The last makeup client I had before this crisis, sat down and said something I hear often: “make me look 10 years younger and 20 pounds lighter!”
I had a long conversation with a friend today about my career being a place where I could analyze what people say versus what they mean, and use it to liberate them and love them.
What this client was really saying was, “I feel insecure and intimidated by this process. I’m struggling with how vulnerable this is for me.”
Instead of doing what I’ve seen a lot of other beauty professionals do, which is say “oh stop it! You’re beautiful,” I asked “Why do you want to look younger than you are?”
She seemed kind of shocked and said “you know, that’s a good question.”
I said “who were you 10 years ago? Were you happier?” She said no. She was stuck in a loveless marriage she didn’t know how to get out of, she felt like a doormat, and she had hired me to celebrate that she just asked her husband for a divorce and was finally getting her life back. But 10 years ago, she felt more physically desirable. She felt like her appearance still gave her options, and that aging meant those options were dwindling.
It’s important, especially as women, that we don’t tie youth to desirability or value. Not just because that is self-abandoning and impossible, but because if we are growing, we don’t WANT to be younger, we don’t WANT to be more naive, we don’t WANT to have the boundaries or views or live the life we lived years ago.
I’m a person who gets told they look younger than they are. I also get told “you don’t look/seem/act like a mom,” as if I am supposed to respond back with “THANK YOU!” Older women also have said to me unsolicited “well you’re so tiny” or “you have a nice little figure” or “if only I still looked like that.” The deeper I walk through life with an awareness of the patriarchy and our internalized misogyny, the more these things hurt instead of feel like compliments. They don’t realize they are saying “life must be easier for you because men deem you to be more fuckable; I wish I had that too.” That’s not flattering. That’s not sad. Nobody should wish they were less experienced, less wise, less self-assured and less accomplished because it made other people desire them or want to possess them.
I think these things women say to each other and about themselves in our presence, give us the gift of opening up a really good, connective dialogue about valuing women as people, and destigmatizing age, puberty, body type, motherhood and on and on.
I’m not proud or fully accepting of everything I’m becoming, yet. But it’s important for me to try to do and to try to get other people to consider doing.
I definitely carry a level of “if I can’t use my looks to get what I need, will I still be able to get my needs met” fear.
I think that’s what gets projected out. I don’t want to go back to being a 20 year-old dumbass, I just wish that getting help, rescuing and opportunities I had when my body looked young, was as easy. That’s what it is. What it boils down to is the toxic and difficult-to-admit shadow aspect that I wish I could still benefit from exploiting men that used me. The older we get, the more self-sufficient and less tolerant of bullshit we become. Women are supposed to take care of men while also making them feel needed, and are supposed to follow and trust lying men at their word. Age, experience and motherhood blots out those traits that toxic men exploit, and we become less easy to control. It’s not about how we look, if we really dig deep down into the machinations of it all