I’ve never been one of those girls who comes across as uber-feminine and frilly. I probably spend the least amount of time (in my age bracket) on my personal appearance than any of my female coworkers. You won’t see me with makeup, styled hair, skirts or dresses, or God-forbid, heels. I’ve just never been that type, at least, not since I was ten years old.
I remember going to the mall and getting my first (and only) ear piercings for my tenth birthday. We looked at the frilly and fun earring options but I was told the first time round, you just get a simple pair of studs.
The attendant missed on the first attempt and we had to do a do-over. The pain was indescribable. I remember being terrified and I didn’t want the second ear done but I was told that it would “look unbalanced” and so I gritted my teeth for a second round. Sitting here writing out this blog entry, I’m pulling my ear lobe thoughtfully and they’re barren now, not closed, just more often than not, unadorned. My first introduction to the adage “Pain is beauty”.
Somewhere growing up, I learned that there was more separating me from the other girls than just the right clothes or hair style or makeup. I would never be “that girl”. This early pragmatism was tested when I was thirteen and allowed my first makeup kit (a new type of makeup every year was thereafter introduced). By sixteen, I’d lost interest in it entirely.
If it were as simple as beauty = more opportunities in life, then maybe I might have given it more effort but I came to the conclusion that the benefits didn’t outweigh the investment of time and money. So you’ll rarely catch me out of slacks, and the fanciest hairstyle I’ll do is a low ponytail. Occasionally, a bit of lip gloss, or nail polish, or even rarer, a bit of foundation/concealer so my acne at thirty-something doesn’t scare the hell out of people.
Lately, I’m thinking that I’ve lost more than just the appearance of beauty, it’s as if folks assume that because I choose to dress a certain way, that I am not feminine and have no capacity for appreciation of beauty. That couldn’t be further from the truth!
I have a very feminine side, but I don’t usually collect random shiny things like a magpie. I often admire from a distance.
There is incredible beauty to be found in nature, both in the animals God has created, and in elements of science that I don’t understand — butterflies and dragonflies, dogs and kittens, starfish, nautilus, a Redwood forest, the iridescence you find in bubbles, refracted light, or sea sparkle.
I love baubles and open umbrellas, silver glitter, mermaids with floating lanterns, vintage rhinestone brooches, crystal chandeliers and prisms, Moroccan architecture, Parisian architecture, wrought-iron spiral staircases to unknown destinations, skeleton keys, picturesque sky carnival rides, cotton candy, pink roses, lit candles, old books, tulle, macaroons, white coral, glamping, old books, lazy days, dancing in the rain, and romantic period movies. (Sing with me, “These are a few of my favorite things..”)
When did it become “not okay” to appreciate beauty without desiring it for yourself or emulating it in your on life? Or is this the dispassionate argument of a Plain Jane?
Strangely, as I write this I am reminded of a conversation from Christy (TV series) between Ida Grantland and Ruby Mae, discussing Miss Christy’s beauty. Ruby Mae is effusive about Miss Christy being like a flower and Miss Ida chastises her soberly that a woman’s beauty can be like “a tree or a mountain or a river” and helps Ruby Mae to come to define beauty in one’s own terms.
It is a thought that weighs on my mind still and a tiny voice wonders what may I have missed out on in life by accepting the role of a Plain Jane?