I need a pair of shoes.
Two pairs, to be exact. Two pairs of comfortable, reasonably attractive dress flats that I can walk around the city in. Since I have narrow feet with sharp heels and high arches, this seems to be a tall order.
While trying on yet another pair with sharp top edges that were inevitably going to dig into the tops of my feet and rub them raw, it occurred to me to try those little no-show protector socks, which helped enormously. Since I don’t make a habit of staring at other women’s feet, it had never occurred to me that their bare feet weren’t just better at handling rough bits on shoes, or that they weren’t just toughing it out until the shoes wore in.
Back in elementary school, there was a particular girl whose shining golden hair I envied very much. Not for its color so much as the way the top glimmering layer shifted across the rest when she idly moved her head.
It didn’t occur to me until just a few years ago that if I did anything with my hair other than wash and brush it, it would probably behave the same way. What I had taken as natural beauty was probably the result of a great deal of straightening and product and whatnot.
When we look around us, it’s easy to assume that the physical traits we admire in other women are the result of genetics, or talent, as opposed to great effort and application of time and money.
Sure, some women are born with certain characteristics that we admire. And of course no one’s born with deep red toenails or the ability to trace a perfectly straight cat’s eye in eyeliner with no practice. But remember that that “effortless” and “flawless” whatever that other women have that’s making you feel inadequate is likely neither.
And in the case of anyone you see in the media, that goes double. The woman whose hair is so casually beautiful when she’s captured outside her dentist’s office by the paparazzi probably traded several hours of her life this week to make it look that way. Ditto for anything you ever see on a red carpet or in a magazine.
As a photographer, I spend a lot of time watching makeup artists at work, and doing (certain types) of retouching on client photos, and I tell you that 98% of the bodies you see in any context other than the solid, earthly people you see in person around you every day are not real.
They are. not. real.
Models and celebrities are literally paid to maintain a certain appearance. Photographers know how to pose women to minimize their so-called flaws and make certain body parts appear large or small. And even with all that, retouchers go in and make changes you cannot even imagine unless you go hit Youtube and see it for yourself.
Let me repeat that. Even professional models’ bodies are not “good” enough to escape being upgraded and perfected and literally rearranged.
You are not ever going to measure up to that standard, because no one can.
Listen: There is nothing at all wrong with spending your time or money on your physical appearance. It’s your body, girl. You do you and I am never going to tell you otherwise.
But on the flip side, there is nothing at all wrong with making other choices for your time and money. As larger women, we have even more pressure placed upon us — from our larger culture and often from our immediate friends and family — to prioritize things that will make us more socially acceptable, and that’s hard to resist. If you work really hard and devote your life to it you might be able to effortlessly breeze through your day in a socially acceptable manner, but putting your priorities elsewhere is not a moral failing.
Just a little reminder: Other women are not magic, and you are the only one who gets to choose what happens to your body and what priority gets placed on making it acceptable to others.