When I first saw this meme on Facebook I thought it was going to encompass the experiences of women from all walks of life. I thought a few would sound familiar but since we’re so vastly different surely many of them would be foreign to me. In short, I believed it wouldn’t particularly pertain to me because I’ve only done the things that I’ve done. I haven’t lived in any other woman’s shoes.
I was really just skimming it, but when my eyes got to You’d be so much prettier if you wore makeup, they froze. I’ve heard this from adults in my life easily 100X, from girlfriends, boyfriends, strangers, you name it. For some lucky reason I was born with the ability to tune it out. It’s always been inexplicable to me that anyone would question my choice to allow my face to be seen just as it is (Egads, the horror!) as if it’s some extreme break from the norm. Doesn’t most of humanity do this? Also why does anyone think I have a life goal of helping the judgmental masses find me pretty?
But most recently I heard it from a 10 year-old girl, who was practicing her make up skills on my cheeks at the time. “You know what Jen? You’d be really pretty if you wore make up every day.”
Now I’m a strong confident woman and I’m also a solid-show-up-pay-attention-and-give-a-fuck aunt and role model. I can see a teaching moment and spin that shit into a life lesson like magic. It just saddens me when I need to do so with a kid who at ten (10!), already believes us to be less than because of our fashion choices.
I’ve often chided myself for getting more sensitive as I get older, but these comments still don’t have much effect on me personally. The real trouble is that with age I’ve become more aware. I see these comments affecting other people now. I see the damage they do to our children which shows me the responsibility I have to help stifle it.
I went back to the top and read through the quotes on the meme much slower. My heart twinged as I began to realize there would actually be three or four on there that rang true for me…
Oh how naïve we can be. Ammiright ladies?
Really the only ones I haven’t heard on a regular basis for the entirety of my life are the ones directed towards mothers and that’s just because I haven’t become one yet.
I get the part about raising our children to believe in the uncanny notion that women are of use to the planet in ways outside of their looks and gestational capabilities. But in that process I need to do a better job of shining the light on how destructive these words are. If we let them, they make us believe it doesn’t matter where we’re from, what careers we have, what journeys we’ve taken, or what incredible accomplishments we’ve made.
So without further adieu, here are My Nineteen in the form of a poem other people wrote for me:
You’d be so much prettier if you wore make up.
Why didn’t you just leave him?
He picks on you because he likes you.
You’re too skinny. Eat a burger.
You’re wearing THAT?
You’d be so pretty if you made an effort.
You just haven’t found the right man.
Your biological clock is ticking.
Whoa, take your Midol.
Aren’t you cute?
Let’s continue the work it will take to fix this, OK? Are we all in?