15 June 2011

i let you call me beautiful

You Don’t Have to Be Pretty. You don’t owe prettiness to anyone. Not to your boyfriend/spouse/partner, not to your co-workers, especially not to random men on the street. You don’t owe it to your mother, you don’t owe it to your children, you don’t owe it to civilization in general. Prettiness is not a rent you pay for occupying a space marked “female”.
 - Erin
James Franco for Candy Magazine.
I caught myself putting on makeup today even though I was running late to a presentation (unfortunately I was too late to enter, because of traffic, and so I ended up siting on the train reading a comic book for three cycles between the first and last stop just to make the trip worth it). Anyway, I was doing my makeup, and doing an incredibly pain in the ass kind of braid because my hair is particularly troubling this week and you know, it wasn't very enjoyable but I felt like I needed to do it because it was expected to me because of what I do for work and play: fashion fashion. Somewhere along the way I decided to make what I love, what I do. Even if I'm going to be poor indefinitely and be unsure of my security for quite awhile and you know, get those looks of both sympathy and pity when parents ask me, "What do I do?"

You know, that look. Sometimes I switch up my major when I'm telling parents of friends what I'm in college for, just to fuck with them. "Philosophy and Cinema Studies." And I see their horror, imagining their children proposing those possibilities to them and I cackle inside, I know it's not nice but well, whatever. I mean, I'm majoring in Gender Studies and Journalism, (so honestly I can just tell the truth and still get that reaction of horror) which are two of the lowest paying majors out of all of them. Fun. Promising. Dirt poor. But, you know, I find the future romantic and I am a dreamer, I like to get lost in my own brain and plan and plan and plan and plan, because the future has every possibility of being better than the past and the present, and I bank everything on those possibilities. 

But anyway. Being pretty. Too often it's just a ritual, sometimes I have to yank myself from habit and intentionally dress ugly to make myself comfortable. Because feeling socially acceptable and 'pretty' is different than feeling like yourself, you know? People have to 'put their face on'. People have to 'get ready to face the world' in the morning. There is that old tale, I think it might actually be in the original Alice in Wonderland (or maybe it was a Grimm fairytale? I love those) that the protagonist stumbles upon a princess, who has a collection of faces but no actual face of her own. And I would just stare at the illustrations of the faces for ever, longer than I would even read the story. We're like that sometimes, aren't we? We don't like showing our faces. 

Sophia Wallace and her series on Gendered  Beauty

I guess I could make the point of this post the fact we sometimes rely on makeup to approach the world, but that's done and stale. I mean, yes, but it's certainly not all we rely on. Everything we present ourselves as is a point of presentation and construct and our assumed reality. What we want people to see as us. That can mean anything, boy or girl or genderqueer or nongendered or what have you. I am lucky enough to identify as a girl, and so I am a girl, and most of the time because I am a girl I make myself 'pretty' even if I hate the stares and catcalling and honks. But I don't want to have to do that. I don't think I owe anyone anything when it comes to being pretty. I want to do it for me, not someone else, you know? What I present myself as isn't for someone else's benefit. 

I started playing with my gender when I was visiting someone in an elderly home, I have this hat, my black fedora, and whenever I wear it I want to be a boy and wear Dior Homme suits and slouch even more than I do and not be pretty. I feel like it's an act of rebellion just to wear a dudes hat and ill fitting jeans I stole from a boy I used to know. Everything you wear, everything you chose or chose not to do, can be an important choice. You can be pretty if you want to be, or you can not be, but I think, the important thing is that you make yourself aware of the reasons you are doing so, and hopefully you can also step outside your comfort zone and shake shit up. 

Because a dude wearing a skirt shouldn't be sacrilege (!! Andrej!!), a person who doesn't want to be manly but feel beautiful should feel safe to do so, you know, just these small but important things should be allowed to happen. Right? Right. I don't want future children to be beaten or disowned because we're scared of people who aren't like us, or didn't follow the unspoken rules about dudes wearing certain colors or wearing certain clothing or whatever. I hope one day it's just common sense, not abnormal. 

I let You Call Me Beautiful by Marty McConnell (my favorite poet)


leilani.e said...

Brava bellisima!
I'm totally not Italian, I just thought that was an appropriate bit of adulation for this post. Er, despite the fact that those words themselves are gendered... ha, irony!

Savannah Burton said...

Amen. :)

hitchhiked said...

In your post, you equate dressing "ugly" with freedom, and you completely have a point. Because when you isolate yourself from other people's standards, there's a feeling of liberation, of being in control of yourself. In middle school, I rejected everything that is supposed to represent traditional feminity and beauty. I would wear ugly and ill-fitting clothes because it was an unspoken rule that girls in my school had to wear skimpy outfits. My attire and whole attitude was pretty much "FUCK YOU." And, truth be told, it felt fucking great.

Dressing "ugly" can be its own little prison too, though. At least, if you're doing it in reaction to other people's opinions, because then they're still controlling how you present yourself, only in a different way. When you decide not to present yourself as "pretty," I hope it's always because you want to, and not because you feel cornered by society and it seems like the only way to escape. It sucks that people are made to feel that way in the first place.

(Though, is there ever really an ugly way to dress, since 'beauty' is relative and there is beauty in 'ugliness' and vice versa?)

Oh my God, this is way too long. Sorry!

Minh Tran said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Saúl said...

Amen! I love your "religion", your way to think! Lovely, incredible girl!

fransmiles said...

I completely agree with you and I wish more people shared this opinion. Too many people I know, especially boys, are happy to make fun of others for dressing outside what's considered normal, but the thing I find strangest is how hostile people can be about it? As if the way you dressed was of personal offence to them.

Thanks for speaking up for people who want to be a bit different :) xo

Larissa Martinez said...

i definitely agree with you. these stereotypes and shit.. i hate it!! but anyways, wonderful post *applauds*


Jessie L. said...

i love this post! we think very alike. i also love doing my hair and make up all the type. like every day and many people think i do it because i i think i need it to look beautiful, but i do it for me because i love doing my make up and hair, not for society who thinks i need make up and pretty hair to feel good about myself.

Jazz futula sum hic said...

I adore the 'I'm a moody teenager with a blog' tag! and oh girl 'I study film making' gets my extended family wincing Every time

Stephanie Marie said...

Exactly! I've always found it ridiculous that women are expected to wear makeup and nail polish and get all dolled up, but men aren't allowed to do these things without being seen as "freaks." Why should boys be denied the fun of nail polish? And why should girls be denied the freedom of a naked face? I just don't get it.

Lydia said...

I love this post. Thank you.

olivias-pizzaz said...

You are awesome! This post is sooo what I needed to read!

Grace said...

this was really nice to read, thankyou x

KizzyDoll said...

Beautiful!! Love this! I like dressing up, its fun. But, other times i just want to crawl out of bed and not do anything, it is a freedom of sorts really. This has me thinking..love posts like that :) xx

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