Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Beauty or Butchery? What is Beautiful?

   I've mentioned before how I couldn't wait to have a daughter.  Girl clothes are much more frilly and fun, you get to buy dresses drenched in pink and glitter- oh boy!  Now that I have birthed Temperance, I find myself caught up in the froo-froo of all things girly.  I can't really say that I was a girly-girl growing up.  I was surrounded by all-male cousins and an older brother, and I wanted to fit in.  So, I was a tomboy as soon as I was old enough to refuse my mother's efforts to dress me like a doll.  Now, I wish to live vicariously through her fashion.  Not to be confused with wanting to live vicariously through my daughter's youth and beauty- like the Freakazoid mothers on Toddlers & Tiaras, those people deserve to be jailed.

    There were things in my life that I was denied when I was child (mostly because my parents struggled just to put food on our table), so I strive to give my children things for the simple reason that I did not have them.  I think a parent's biggest goal is to improve your children's lives by at least 100% above your own.  Sometimes I cross the line of improvement into Spoilageville, but that topic is for another time.  Back to my original thought.

    Now that I have my daughter, I tend to notice other people's daughters.  Other people get their daughters' ears pierced.  My parents had mine pierced when I was six weeks old.  It's cute when a little girl baby has little earrings sparkling on either side of their big ol' head.  I have also witnessed some little boy babies with earrings...not quite the same effect.  I've even considered asking why Social Services didn't investigate that madness.  See?  That's what I'm getting at, why does society say it's okay for girl babies to be held down and pierced against their will, but little boys with piercings are referred to as "Sissified" or worse "Queer". 
Mursi woman's lip plate.
    So why do it at all?  Doesn't the whole idea seem a little Barbaric?   One word- Beauty.  The quest for beauty is painful and sometimes even un-fulfilling (think Body Dysmorphic Disorder).  I thought maybe it was a completely American-centric, obsession type -thing, but then I recalled the African Mursi, Chai, and Terma tribes.  The women of these tribes (usually 15 or 16 years old) begin with a cut on the inside of their bottom lip and then shove a plug inside.  Once the incision heals, the woman can insert bronze or wooden discs into their lips to stretch them out as large as they want to.  It looks gruesome at best, like torture at worst.  They do it to make themselves beautiful and attract mates.  The larger the plates, the more beautiful you're considered to be.  I would be remiss, however, not to mention the symbolic value of said plates.  In the above mentioned tribes, the women who choose not to stretch their mouths are considered lazy, thus undesirable.  So, not only does it make you more beautiful, but it also advertises your work ethic.  I'm not sure what one has to do with the other, other than maybe portraying yourself as a better mate to the opposite sex, but I'm also not a member of these tribes, so much is probably lost on me.
   While writing and researching this topic, I was also reminded of the men and women who insert spacers into their pierced ears and gradually stretch them out until you can literally shove a fist through the resulting hole.  It's not my thing, and I don't understand it, but said people obviously think that it improves their looks, or otherwise makes them appear more 'macho' for their ability to endure pain.  Is it practical?  No, it's not.  Or at least not as far as I can tell.

This weighs about 4 1/2 lbs.
   I can also mention the Neck Rings of Thailand's Kayan women, also termed "Giraffe Women" by the outside world.  I remember watching a Discovery special on them in my early teens, and I couldn't understand how anyone could think that was beautiful.  It was disfiguring and painful.  Stretching your neck muscles like that couldn't be good on your shoulders or spine.  At what point do you say "Hey, I'm going to break my neck?  This shit hurts!"  Essentially, the female children are outfitted with brass coils (starting around age 5), adding to their number (and weight) as the girl ages.  I think that the oldest women wear something like 25 coils.  That's a lot of stretching and pulling.  Well, it's not so much stretching the neck as it is shoving their clavicle bones down further and compressing their rib cage- doesn't sound beautiful to me.

    So, maybe it's not just about making ourselves beautiful for the simple pleasure of thinking we're beautiful.  It's sounding more like making men think we're more beautiful.  Hurting yourself for male attention isn't a new idea.  The Chinese women were binding their feet long before today's American women were shortening their toes in order to better wear their insanely high Peek-A-Boo Stilettos.  You also can't forget those awful whale-bone corsets which created the illusion of tiny wastes.  I'm sure the idea didn't originate there, but for my purposes, I'm going to contribute this fantastical idea to the London Aristocracy.  I suppose it is also worth mentioning that Americans also adopted this idea of fashion which has since made a come back in the area of Burlesque Dancing.  What happened to the idea of men being attracted to wider "birthing hips"- another term coined by men to praise their women's ability to give them lots of wee bairns.

   I'm sure that there are lots of other 'quirky' things around the world that are done for women, by women in order to attract a well-to-do mate, but from here on out, I'm switching gears to include beauty trends in today's American society.

    Plastic Surgery: There are lots of good reasons to get plastic surgery I suppose.  For instance, when I was pregnant with Connor Lathan, I was told that he was going to be born with a cleft palate and lip.  I was confronted with lots of images of children who successfully completed round after round of facial surgery to improve their quality of life.  I was also told that he would have to be outfitted with a temporary palate so he could drink his milk without choking.  Thankfully, his palate closed and he developed normally before birth.
Irene Ferrari: Model, Size "F" breasts, Tiny Chihuahua.
     There are also lots of bad reasons to go under the knife.  Striving to rid yourself of tiny flaws and imperfections really isn't going to improve your quality of life.  You may think more highly of yourself, thus increasing your self-esteem, but most people looked just as beautiful before their expensive procedures.  I find myself increasingly annoyed with people in places like Hollywood who put continual pressure on women to remain ageless.  Wrinkles are a part of getting older, right? Apparently not anymore.  Do these women look more beautiful for their time, money,and misery?  I don't think so.  They tend to become plastic and fake-looking with their huge, pouty lips and enormous, mountain-esque Boobages.  How could men even think that is attractive?  Maybe Freud would say that you never really outgrow your attachment to your Mommy's breasts because that's where the food comes from.  I'm nowhere near qualified enough to touch that one, so we'll leave that for another time.

      The Mani/ Pedi: Receiving fake nails for your fingers and your toes. Not only are they impractical and toxic,  but they're costly and damaging to your natural nails.  I can't tell you how many times I've watched a freshly-manicured woman attempt to pick coins up from a counter, only to fail and try some more until someone either takes pity on them and picks it up for them, or they give up altogether and decide that it's not worth the effort.  Sure, it looks pretty.  I've even had french tips before.
      Going back to that Horror Show that TLC calls Toddlers and Tiaras I saw a mother take her little girl into a nail salon to have tips painted onto her nails because she was told that it could permanently damage her six-year-old daughter's nail bed.  The little girl pouted and cried until her mother caved and took her back into the shop to have artificial nails glued to her fingers.  I remember thinking that was a terrible, awful thing to let your daughter do to herself, no matter how much she cried and complained that her nails weren't as pretty as the other girls she competed against.  When they showed her finished nails, I also remember thinking "Well, those are much prettier than the way she had them painted on before."  That thought was followed by, "What the hell is wrong with me?  I'm totally buying into Prostituinalizing children!" Society and reality television have conspired together to warp my poor, befuddled brain.
     Pedicures are a good idea.  I'm all for anything and everything that improves the look of feet.  I'd even agree with the Man-Pedi.  Man feet are quite possibly the most ugly things on the planet.  But fake toenails?  I might could see some validation in it if, oh say,  you somehow tragically lost all of your toenails in a freak foot  accident or something, but not when there's nothing wrong with your natural nails.  I've also read that fake nails on your toes increases the risk of nail fungal infections...yuck!

   Here's a couple of more things that I don't really care to elaborate on because it is time consuming and I'll only ending up saying something along the lines of "it's impractical and another way of gaining manattention."
  • False Eyelashes
  • Tattooed-On Makeup/ Eyebrows
  • Waxing and/or Shaving Your Vag
  • Waxing and/or Shaving Your Legs
  • Waxing and/or Shaving Your Face Hair (Okay, I totally buy into this because I shouldn't have a thicker mustache or goatee than my husband.  That's just too wrong.)
  • Hair Extensions
  • Dying Your Hair
  • Dental Implants and/or Acrylics
  • Tattoos
  • Piercings
  • Painful, Uncomfortable, Push-Up Bras
  • Spanx (or Girdles for you old-school folks
  • Botox
  • Chemical Peels
  • Laser Hair Removal
  • Laser Eye Correction Surgery ( No more awkward glasses to get in the way of my man looking at my fake lashes!)
       I must admit that I have done, or considered doing some of the things I've listed about above.  I'm a hypocrite, I know.  But at least I'm attempting to reason through my impulses here!  Everyone likes to be beautiful, and more importantly they want other people to think and tell them that they are beautiful.  It shouldn't matter to me, because I'm already married thus I've already attracted my mate.  However, I'd be a naive idiot to think that he isn't out there looking at these fake, talon-toting, inflatable-boobed women.   Did I sound as bitter as I felt just then?  Like I said, I've had my nails done on about three separate occasions.  I put on shovel-fulls of expensive makeup to mask my skin imperfections. I alternate between dying and highlighting my hair to cover my grey (Thanks again for those Temperance!).  I've pierced my ears about seven times and I've even gotten my tongue pierced.  I have three tattoos.  I have shaved my woman parts- and regretted it with the inevitable and extremely itchy regrowing process.  I suppose that you could say that I've done it all to gain male approval.  It doesn't make it any more right, or any more crazy than lip plates and neck coils when it comes right down to it.
Temperance in her Froo-Froo Finery!
    As for Temperance's ears, I think I've decided to wait and let her decide when and if she wants them pierced.  Sure, I'll have to put off buying her pretty little earrings, but at the very least I can say that I'm not a barbarian and I've allowed my daughter to make her own choices without forcing my, or society's,  ideas of beauty onto her.  I guess I'll just have to satisfy my girly urges with clip-on earrings when she gets a little older and there's no danger in her devouring them.  Exploratory Innard surgery doesn't even sound fun when you say it.

    As always, I'm interested in your input.  What, if anything, have you done (or felt pressured to do) to make yourself more attractive to others?  Do you agree with me?  Do you disagree with me (Keep in mind that I still have access to those Rabid Zombies from my earlier entry)?

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