The purposefully ugly photo is my favorite photo. I try to force as many chins as possible under my smile that’s slowly turning into a grimace because I’m about to sprain my neck from creating all the chins. Silly photos are one of my great joys in life. Confession One: funny is my shield. Ugly pictures are safe because not trying to be pretty is easier than trying and failing. When it comes to group shots, that’s how I play it. As the ugly one in the middle of all my beautiful friends, it can’t officially be proven that I’m not pretty too if I am obviously trying to look ugly. I don’t take many selfies as a general rule. When I do they are also filled with crossed eyes and weird, lipless smiles. It really takes the pressure off the selfie. Yes, I want to remember this moment, no I don’t take myself too seriously. No, I’m not taking pictures of myself just because I think I’m pretty. Look at this ugly face! This habit is annoying at family functions where it is customary to take loads of group shots. It’s irritating to my boyfriend who likes to remember our wonderful and sweet moments with photos. We can’t accomplish this because I’m either being silly, and he’ll want to delete the shot; or I’ll think I’m a hideous monster, and I’ll want to delete the shot.
Best bet is to avoid being seen on camera at all costs.
If you must be seen, make a crazy face.
Confession Two: I often wish I was prettier. I want bigger, brighter eyes, I wish I was thinner, I want my spider veins to go away. I compare myself to the ultimate beauties and tear myself down because I don’t look like that. Then my feminist rage will rise up and I’ll think, “I don’t have to pretty. Pretty is not a requirement for living life as a girl. I don’t need makeup or a dewy complexion or Botox or any such nonsense!” Cue me making an ugly face for photos and laughing at everyone who is so serious and concerned with the lighting or if their thigh gap was obvious. It is easier to be funny than it is to be sad that I don’t like my face or my body.
The struggle is real because when I do feel good, I feel bad for feeling good. I’m the biggest advocate for not needing to be beautiful and for everyone to stop looking at their own faces so much. I feel pretty on few occasions and suddenly, I want to document that shit too. The idea of beauty makes me feel so conflicted. There’s all this pressure to be beautiful and it’s not even necessary – not like eating or finding shelter. That mess is not a basic human need. Realistically, that doesn’t mean it’s bad though. It’s not actually terrible to want to look nice. To want to feel good about how you look is not an inherently evil thought. It can be nice to wear makeup and expensive clothes that give you confidence. It’s also nice to love your own features and not feel like you have to enhance them in some way to look good. The begs the question, where should we draw the line? How much emphasis on beauty is too much? Should we dismantle the makeup industry product by product, or is it okay to want red lips and a smoky eye every day?
Living in this in between makes it difficult to take a firm stance on anything. I have always strongly believed that being pretty is not necessary. It is not some requirement women owe to society. I refuse to feel bad about parts of my body that are not considered fundamentally pretty. Logically.
However, I also understand that feeling pretty can be very empowering.
Which brings me to Confession Three: I have a droopy eyelid that makes me feel hideous. I’ve already had surgery on both eyelids to make them sit up higher, but one is drooping again. It makes me not want to look at people when I speak to them out of fear that my one, low eye will be the primary focus. Before my first two surgeries, I was asked almost daily if I was high. I looked incredibly high with my eyelids chilling at half-mast. I’ve only recently discovered that eyeliner helps this; A LOT. It makes my eyes look bigger, by A LOT! I put it on most days, even though I am historically anti-makeup because I feel better with it. With larger eyes, I feel not ugly and dare I say it, pretty. I justify this, because it takes about 30 seconds to put on. Half a minute spent tracing my eyes is hardly a burden to feel a bit more confident.
Over the past year, I’ve changed my tune a little, and not just on wearing makeup. I still think “pretty” is not some rule girls have to follow, but I’m not conflicted on if I want it or not. I think it’s good to feel pretty. I enjoy feeling pretty. I do think each girl should do whatever she wants in order to feel pretty. That’s my new line. Don’t wear shit for your boyfriend, coworkers, or men on the street, wear it for you. Don’t be embarrassed to want to look nice and take selfies. Selfies aren’t bad either. I have a fairly large backlog that I’ve taken on good days but kept hidden in snapchat memories out of pure embarrassment. Some have filters, some have makeup, some have no makeup; I’m finding more and more that I can feel good on any kind of day if I’m gentler with myself. I’ve started to document those good days and I’d like to share them now, for I am no longer embarrassed. A slam poem called “Ode to the Selfie” removed this doubt. I don’t feel bad anymore for feeling pretty or trying to feel pretty or wearing makeup or not wearing it because of the way celebrating pretty is presented in this poem.
You can find it here and I urge you to listen every day. à https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N-MQxVtn2fU
My favorite lines are, “Today your freckles were sprinkles on ice cream” and “Today you took a selfie from above because maybe that’s how God sees you.” The overall message of loving yourself in a world that is constantly telling you not to is what gives me chills though. There doesn’t have to be this back and forth or this in between on beauty. I still think ugly photos are hilarious. I’ll try to save them for hilarious times though. I’ll try to appreciate my beauty every day and enhance it when I feel like it. I’ll try not to rely on eyeliner to give me confidence. I’ll use it when I’m feeling like it and not feel bad about it. Bottom line – make yourself happy. If you’re too lazy to put on makeup because you like how you look without it, don’t let anyone make you feel like you need it. Likewise, if you feel better with makeup, don’t let anyone make you feel like you’re trying too hard or bowing down to society by doing so.
Make sure you feel good. End of story. Take selfies all along the way to remember how good you felt. Look at them on bad days to bring back the sunshine, look at them when you’re older to relight the fire of youth, look at them now just to admire how beautiful you are.