Tag Archives: women

Pretty

When I was little, and didn’t want to sit through getting my hair brushed or styled, my nana would say “It hurts to be beautiful”. It’s a statement I’ve known all my life and one I still say to myself. 

And to my own daughter.

It’s a truth universally acknowledged and accepted.  If you’re a woman, it hurts to be beautiful. 

We color our hair, wear make-up, wax our eyebrows, our lips, our bikini lines.  Totter around on stilettos that make our feet bleed and bruise.  Cram ourselves into spanx and forego food for a day to fit in one specific dress.  Inject our faces with botox to eliminate wrinkles.  Undergo surgery to lift our boobs, tighten our necks, smooth our tummies, all to defy the effects of gravity and motherhood.

I’ve done most of those things.  In the end I’ll probably do them all.  If I leave the house without at least a bit of make-up on, you can be pretty sure the only place I’m heading is to the gym.  I’ve got a fair bit of grey in my hair, and I will continue to cover it up with dye for the foreseeable future.  I own — and wear — shoes that bruise my toes so badly that I can only wear sneakers for the next three days after a single night in them, and spanx that squeeze the thickest part of my thighs so hard they leave indentations that last for hours after I’ve taken them off.  I have worn clothes that made deep breaths difficult and eating impossible.  I regularly have hot wax smeared on my face and ripped off to remove the shadow on my upper lip and the caterpillar eyebrows I inherited from my dad.

I participate in my own torture, willingly, because I have been conditioned to believe that I am only beautiful if I do those things.

I hate the concept, but continue to play the game.  And I’m teaching my daughter to play it as well.  I wrestle with the messages and the practices, both as a mother and as a woman.  Am I doing the right thing?  Am I teaching her the right thing?  I’m uncomfortable with it all, but we live in a society that says “this is what it takes to be pretty” and so we follow along. 

Some of it I can paint as pretty harmless: I like make-up, and it’s fun to play with and it certainly doesn’t hurt.  Coloring my hair isn’t painful, just time-consuming, and I like changing my color to suit the season or my mood.  I enjoy getting dressed up and I don’t really mind sucking in my tummy for a while to make the line of a dress lie more smoothly.

But there’s nothing fun about getting the hair ripped off your body with hot wax.  Nothing fun about wearing shoes that bruise and pinch and underwear that squeezes and compresses and clothes that hinder your movement and breath.  I can’t pretend there’s any message but self-torture in there.  And yet I teach my daughter.

Society places a high premium on looks, and the standards to which men and women are held are comically different. 

Why doesn’t daddy look bad without make-up on? Because society hasn’t told him that he does.  His skin isn’t a blemish- and blotch-free poreless canvas, highlighted and contoured in all the right places.  He has circles under his eyes because he didn’t sleep great last night, but he doesn’t need to hide them.  His eyebrows are a bit scraggly.  He has grey in the hair on his temples.  He’s definitely not clean-shaven.  And yet all he has to do is run a warm wash cloth over his face, comb his hair, and he’s done.  Handsome even. 

Can you IMAGINE if men had to undergo the physical modification women regularly submit to in the name of beauty?  Good lord would our standards change quickly.

I have no answers, only questions.  I will still dye my hair and wear make-up.  I will still wear shoes that hurt and underwear that squeezes.  I will continue to have my hair waxed off.  And I will forever ask myself why I do it, what would really happen if I didn’t, and whether I’m teaching my daughter the right lessons.

It hurts to be beautiful.

A Woman’s Work

Growing up, I always assumed I’d work.  It never occurred to me that I wouldn’t, in fact.  My mom always worked — often in jobs she didn’t love because those were the jobs available to a mother with three daughters and a husband who worked more than full-time.  My mom was a full-time parent, but she also needed to work, so she took the jobs that made that possible; in my childhood I remember her working as a waitress, a bus driver, and in retail.  My parents worked opposite shifts for years, staggering their hours so that someone could be home with us kids.  When I was about 10 or 11, my Mom “went back” to college and eventually earned her Bachelors degree in nursing, then her Masters.  When she retired last year after 20 years of working as a nurse in the Massachusetts school system, she was a few credits shy of earning her PhD.  Her mother worked as well, an act which, in the 50s, 60s, and 70s was fairly unusual, I’m sure.  She was a nurse as well, and she worked nights.  During the day she was still the one who kept the house running with four children.

Since I had my first child nearly thirteen years ago, I have been a stay-at-home mom, I have worked full-time in an office, full-time from home, part-time from home, started my own small business, and worked as a freelancer.  I have had my kids in day care, had a nanny, and had them home with me, both while working and while not working.  I think I have probably done every combination there is in terms of parenting and working in the course of the last thirteen years.

Today, in addition to writing here, I work as the Communications Director for the national non-profit The Officer Down Memorial Page.  I love my job and I’m so fortunate to have a position that I can do A) from home and B) from anywhere on earth where I have a wifi signal.  It wasn’t easy, though,  to get to a place where I can work and parent, where I feel as though I’m using my skills for a purpose that matters, and where I can contribute financially to our family.  I struggled for years to find a balance, to find work that was both fulfilling and flexible, to find a place where I was content. 

But that, I think, is what women do.  We find a way, we make it work, we bend over backwards and we fail and try again until we find what works for us and for our families. 

Women, to paraphrase Tina and Amy, get shit done.

It is not easy though.  Women face a multitude of challenges when it comes to work (highlighted text links to sources):

  • In the US alone, women make, on average, $.80 cents for every $1 men make.  The gender pay gap is worse for women of color. It’s also worse for mothers, and gets worse with age as well.
  • Childcare is extremely expensive in the US — when I was working full time and had two kids in day care, over 40% of my paycheck went straight to child care.
  • The US is the only developed country in the entire world that does not mandate ANY paid maternity (or paternity) leave.  When I had Gabe, my company provided me with 6 weeks of leave paid at 60%, and I had to use all my vacation time and personal time up before I was able to take paid maternity leave, and I considered myself lucky.  When one of my best friends–who works as a labor & delivery nurse–had her kids, she got ZERO days of paid leave. That’s the reality that most women face.

Tomorrow is International Women’s Day, and it is also A Day Without Women — a strike, if you will, to demonstrate how vital women are to the work done every day, and to highlight the need for gender equality.

And so tomorrow, a new feature will begin on Little Nesting Doll — called A Woman’s Work — this new column will run weekly and highlight a woman who works, what she does, why she loves it, and how she got there.  Tomorrow starts with me, my story, and I then have a few amazing ladies already lined up to feature over the next few weeks. 

If you have a story you’d like to share, or if you know a woman who you think should be featured here, please email me!

Save

Save

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...