No matter how they feel about her politics, past or present, Hillary Clinton is doing something I think almost all women will appreciate. She's chucked her makeup bag and is sporting both natural hair and rather geekalicious glasses. I’d like to formally add my stamp of approval to both the new look and attitude.
The topic of appearance, especially as it pertains to women, has been buzzing louder than an off kilter blow dryer lately and boomer women are taking the reins in the new revolution to natural. Hot-diggity-damn-dog.
I started wearing makeup at 13. The cosmetics age-rule in my house was well established long before I hit puberty. My sisters were allowed a teeny bit of eyeshadow and a touch of lip gloss at 13. Foundation and mascara had to wait until 16. Although they came along twenty years before I did, the same standards held for me. So enamored was I to match faces with friends who had more modern-thinking mothers, though, that I stopped by my best friend’s house every morning before school to apply mascara and after to remove it. Rebel woman, I was. Badass to the core.
In the years between that first application of eyeshadow (70’s blue, baby!) and now, I’ve started all but the rare flu day with a shower and then a quick makeup session. I’ve worn makeup to shovel snow, shop for groceries, and write my columns—from home. I delivered my babies while wearing makeup, for the love of Pete. Ridiculous.
We women can be a foolish lot. Instead of celebrating our gifts, we tend to look for and focus on our imperfections, magnifying them until they overshadow all that makes us shine. Even worse is that we tend to view normal as flawed. It’s not enough that we typically weigh our shortcomings more heavily than our achievements. No, we also like to lock in on some nonexistent ideal and then mentally line list the ways in which we fall short. We actively seek out reasons to put ourselves down.
I’ve recently learned to love my curls, after spending decades blow-drying them into submission. I’m happily going gray. An utterly inept optometrist left me with severely damaged corneas more than twenty-five years ago and I was forced to give up contact lenses, so I’ve always been bespectacled. And my middle-aged, I’ve-had-babies belly is a small price to pay for both a half-decade of living and the privilege of motherhood, so we’re friends now.
But here’s the thing. Even though all of that is progress, it’s still bullshit. None of it matters. Yeah, it’s all sorts of dandy that I’m good with what I see in the mirror—even buck naked—but what really matters has nothing to do with the exterior.
Time and energy are finite resources. Instead of concerning ourselves with the color, texture, and thickness of our hair, number of wrinkles on our faces and how to minimize them, or the size of our asses, we really need to redirect our attention to stuff of substance. Stuff that will last longer than perky boobs and cheerleader thighs.
I’m not anti-salon or anti-makeup. I’m not even against cosmetic surgery for those who want it. But somewhere on our quest for self-love, we’ve learned to value outward beauty over kindness, intelligence, humor, and achievement. Let me say that again: We’ve learned to value outward beauty over kindness, intelligence, humor, and achievement.
I’m not sure I’ve ever met a woman who didn’t at one time or another comment negatively about her body, face, or hair. Most of us have had less than nice things to say about all of those. We hate the scale and we scowl at mirrors. Twenty bucks says that all of us have sized ourselves up and declared ourselves lacking. And we do the same to other women. Sure, she’s brilliant, educated, and accomplished, but she has a unibrow. Or bad skin. Flabby arms. Crooked teeth. Cankles.
Who gives a rat's ass about ankle size? Sadly, we do. Even sadder is that is that we plant those poisonous seeds in our daughters. We gush to little girls about how beautiful they are. We compliment their eyes and their hair. We give air time to crap like Toddlers & Tiaras.
Did I tell my daughters they were beautiful? Absolutely. They were and are. My son, too. He was a gorgeous little boy who has grown into a wonderful and yes, handsome man. I told all of my children they were beautiful. They also got messages celebrating their wit, wisdom, strength, character, and boundless possibility. Those far outweighed the “You’re so pretty!” stuff.
Now to give ourselves that same healthy balance. When asked about her new, more relaxed look, Clinton seemed unfazed by the attention it’s getting. In recent days, she’s said, “Because you know, if I want to wear my glasses I'm wearing my glasses. If I want to wear my hair back I'm pulling my hair back” and “You know, at some point, it's just not something that deserves a lot of time and attention.”
It’s wonderful to feel good about how you look, but genuine self-esteem doesn’t come from having shiny, bouncy hair. Following dreams, being unabashedly ourselves, developing our talents, and celebrating all that is wonderful about us brings a level of self-acceptance that far surpasses the kick that comes from catching a glimpse of a pretty woman in the mirror. It’s abundantly clear that Hillary Clinton understands that. I hope more of us catch on.
A few friends have recently posted pieces along this same line. Please check out Jane, Melanie, and Graciewild.
One more thing: You wouldn’t like it if someone stole your words, so please don’t steal the work of photographers and graphic artists to provide images for your blog. Today's photo courtesy of morgueFile, which has tons of wonderful images available for use, free of charge.