Today I decided to get a quick eyebrow job figuring my part time werewolf impression was getting kinda stale. The place is run by Thai and Vietnamese immigrants so you can only imagine how many times you think they’re talking about you in their respective languages while while repeating “eyebrow, sit”. I love cultural exchanges and I ask a lot questions, chief among them, the phrases that will allow me safe passage to places and how much liquor is. That’s not the point though.
You walk into nail salons and it’s like entering another world, especially if these are non English/Spanish establishments which around my way, there are plenty of. Often times they’re all the same, white or cream interior, small cubicles of nail kits for sale, the wall o polish and the ten free nail design board with acrylic artwork that should be in a museum rather than chipping after three days.
It’s like a lottery when you go because some of the women are really good and then there are the ones still trying to master the fine art of the arch and not leave you with a chola arch. I get it. I’m Hispanic. We all want chola brows.
I draw the one that is the fetishized Asian ideal: Thin, big boobs, timid giggle and bottle dye job. Her twin is busy with a belt sander working on the talons of some woman who regretted waiting so long to do her pedi but it’s beach weather so she’s gotta do it. She tells me, “eyebrow, sit” and like a good goon, I do. They’ve got a flat screen in there that’s linked to the web and have been streaming Asian top 40 mega mix stream (I swear on everything there was a track featuring Pitbull LAWD he’s truly conquered) she’s humming along and preparing to rip portions of my face off with wax and fabric. The salon is owned by someone much younger than I am and she’s pretty much a business tycoon, she’s employed mostly friends and family from the mother land and allows herself Mondays off. She checks in on them regularly and has been known to randomly pop up in the shop just to make sure the place hasn’t burned to the ground. The clientele is predominately black and hispanic, so it’s basically the urban UN in there. Women all complaining about lives either on their phones or to the nail technician. They do have Hispanic technicians but they often rotate days and today, they weren’t in. I’ve spoken to the Hispanic technicians there and they admit that the language thing makes them feel funny. We’ve had this conversation in Spanish.
They all start chattering on and giggling amongst themselves. Now, as a bilingual American, you do tend to ramble in your native language because sometimes, shit sounds funnier in your own language but in the context of a place where the woman working on your eyebrows is ACTUALLY inches away from your face, you immediately think, shit, they’re making fun of me. I’m just trying to get my eyebrows done and I honestly feel so attacked right now.
So now you’re self conscious with half an eyebrow done and they are all talking and giggling. Here I am, feeling all terrible and self conscious about my appearance (so vulnerable) and you’re giggling about something. In any case, I have the eyebrows done and have gone from a category four holy shit you’ve got a unibrow to a category one people will make proper eye contact with you when you’re in a meeting. I feel temporarily better because I don’t look like a Muppet.
As I’m sitting there, waiting for my mom to finish her mani pedi (she isn’t the one getting the power sander treatment) rubbing my eyebrows in dismay because I’m pretty sure I’ve roasted off the top layer of skin with the wax, it dawns on me: The effort that we go to be appealing is appalling. You wonder if, from their standpoint, they think you’re wasting time. Sure it’s great business to get into and finger nail hygiene is totally important, but the rest of it, the plucking, the waxing, the dyes, what purpose does it serve?
From the matching dye job the twins have, to my waxing hair off my eyebrows to the woman getting her lip and chin done and Lady Belt Sander, we as women spend so much time wanting to look acceptable that we spend more time fixing the things that are superficial. Then we judge each other based on how good we’ve convinced other people we’re good looking. We get self conscious about how we look and the personal value dramatically drops so we’ll go and fix it to see how much better you feel afterwards. It’s natural. Sometimes you get sick of looking at the same thing over and over again. I’m all about keeping a decent appearance and waking up all Beyoncé and flawless and what not but when we place the emphasis on what you look like versus who you are we have to pump breaks.
Pretty is a joke.
Aesthetics are based on what? Media? On personal choice? On what has worked in getting jobs and dates? Does that mean that we only work on the exterior when it’s going to be beneficial? Do guys feel that same pressure? Should I give a shit?
So many people talk about how it’s not what’s outside but what’s inside that counts but they WILL admit that they won’t talk to someone who looks like they quit giving a shit midway through getting dressed that morning. I should know, I’ve worn t-shirts to events and have had no one talk to me vs when I’ve had a button down on and people are demanding to know all about you. We don’t encourage people to be the weirdos they can be because sometimes your weird isn’t the kind of weird other people want to celebrate. This is especially painful to watch in women and girls.
At 12 we’ve already made a girl feel bad about being good at sports, being dirty and playing rough. By 21, she’s already got a complex about how she looks in certain outfits to best reduce the odds of being harassed. By 31, she doesn’t give a shit but misses her 12 year old self because that one was so much stronger back then than she is now. We spend millions of precious moments on looking better thinking we’ll feel better but we really should pay attention to what’s being said. You’re about as good as the last outfit and you look a mess today.
Place yourself as you are next to the ideal and watch how terrible you feel. It’s not until a normal person, someone also struggling with the same problems looks at you that you realize that that’s the reason you sort of give a shit. That one person who thinks that dirty t-shirt is amazing an the sloppy hair look is so you. That’s when you don’t care about the overall look and you care about yourself. Pretty people are always empowered or empowering others but what makes them so confident is that they stopped giving a shit and someone noticed. Or they say they don’t give a shit. People are attracted to the things that make them feel better and they hold onto it to give them the strength to improve and most of the time, those things aren’t hair products, skin regimes or fashion.
No one has it figured out really. There is no formula for successful self acceptance and anyone that tells you they’ve found it is a liar. The reason why you even start thinking about these kinds of things in the first place is because you want to know WHAT IT ALL MEANS. Why in many parts of the metropolitan United States there are strip malls dedicated to beauty, wellness, nail and hair salons, damn near identical store fronts with buzzing neon signs or funny looking awnings. You want to know why we care about HOW WE LOOK TO OTHER PEOPLE. You should always impress yourself before you want to impress others, that’s where the joy comes from. The idea that you can just walk through life being as normal or outlandish as possible is what makes you something to look out for.
When you’re pretty, the world seems to be handed to you, when you’re average, you bring the world to it’s knees. Think about it. Helen of Troy; they launched a war based off of how pretty she was. Know who was fighting over her? Two average dudes. Conventionally attractive people are able to get people to do things for them while average people are doing the things and pretty people are just being pretty. If you’re pretty, or attractive, people are more likely to listen to you while if you’re average, they’ll be impressed you are functioning in this society. Nevermind the fact that you wrote whatever pretty person is saying.
Actually you know what?
You can be pretty and be smart. Let’s stop being assholes about this.
You should however be allowed to be a bit messy and still be seen as a decent human being.
As I’m sitting here inhaling nail polish and acrylic, I see that there’s a whole world of people who will happily conform to the idealized head cannon beauty and you know what, that’s cool. What’s fascinating is that the need to be acceptable is a global truth; these women make a living making other women feel better about themselves and maybe talk shit about what they’re doing to get that cheap high. Western standards aren’t global ideals just yet but they are getting there, so long as salons like the one described exist. The women in the nail salon are just doing the dance to make something happen and the women who are doing the dancing will always do it because there’s something that needs to be done for them to feel that same cheap high. They haven’t discovered that you shouldn’t give a shit what other people think. We need them around because you have to remember that who you are is you and even if people giggle about you as you try to smarten up, you’re still you and that’s your truth.
Beauty fades, that’s why there are so many old time filters on instagram.