As humans, we can change and play with our appearance in so many ways we’re more like chameleons; able to disguise our natural visage with all the aplomb of a consummate artiste. And it doesn’t even need to cost a lot of money. We can dress up to highlight our attributes and hide our physical faults, don the most alluring accessories from the local market and style our hair to enhance the shape of our face. All designed to score a Top 10 in the beauty stakes. At least for the female sex! Make up of course, is our most cherished commodity, enhancing us in the good looks department to win that coveted job or catch the most desirable man. Men, however, too often have to make do with what they inherited; genetics taking precedence over the artificial and unnatural accoutrements females use almost every day of their lives. In the makeover stakes, they surely come off second best! Yes, there are now some metrosexual men who indulge in face creams, moisturisers and all manner of potions and lotions to improve their skin as well as spending copious dollars on a wardrobe of designer clothes and trimming their hair to the latest fashion fads. But very few males actually wear make-up so they’re way behind us females in being able to transform themselves. What you see is what you get, while women can defy their genetics if and when they choose, though what you see is often a camouflage of their real self!
Is this wrong or just another example of nature bestowing on our gender the necessary tricks to assert some kind of supremacy over men when we have so little else to arm ourselves in the fight for the power we crave in our lives; or are we simply ‘dressing up’ for approval and success as men have defined these things for us? Maybe it’s really about looking after ourselves and making the most of what we inherited at birth or are we just cheating our way along the labyrinth of life? In the real animal kingdom, there are hundreds of animal species who use all sorts of natural ploys to attract the opposite sex so is this all we are doing? Are we really meant to be Barbie dolls so we can procreate the human race? And what of the man who’s attracted to some woman at night and lustfully beds her only to wake up the next morning alongside her unable to recognise her as the woman he lusted after the night before? The woman stripped bare of her attire; her make-up and her hair in disarray? I once worked with a woman who said she never went to the supermarket without wearing make-up; moreover, she never went out of the house without her carefully constructed disguise and when I said I was aghast, she simply replied I always want to look my best! What argument could I offer to debate this? Was I just a misguided Ugly Duckling who denied wanting to look like the Beautiful Swan of my adolescence?
Indeed, with the advent of the Women’s Movement of the 70s many women, including me, rebelled against the strict disciplines of the beauty regime; we jettisoned our make-up, abandoned our quest for stylish clothes and let our hair grow long and unruly. We adopted the adage of many men; what you see is what you get and at least, you won’t be startled or surprised when you wake up in bed the morning after! This is what I did; it wasn’t calculated or planned but absorbed into my unconscious so I simply no longer cared that much about what I looked like. I had heaps more to offer than just my physical appeal; my mind reigned sacrosanct over my body and that became increasingly more important as I got older. But it all backfired on me! Men wondered too often if I was gay; (I put on weight, too) and my coveted black book of impending dates remained empty for far too long. Was this what it was all about; exchanging a lifestyle where our looks counted for everything to one where our minds counted for nothing? I once penned a poem about looks and sex positing that if looks and sex was all men see, we’re better off by letting it be. But the truth was I couldn’t let it be; I was alone far too often and started dreading looking into the mirror where I saw a real Ugly Duckling reflected back to me. And I hated it; myself, too. Something was very, very wrong with our feminist ideology that had warped us all into unattractive images of our real selves. And that was when I started to appraise that men had little or no choice in competing in the good looks department (though appearance never mattered half as much for men as it does for women; men have more power, more money and more status), females could opt for make-up, clothes, hair styles and a million and one other beauty artefacts to enhance their appearance while men had to bear the brunt of their natural inheritance and that certainly wasn’t fair! Good looks were a lottery; won by a scant few and lost by millions of others. Women could gamble in every department store buying their beauty over the counter, albeit cheaply or more expensive as their wallets dictated. Justice for once, was on the side of women!
Yes, I still like to go without make-up (my face feels fresh and clean), I like to lounge around in jeans and T shirts or loose flowing dresses that aren’t always the most flattering and on really hot days, I pull my hair off my face because it’s cooler than having it hanging all around me. None of this makes me look a million dollars, but I am comfortable and at ease with my real self and needless to say, I shed all the excess kilos I piled on in my carefree days in my 20s. I feel good about it all even though I DO dress up and wear make-up (but not always to the supermarket) and wear more stylish gear and jewellery and going to the hairdresser to look after my hair. So am I a mere liar about who I really am? The Great Pretender like millions of women around the world? Are too many women defying nature by behaving in this way? Or are we simply making the most of ourselves to look our best as age encroaches on our bodies and wrinkles now adorn our face between the eye shadow and mascara? I heard a former fashion writer now newspaper columnist talking on TV recently who commented she was concerned about her daughter’s focus on body image as she consistently turned sideways to look in the mirror to see whether her stomach was protruding. She concluded by adding there was little she could really do to change that behaviour. Well, I laughed, black, ironic humour because as a Femmosexual, I can plead guilty to doing that too; still as an older woman, and I can’t even articulate why it really matters except to acknowledge my quiet obsession with a female legacy that I for one, can’t shake off. Though I don’t starve myself or exercise ridiculously to flatten my slightly rounded belly! Much of the time it just feels uncomfortable. Enough already! Despite never marrying or having Someone Special in my life; I do enjoy looking in the mirror even as I age and still feel a bit sorry for men who weren’t blessed at birth with good looks. Still, we all struggle through life trying to make the most of what we have; both in our minds AND bodies. And the crazy ideology of strident feminists who still decry make-up, being slim and looking beautiful can stay in THEIR closet while I’ll happily go out into the world with or without make-up! And people can take me as they find me; looking my best or on some days, just comfortable with who I am!