The effortless beauty myth: Let's get honest
Sofeminine writer Abby Driver on why she thinks we all need to be a bit more honest...
Your need boobs that defy gravity, but without going under the knife. You need to be beautiful, but it has to be effortless. This is what society demands.
The low down
Because if women don’t abide by the rules (maintain an acceptable weight, shave their legs etc.) they’re considered unattractive or lazy.
But if they comply noticeably or dare bang on about it, then they’re considered shallow and vain. A no win situation, I believe it’s called.
I was on a date with a boy in a coffee shop; I ordered a coffee and the waiter asked “skimmed milk or normal?” to which I replied “skim please,” without much thought.
Date boy remarked: “Why? I’m so over girls just eating salads all the time, it’s so boring.”
The more I think about this, the more irate it makes me. What would he have preferred?
That I stopped caring about what I ate, cancelled my gym membership and glugged down whole milk by the pint? No, because that would mean I’d no longer be considered acceptable by his standards.
Yet despite this, he couldn’t deal with the reality these standards inflict, for example something as trivial as skimmed milk. He thought my choice was petty and dull, yet he would have found the alternative unappealing. A frustrating conundrum, to say the least.
More recently I was on the tube and a woman was applying some mascara, the man next to me audibly sighed and mumbled something about vanity. Part of me wanted to punch him, I didn’t, obviously, I’m English so I just frowned in his vague direction.
But I wanted to know why he thought it was vain to apply make-up in public? I am assuming that if the woman had applied her mascara at home and then hopped on the tube he wouldn’t have cared.
I think this highlights the way our culture wants everything: pretty, slim women who don’t care for watching what they eat, and roll out of bed looking like Angelina flippin’ Jolie. The reality is, very few people have won the genetic lottery with such good fortune, most of us have to work at it. And that means skimmed milk and mascara.
(N.B: It didn’t work out with date boy).
Ever noticed that celebrities usually look better than us? Their hair is always well groomed, their bodies slim and well defined and their nashers so white they almost glow. Why don’t we look like that?
Because we don’t have a personal trainer, chef, stylist, hairdresser and make-up artist to hand 24/7. Because we can’t afford it. Because it’s not a prerequisite of our job. Because, quite simply, we don’t put as much effort in.
But why do they pretend otherwise? Celebs notoriously stay shtum about the effort involved in making them look Hollywood ready. How many times have you heard them reel off the PR-perfected line: “I lost my pregnancy weight just by breast feeding and chasing the baby around,” or “I can eat what I want, I just have good genes I guess,” followed by reams of edgy laughter.
Most celebrities would have you think they eat whatever they like and haven’t the foggiest what a spin class is, but I’m afraid it’s just not true. You don’t get abs of steel chowing down KFC by the bucketful. But every now and then, a celeb slips up, or decides to be a bit more frank about how they look so good.
Like remember last year when Victoria Secret model Adriana Lima let us all in on her annual preparation for the show? Two gruelling workouts per pay, a diet of nothing but powdered egg protein shakes and a complete 12 hours fast before the show (where she wasn't even able to drink water).
Or what about when Jessica Alba said: “I have 1,200 calorie meals delivered. But I also work out, so basically I’m starving, it sucks."
It’s not an accident. It’s not luck, it’s not fairy dust, it’s not good genes. It’s killing myself for an hour and a half five days a week.”
This is the reality of achieving society’s definition of beauty, ladies and gentleman.
The effortless beauty myth
The problem is, celebrity culture is so intrinsically linked with mystique and smokes ‘n mirrors.
We’re not supposed to know what they look like with a hangover, a bad hair day or a god forbid a post-pregnant body that hasn’t snapped back to size 8 after a few weeks. And many people would argue that it would ruin the illusion if everything was a bit more candid, but I think it would help people understand that it is just an illusion.
There is nothing wrong with caring so much about physical perfection (or maybe there is, but that’s for another day), I just hate the way it is so vehemently shrouded in secrecy.
Refusing to acknowledge the effort, the very effort that society demands, devalues it and makes it seem frivolous. By choosing to ignore the effort it takes to attain societal perfection, we are sending out the message it’s abnormal to have to work to look ‘good’. That if you don’t wake up looking like a Victoria Secrets model, you’re a freak.
And besides, often the effort is most of the fun! So why hide it? Some people derive pleasure from experimenting with nail art, curling their hair and looking tanned in winter and that is totally fine.
Likewise those who put their middle finger up to the beauty myth and don’t give a hoot about hair removal shouldn’t be stigmatised as lazy or unattractive.
Let’s just all be a little bit more honest about it…
Article Plan The effortless beauty myth: Let's be honest