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Friday, 3 June 2011

Is Being Beautiful Really Important?

In some parts of the world today, physical ugliness has almost totally disappeared.  

 In some affluent Western societies a child could grow up never having seen anyone with any kind of extraordinary feature such as a large nose or even sticky out ears.  Fairly low-level disfigurements such as facial warts or acne scarring are also now on the decrease.  Unless you live in an underdeveloped country you could go your whole life without ever seeing serious ugliness in the flesh.  This must be, on the whole, to the good.  But does it condition us into only seeing the superficial?  I worry that if society as a whole elevates youth and beauty to the highest height we are in danger of becoming ageist and shallow. Or perhaps I should say MORE ageist and shallow since this trend is already well under way.

One would think that today, when a girl can earn her own living and need never resort to the patronage of of a husband to support her, her appearance would be less of a concern.  As we know, this is not the case.  Beyond having healthy skin and hair women still want to look as attractive as possible.  Only nowadays we declare that we are doing it for ourselves (because we are worth it!)  

 I am old enough, and confident enough to recognise that my main reason for trying to improve my appearance is for the sake of others and how they may regard me.  If I were the last person left on earth I would not care about how I looked.  My looks are important to me, but I have established where I draw the line.  For example I will splash out occasionally on a very expensive item of clothing which I believe flatters my shape but I will not go as far as liposuction or breast enhancement, even though both procedures would probably flatter my shape more than a well cut dress.  These are personal decisions and if you have never thought about just how important your looks are to you and where you draw your own line, then it is time that you did.

A woman I once knew was so concerned about her looks that she would not answer the door unless she had her make up on, in fact she did not even like her husband to see her without her makeup.  At night she removed her makeup and then retired to bed in the dark and rising before her husband awoke in the morning she would appear at the breakfast table looking as she always did – beautiful.  She will be much older now and although we have lost touch, I daresay her routine is very much the same - but perhaps takes a little longer to accomplish, lol! 

If you are truly indifferent to the way you look then spending time in front of the mirror or visiting the beauty parlour may be considered a total waste of time.  If your appearance is very important to you, but you don’t have the time or money to devote to your looks, you may feel very frustrated and unhappy.  Beauty (being defined as each one of us looking our very very best) can be achieved on fairly small sums of money, but ALWAYS needs a certain amount of time. Your first step is to determine your priorities, how important your looks are to you and how far you are prepared to go to maintain them.

We each have natural features that we consider to be nice, and equally, features that we dislike.  Look at yourself in the mirror and decide which are yours.  Write them down in two lists.  This is mine from a little while ago to give you an idea of what I mean:

Features I like: Nice Big Green Eyes with long lashes.  Good cheekbones.  Full lips. Very long hair. No split ends.
Features I don’t like: Grey streaked hair. Wild fuzzy hair.  Small forehead. Acne scarred skin.  Large pores.

I know that someone who has written on her list that she doesn’t like her tiny eyes with short stubby lashes will envy me my nice big green eyes with long lashes.  Likewise if she has rich auburn hair that gently curls on her list I will be turning green.  Whatever features you have put on your list you can be sure someone is envious of you.  This is putting your appearance into perspective.   

Be honest with the list, don’t worry you can rip it up when you are finished, you don’t have to keep it or show it to anyone, although it can be interesting to look back at it from time to time (this list is already out of date for me and writing this is a reminder that I should do it again).  

The list will give you an insight into what features you want people to notice and which you would prefer that they didn’t.  It will also give you a starting point for improving those features that you really dislike.  For example, I listed my grey streaked hair as the first of my features that I dislike.  I really dislike the grey colour so I decided to do something about it.  I accepted the fact that I did not wish to use commercial dyes because my hair is too fragile to cope with the damage that they cause, so I began to investigate natural plant dyes.  Using the plant dyes takes several hours but it was important to me and so I made the time to do it.  I also made extra time both morning and night to apply conditioning oils to my hair – this has helped with calming down the fuzziness.  Of course it is not perfect and it needs daily attention but it is natural, long (a feature that is important to me) and if I have a special event to attend it will take styling with heat and using gels etc… without falling out and without too much damage or breakage – provided I don’t do it too often! 

I decided that I couldn’t do much about my small forehead – although changing hairstyle can do wonders for changing the appearance of your face – it turned out that I wasn’t so concerned about it as I was the greyness of my hair or the condition of my skin, so I concentrated next on my large pores.  A daily wash with Rhassoul mud has done wonders for improving the texture and tone of my skin along with a weekly hydrating mask for my dry cheeks and neck.  If I do nothing else in the way of a beauty regime than concentrating on these two areas, my hair and my open pores, has gone a long way to correcting the features that upset me most about my appearance. 

Next you need to promote your good features.  If, like me, you like the shape and contour of your eyes then you want people to notice them.  If you need to wear glasses you would be best to choose a nice open style that lets everyone see your eyes more clearly, or go for contact lenses if you can wear them.  I have recently started to use a little oil on the area around my eyes because I am getting older and I don’t want to compromise what I consider my best feature, but I don’t want to get rid of the little lines that I see forming, I actually like them, they give my eyes expression and character that I think suits me.  

I remember an occasion when my husband and I were going to a very fancy ball.  I had asked a hairdresser to come to the house to do my hair in a very elaborate style.  The hairdresser took ages and ages to get my hair right and although I had showered and put on my underwear I still had to do my makeup and put on my dress.  With the taxi driver threatening to leave because he had another booking the hairdresser pinned the last curl in place and I dashed upstairs to put on my make up and my dress.  I realised that I wouldn’t have time to do my usual fancy occasion makeup and decided to simply do my eyes.  It took me barely two minutes to apply eye shadow, eyeliner and mascara.  I finished with a quick sweep of blusher on my cheekbones and then stepped into my dress and shoes.  I put my lipstick and lip brush into my purse ready to apply in the car.  

 I had a brilliant time at the ball and later when I saw the photographs I was very pleased that my makeup looked every bit as good as on the occasions that I had taken half an hour over it.  No one would have guessed that I had done it all in record breaking time and I realised that by concentrating on just one or two areas (my hair and my eyes) I had not only saved myself time, I had also drawn everyone’s attention away from my flaws and the areas that I hadn’t had time to fix.

Most of us will already have a skin care and makeup routine that covers normal work days, house days and special events.  By doing your list of features you like and dislike you may find that you have been focussing on the right places all along or you could discover that in fact you don’t need to spend so much time on certain things as on others.  

In the normal course of events very few of us have time for pampering every day, but once a week becomes more of a possibility with at least once a month being the minimum that you can get away with – dependent upon your own individual circumstances, age, condition etc. 

On a daily basis many little beauty jobs can be done while doing other things… a routine manicure, pedicure or face mask while watching tv in the evening for example.  Keeping your beauty products all together in a box or basket that can be brought easily into the sitting room means that you can accomplish all sorts of things while engaging in conversation, listening to music or watching the television.  However, if you live with someone who harbours illusions about you then you may wish to keep these jobs for the bathroom or for when your partner is out. 

…She admitted that there might be some excuse for young girls to curl and frizzle their hair, for they naturally wished to make themselves attractive in the eyes of men – “which was all girls seemed to care about nowadays” – but after marriage no woman should think of using curlers.  Girls, she stated, might seclude themselves from sight till the process of crimping and curling was accomplished, but she could not help feeling deep compassion for the man who was obliged to see his wife in all the hideousness of hard-bunched hair.  Home Notes, Sept 7, 1895.