A few weekends ago, I was packing an overnight bag to go spend a couple of days with a dear friend in New Orleans. Not wanting to schlep up into the attic for a small suitcase, I grabbed a couple of bags I use for the gym and made do.
While I was shoving a few changes of clothes into one of those bags, I found myself feeling self-conscious.
Why am I bringing so many clothes? Do I really need all the stuff?
And then, when I was packing my toiletries, another series of self-conscious queries.
Do I really need my curling iron? Why am I bothering with my face cream, I’m only going to be gone for two nights?
And why all the self-doubt? Why all the hemming and hawing about bringing a few changes of clothes and my daily regimen of beauty products? Because I do not want to give the appearance of being “high maintenance.”
It’s been a thing with me for as long as I can remember. I don’t like checking bags because I don’t want anyone to think (heaven forbid) that I’d pack an extra pair of shoes that I may or may not wear.
I rejected night creams and skin care products for decades because I thought I should be content with my rapidly drying, in desperate need of biotin and collagen skin. I’m a free spirit. Free spirits don’t moisturize.
I am a 43-year-old woman who only recently learned how to properly curl my hair with a curling iron because, you guessed it, I am too busy, too intellectual, too whatever the fuck other form of self-deprecating loathing disguised as empowerment bullshit to spend twenty minutes curling my hair in the morning.
The question you may be asking yourself, - and I eventually had the self-awareness to ask myself the same question while driving to New Orleans that Friday after work - is who was I worried about judging me for my need to have a couple of changes of clothes and my desire to look as attractive as possible during my girls' weekend with one of my best friends?
Certainly, not my friend.
Definitely not my mama.
Firstborn could give a flying fig how many bags Mommy shoves into the back of her car.
Because I’m low maintenance. Except that I’m not. I maintain my body. I take care of my skin and my nails and my hair and my health and my teeth because I’m a grown woman who loves my body and would like to see it last in as good a condition as possible for as long as possible. There. Secret’s out.
Being a woman in America is a judgmental nuclear arms race to the bottom.
We’re all supposed to be beautiful when we roll out the bed in the morning. #nomakeup #nofilter #wokeuplikethis #fuckyouyoudidnot
Let’s take moisturizing, shall we?
My teenaged nephew with whom I share a bathroom LOVES to tease me about my moisturizing routine because, you know, A) he’s a dude B) his skin still has collagen and C) he’s got one drawer in the vanity we share, while I have two drawers and an entire cabinet so I’ve got to give him something in return… fair is fair, after all.
Back to moisturizing.
I gigged in smoky bars and stayed up all hours writing music and running sound for most of my life. When I stopped that, I woke up every few hours to nurse a baby for four years and then, just on the other side of weaning him, I get the bright idea to wake up every day at 5 a.m. to write, regardless of how little or how much sleep I got the night before. My skin is exhausted, y’all. It’s not going to produce collagen unless I force feed it. And I have that weird quirk that I mentioned earlier, although I’m sure no woman or man in the history of humanity has ever wanted to look youthful and rested and attractive for as long as they possibly can. Just me and Dorian Gray, then.
Despite that, whenever my nephew razzes me about my collection of creams, I feel defensive. Like I’m doing something vane and shameful.
I’m supposed to love my lines, right? #aginggracefully #lovemywrinkles #fuckyoutoo
The reason those moments of internalized judgment bother me so is that they’re actually coming from the outside, not from inside me, not really. And they are everywhere and you are damned if you do, damned if you don’t.
However you feel about your body; whatever beauty regimen you are employing; I will guarantee you that you, my friend, have been judged for it – but you probably already know that.
When I posted (what I thought was) an inspirational before/after post about losing 60 pounds and changing my life for the better, the next day, one of my Facebook acquaintances (I don’t actually know this person in real life) posted something about how people need to be more sensitive when they “brag” about a big weight loss because it makes those who are struggling with their own weight feel bad.
Seriously? I lose 60 pounds and want to celebrate that and somehow this is about you? Okey-dokey.
On the flipside, when a woman has fully embraced her size and loves to eat mac ‘n’ cheese hamburgers regardless of her weight, what does society do? Tell her that she should really watch what she eats because she has such a “pretty face” and would “look so much better if she only lost that weight.”
Seriously? Who asked you? Did she ask for your opinion of her weight when she posted that delicious picture of a mac ‘n’ cheese hamburger that I would eat six of if it wouldn’t land me in the ER? No, she did not.
High maintenance women are judged by low maintenance women:
“It only takes me 15 minutes to get ready in the morning.”
Mazel tov, bitch.
Low maintenance women are judged by high maintenance women:
“I think you’re just so brave. I could never go anywhere without my face on.”
Yeah. Brave is definitely the word you were looking for there. I’m a motherfucking hero.
And don’t get me started on dudes. Gentlemen, when your female friend/colleague/significant other tells you how much it costs to have her hair cut and colored, do not, under any circumstances feel entitled to tell her that you spend $20 at Sportclips. As delightful, and, I’m sure, provocatively attractive you would find women suddenly all sporting Men’s Haircuts #1-9 on the menu, I’m going to take a hard pass.
Women are teased for taking care of their skin.
Mocked for the extra time they take with their hair.
Judged for how little or how much they weigh.
And then, social media demands we post selfies with bad lighting taken by shitty camera phones and hashtag our brave little hearts out.
So. Here’s mine.
#yesmakeup #hairdid #filteredAF #mylevelofmaintenanceisjustfine