the need to live up to expectations. If that means that I’m single for a really long time because I’m not pretty enough to date (a guy in high school told me this one time), then so be it. Luckily, life goes on whether you’re a little ugly or not. Life goes one whether you’re a size 2 or a size 20. Life goes on whether you make $30,000 a year, or $300,000 year. The beautiful part in this is that life does, in fact, go on.
Your battle is your battle, and I’m sorry you have to fight it. I’m especially sorry if you’re fighting it alone. If at all possible, find comfort that though we might all be fighting separate battles, we are fighting them together.