It’s a face. There aren’t many like it, and this one is mine.
This is one of those posts that is likely to make people discount me entirely because they’re pissed off, or nod in acknowledgement for the wrong reasons. Neither of these is my goal — I want people to read it and feel at ease.
I’m not beautiful.
There, I said it.
I have flaws, ones that are glaring to me: a weak flabby chin, pores that look like a relief map of the moon, hooded eyes and crinkly eyelids (and I’ve had those pretty much my entire life), a weird downturned mouth. Every time I look in the mirror, I see these flaws, and not the better points.
So why do I like makeup so much? Because it lets me draw attention to the parts of my face that I hate less, or minimize the impact of my flaws. The act of putting it on, however, is often more trial than treat, as I work to de-emphasize flaws and the effects of aging, and find the things that don’t work for me far more often than the ones that do.
I try not to buy into hype. If a product claims to blur imperfect skin, I am dubious unless I see the effect firsthand. If a technique claims to open up sleepy, hooded eyes and make them look more awake and open, I’m doubtful unless I try it and find that it works.
I’m not a ‘beauty influencer’ or even an aspiring one. I’m a blogging broad who likes to share my input on products I’ve tried out, and my internal logic is that if something makes a marked difference in my (huge, monolithic, unsurmountable) flaws, surely it’ll work for prettier broads who don’t have as high a mountain to climb.
I don’t use personal photos on this blog for a lot of reasons — primarily, privacy. I’ve come to value my privacy over the course of my life, and I’m an introvert. My words are what I choose to share, the part of me I give to the world. (And wow, that sounds grandiose as hell, but in the scheme of things, my words may be a small thing to the world, but they’re a big thing to me, and if they become important to even one person out there, then I’ve done my job.)
However, I admit it: I also don’t use personal photos because I don’t want the judgment. I don’t need complete strangers telling me in crueler words than I use for myself just how not-pretty I am. On a good day, I can be objectively attractive. No amount of surgery would make me a supermodel, unless I literally broke and reshaped facial bones.
In the larger scheme of things, I make an effort not to give a fuck about that. On most days, I’m not thinking about it much. I don’t think any woman in this society escapes that process completely. (Exceptions provided for women who are cognitively unable to connect to those social mores, of course.) Sometimes, though, giving a fuck about it kicks depression into gear, and that, honestly, sucks, because depression is a nasty little motherfucker who sits on your shoulder and steals years of your life.
It was kind of eye-opening to realize that many of the women we look at as iconic or exemplary hate some feature of theirs. These kick-a-hole-in-a-stained-glass-window* level broads can look in a mirror and hate something about those faces that I would, in my heart of hearts, give up a genie wish to have.
And me? I’m a not-pretty broad. I can live with it, because the other option is expensive and not to my tastes. I can’t afford injections to stave off aging in my face and I refuse to undergo what is, in essence, reconstructive surgery. My face isn’t deformed or misshapen. It’s just not ideal.
In the end, I’m okay with not-pretty most of the time. I think it’s far less important than the other things I have to offer the world, and let’s face it, I’m over 50. It’s all downhill from here. Looking like a youthful and well-kept version of my age is a decent and attainable goal — and that brings me to another part of the prettiness problem: nobody expects me to look fuckable anymore because I’m post-menopausal. I might as well no longer exist in the male gaze.
As an aging broad, I have the liberty of no longer feeling any inducement to give a shit what the ‘male gaze’ has for me, in pragmatic terms. First off, I’m queer. Pansexual, to be precise. The (cis-)male gaze is less than half the picture for me. Were I still seeking a partner, I wouldn’t have options that limited me to cis-males.
Secondly, even if I was straight, I’m in a committed relationship that’s lasted over a quarter-century. There’s only one cis-male gaze that has any weight to me at all, and he sleeps on the other half of my bed, belches, cracks bad jokes, and still gets zits sometimes — and he thinks I’m fucking awesome inside and out. His eyes see me with a warmer and gentler light than I see myself, and I try to borrow that sometimes, because his is the only male gaze I’ve known in my life that made me feel empowered.
So much of ‘prettiness’ or ‘beauty’ falls into the bucket of the more general male gaze. I don’t intend to make this post entirely about that, but suffice it to say that the idea that ‘outside of the male gaze, every woman has her own beauty’ has more merit to it than the obsolete standards.
Me? I tend to defer to the visual perfect-ratio of art when looking at my own face. Imperfect, I say.
This old broad isn’t pretty. Don’t like it? That’s a you-issue, not a me-issue. In the end, the only person who has to love my face is me. Some days, I do. Other days, maybe not so much — but those are my ‘fuck you’ days where I choose to love all the other parts of myself a little more to make up for it.
What do we say to the god of depression?
Being not-pretty is a place that may not be comfortable, but it’s not a bad place. Hey, I’m here, which means it’s a place with cats, coffee, and snarky-as-fuck old broads who dress too young for their age and can talk about makeup and Sartre in the same conversation.
If you’re already here, come sit at my lunch table. Maybe together, we can make everyone here feel and see their own awesomeness.
Perfect people need not apply.
* That’s a metaphor stolen from Raymond Chandler — his books are still great reads.