Wandering around Milan, marveling at the grand architecture and the impeccably dressed Italians and hoards of old-money tourists, I couldn’t decide which was more impressive. Obviously being bombarded with so much glamour from every direction results in its fair share of self-comparison and doubt. Let’s be honest: I’m a girl; I have insecurities.
What it also resulted in was a whirlwind of thoughts on our society’s unhealthy obsession with beauty and that which is aesthetically pleasing. I realize the subject of beauty has been dissected to pieces. By now, quotes like “beauty is in the eye of the beholder” or “beauty is more than skin deep” are so cliché that it hurts just typing the words. So I’m not here to debate the meaning of beauty.
But I would like to know one thing. As much as we claim to love and appreciate the “real,” the “authentic,” the “natural,” why are we far more often drawn to and obsessed with the dazzling, glossy, shiny, glittering, glamorous and perfectly-groomed? Just imagine how many hours a day we as women spend plucking, tweezing, brushing, curling, concealing, straightening, whitening, shaping, exfoliating, drying, scrubbing, painting, shaving, moisturizing — in other words, torturing — our bodies into what they consider ideal — whoever “they” are. And for what?!
All it takes is one day for me to forgo makeup for friends and strangers alike to start asking “Everything OK?” or “Did something happen?” or – best one yet –”Are you sick?” A bevy of arbitrary products and routines start to become absolute necessities, enslaving us in the daily struggle to be beautiful – time and money that could be spent on far more important things like becoming a better person, or traveling or spending time with people who matter.
I half pity, half envy women who spend a fortune on brow threading, eyelash extensions, plastic surgery, tanning memberships and other attempts to beautify themselves, only to remember that I style my hair every single day and feel unprepared to face the world without my eyebrows being perfectly groomed. Although my beauty routine may be less stringent than that of some women, it’s far more high maintenance than the vast majority. All in all, the mentality is exactly the same.
Theoretically, there is nothing wrong with trying to look your best. But there is a dangerously delicate line between feeling confident in your own skin and being utterly enslaved by the media-driven quest for beauty.
Worst of all, I have yet to figure out where this line is.