Chasing Beauty: An Addict’s Memoir

 Lisa Hickey was beautiful twice, and she hated herself for it.

Here we go again, I think, as I impatiently wait for the hair straighter to warm up. I’ve washed my hair, deep conditioned it, shaved my legs, tweezed my eyebrows. I’ve blown dry my hair, but it’s still a wreck. It’s always a wreck. It’s thin, so thin that when I put it into a ponytail, a pencil is thicker. I plaster down the worst of the flyaways with a hair product that promises something it can’t deliver.

What I really want to be doing – instead of going through that same-same ritual – is learning to write code. Studying analytics. Taking with someone halfway ‘round the world about real oppression. Not the kind of oppression that I feel because of my addiction to beauty.

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Sometimes I’ll look in the mirror, and I’ll catch the light just right. The sun will be setting, the image in the mirror gets dim, the wrinkles and age spots and flyaway hairs meld into the twilight. The angle of my chin clicks into place. And at those times I’ll look in the mirror and say to myself: Oh, I’m not as hideous as I thought.

There is nothing about that statement that is good, or healthy, or intelligent, or perhaps even logical. But it is 100% honest. And every day, that’s as good as it gets.

♦◊♦

It’s weird, this thing called beauty. I used to be beautiful twice in my life. You just know. There’s simply a different look in people’s eyes. They actually look at you. They actually see you.

I was 22, and out on a date and I overheard a stranger talking to the guy I was dating. “Man, you don’t see that she’s the most beautiful girl in this place?”  My boyfriend shook his head. “If you don’t, you’re crazy…here…” said the guy, giving my boyfriend his number. “Call me if you break up with her.”

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Anti-aging skin care products are reported to be a $3.5 billion dollar industry. Products are designed to “remove 33% of fine lines and wrinkles.” But do you know what I look like with 33% less fine lines and wrinkles? I look like plain old ordinary almost-hideous me, just with 33% less fine lines and wrinkles. Except I’m standing there holding a $70 container of face cream that could have been a night out, or a textbook, or partial payment on a new laptop. It’s pretty laughable. And yet, I still walk into CVS and longingly stalk the skincare aisle, picking up containers. “Maybe this will be the one.”

 ♦◊♦

I remember reading a book called The Condition. One of the main characters has Turners Syndrome, which causes her not to develop into puberty; to remain as small as a middle-schooler. And this woman feels marginalized most of her life, keeps to herself, doesn’t have relationships. Until she travels to a Caribbean island and a man there falls in love with her. And I remember this next sentence perfectly:  He kept saying to her, over and over, “I love that you’re so small,” until gradually she learned to love that about herself, too. But who says, “I love that you’re so ugly?” Or, “I love that you’re so old?” Of course I believe that love exists for the old and the ugly—as long as they were young and beautiful when you first met them.

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A commenter on my last my post “Beauty, Obsession, Men, Women” said, “At 80 years old, everyone is marginalized,” in response to what I’ve found, in talking to other women and hearing them say that they don’t want to grow old because they are afraid they will lose their beauty and become marginalized. But…if people are marginalized at 80, isn’t that because of their LOOKS? Are you telling me that if an 80-year-old looked like a really hot 40-year-old that people wouldn’t pay attention to her?

 ♦◊♦

At 42 years old, after four kids and a train-wreck of a self-image, I became obsessed with beauty again. It started like it always does; I went running. And running – I have to run a lot, 5 to 10 miles a day – but running does it for me. Eventually my body started to look great. And then, even better, I added to my workout pilates, yoga, strength-training, and ballet. And more running. I got leaner and longer and stretched. My posture was perfect. My shoulders thrown back; emerging shoulder blades. I could feel my hipbones again. And then the facials, chemical peels, microdermabrasion’s, Botox. I was in some salon or another every week. Manicures. Pedicures. Hair colored on Boston’s ritzy Newbury Street, “chocolate and caramel swirl for your hair so you look delicious,” the stylist would laugh. New clothing. The perfect bra. A funky pair of shoes. Just the right earrings. A silk dress.

You don’t set out to spend money that should be going to your kids schooling, but instead is going to your beauty regime—at least I certainly didn’t. But a treatment of Botox is a tuition payment. A months worth of yoga classes is a textbook. A mani-pedi is an hour of tutoring. Not to mention the time not being with my kids. I’d get nervous if I couldn’t fit the three hours of exercise in. If a yoga class was at suppertime, yoga it was.

It was totally and completely and utterly selfish, of course. Addictions are always selfish. You justify them any way you can—“It’s important to have ‘me’ time”, “I work so hard, I deserve to relax,” “I need to look good to get ahead in work. I’ll earn more for my family.” “I’m healthier when I’m in shape. More relaxed. More confident. I’m a better person.” But an addiction is an addiction is an addiction, and you start feeding that addiction at the expense of connecting with the people you love.

 ♦◊♦

One day a few months after my new regime, I dashed straight from work to pick up my daughter from a birthday party. Parents that I had known for years didn’t recognize me. One eight-year old eating ice cream said solemnly “Mrs. Hickey, did they turn you into a movie star?”

 ♦◊♦

Intelligence doesn’t walk in the door the same way beauty does.

Most of my life I’ve been afraid of men. Part of that fear was—and still is, quite frankly—I’m afraid I’m not beautiful enough. I like to think I’m intelligent, and funny, and kind, and that those qualities will be enough for any interaction.

But intelligence doesn’t walk in the door the same way beauty does.

 ♦◊♦

A few months later, I’m at a Boston Advertising Awards Show. The Hatch Awards, packed to the gills with people dressed to the nines and I know almost everyone. And 5 minutes after I walk in I hear a loud booming voice from across the room. “OMG, who’s the babe?

I instinctively turn around to see who he was talking about. Then I realized I was “the babe.”

It happened all night. The variation on the theme was, “Who’s the baaaaaaaaaaabe?” Men who usually took care to conduct themselves with the utmost of professionalism seemed delirious. An old boss said, “I always wished you had looked this way back when we worked together. You know, for the clients.” One guy I had worked with for months years earlier turned around and dropped his drink on his shoe when he saw me. He didn’t lose a beat as he hugged me and whispered in my ear, “You look fucking gorgeous.”

You know what I hated most? I hated that I loved it. I hated that I couldn’t wait to see the look in guys’ eyes as they actually looked at me, as if they saw me for the first time. I couldn’t stand the way that for each of the previous 10 years, I had gone to that same awards show—and in all the other years I remembered the joy of hearing my name announced and getting an award, or being asked to interview for the perfect job, or making a hushed deal in the marble hallways of the Opera House. And I hated myself because this time, I didn’t want to hear any of those things. All I wanted to hear was “who’s the babe?” I hated that every accomplishment I had ever earned was replaced by the desire to hear guys tell me that I was once again beautiful.

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Gradually, of course, as what happens with all addictions, my life became unmanageable. My kids started begging me to go for cheaper haircuts, so I could afford clothes for them. They’d want to spend time with me when I wanted to go for longer and longer runs. A pre-teen daughter stormed out of Staples when a guy started flirting with me—while we were buying her school supplies. (The only thing worse than a not-hot mom is a hot one.) I’d sneak off from work to go to a “client meeting”, but I’d really be going to a yoga class. Walking back in the office two hours later and trying to hide the yoga mat didn’t exactly inspire confidence in my managerial capabilities. I’d get caught with thousands of dollars worth of bills for beauty services the way some people get caught with bills for phone sex.

 ♦◊♦

And so, reluctantly, I gave up my addiction. But there are still some signs I’m not fully cured. There’s my daily battle with the mirror and the hair straightener. And I’ve joined the ranks of Jezebel readers, who are horrified of the constant photoshopping of pictures of women in the media, like this “Photoshop Shop of Horrors.”

I hope Jezebel makes a dent in things. But until then, what to I do in response to my horror? I Photoshop pictures of myself before they go out in public.

♦◊♦

On The Good Men Project Facebook page, one of our fans once wrote: “What is wrong with men liking women who are beautiful? Why can’t we just like what we like? Why must you make us feel guilty?”

The truth is, nothing is wrong with it. You can absolutely like whom you like. I am not trying to make anyone feel guilty. You own your own feelings, not me. And I am certainly not blaming you for my own screwed-up insecurities.

A pretty much un-Photoshopped photo of me.

I am telling you my side of the story so you understand this—I am not a good a person when I am beautiful. I don’t want it to be so important — but I think it’s important to you, as guys, so it’s important to me. And this is my story, not every woman’s and I’m sure there are plenty of beautiful women who are not like me either. But when I’m beautiful—or close to beautiful—it’s all I think about. When I’m beautiful and I’m with you, I’m wondering if the guy across the room thinks I’m beautiful. I think beauty is going to connect us; but I’m not connecting with you, I’m connecting with a beautiful image of myself that I think you might like. It sucks. It sucks for both of us.

And my addiction to beauty hurts men because I don’t give you credit for being the guys you are—someone who likes the incredible complexity of women for who they are.

♦◊♦

Giving up my addiction meant giving up being beautiful. Some people here will tell me I am “fishing for compliments” by writing this. That’s what I am usually told when I talk about beauty.

♦◊♦

Even as I was writing this—even as I was remembering “the guy who dropped the glass on his foot”—I had a physical reaction. It was similar to a fight or flight response—I could either put these fighting words about beauty on a page, or I could go for a run. I was typing as I slid my feet into my sneakers. I was still thinking through sentences, and found I couldn’t get my headphones into my iPhone quick enough. It took an excruciatingly long time to untangle them. I had to run. I had to run through a beautiful day, and then later, at one in the morning, run again, run at a cost to a leg that doesn’t work anymore, run as hard and as fast as I could—chasing a beauty I know I can never catch up to.

♦◊♦

I want beauty not to matter.

 

photo: amyrod on Flickr

More on Women’s Obsession with Beauty

Are Women Addicted to Beauty?

Her Looks, Your Status: Why His Claims Not to Care About Beauty Ring Hollow

The Ugly Duckling as a Gender-Neutral Beauty Ideal

Don’t Hate Me Because I’m Beautiful

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About Lisa Hickey

Lisa Hickey is CEO of Good Men Media Inc. and publisher of the Good Men Project. "I like to create things that capture the imagination of the general public and become part of the popular culture for years to come." Connect with her on Twitter.

Comments

  1. Lisa Hickey says:

    The point I was trying to make clearly was that yes, it was me who was so obsessed with my own beauty but I thought that was what men wanted. I’d LOVE to hear stories of men who don’t, in fact want that.

    Can you point to the place where I “freaked out” about men objectifying women? And if it it the case — that unattractive women freak out about men “objectifying” women — maybe it is because those women don’t want to be marginalized by men. Marginalization is a big hot-button for me — people being judged for things they cannot control.

    But it is not my experience that only the unattractive women are those who talk about men objectifying women. All of the women who complain about men catcalling, or staring at their chest are ALSO complaining about being objectified. Do you really think it’s the ugly women who are being catcalled? If so, what’s the motivation for THAT?

    • Thanks for your response :)

      “The point I was trying to make clearly was that yes, it was me who was so obsessed with my own beauty but I thought that was what men wanted. I’d LOVE to hear stories of men who don’t, in fact want that.”

      Most men do. My point is that is not a bad thing nor is it something to be attacked and changed. Men like beautiful women. Such is life.

      “Can you point to the place where I “freaked out” about men objectifying women?”

      “The truth is, nothing is wrong with it. You can absolutely like whom you like. I am not trying to make anyone feel guilty. You own your own feelings, not me. And I am certainly not blaming you for my own screwed-up insecurities.”

      You didn’t. In fact you threw a curveball and actually said it was ok for men to like what we like. I was amazed because we literally get attacked on a daily basis for this.

      “But it is not my experience that only the unattractive women are those who talk about men objectifying women. All of the women who complain about men catcalling, or staring at their chest are ALSO complaining about being objectified.”

      I think that there is a HUGE difference between catcalling to women on the street and writing articles about what we think is physically attractive. HUGE. The two aren’t even comparable. If you think catcalling is rude and offensive, I’m right there with you. But men talking about women’s bodies in a sexual way is not immoral, it’s not wrong, and I think it’s downright evil to demonize it. I’m talking about women criticizing men (on a men’s website no less!) for writing articles extolling the things they find attractive in women. To me that reeks of insecurity and self-righteousness and I think it’s just wrong all over.

      “Do you really think it’s the ugly women who are being catcalled? If so, what’s the motivation for THAT?”

      I have to admit I laughed pretty hard when I read this. It sounds so sinister and at the same time so ridiculous.

      • All kinds of women get catcalled. Some get called ugly or fat or dyke. The motivation would seem to be jacking with someones day. Not a compliment, just to interrupt and mess with them.

        • If this is that common then maybe my perspective is skewed . Because as a young professional man who works in an affluent neighborhood in a major city I literally NEVER witness catcalls. I’m not denying it happens, I just have almost zero experience with it. I don’t even approach attractive women out of respect for their new hyper-sensitive boundaries, so I can’t even imagine hollering some sexual epithet at them.

          So my laughter came from a place of absurdity. In my experience people tend to be far too politically correct and judgmental, rather than too crude and offensive.

          • It does happen. Both kinds do (the “hey beautiful, kiss kiss noises etc all the way to “Fat Bitch”) I know of personal examples of people running for exercise and being yelled at either good or bad (same person). I get honked at in my neighborhood if I run there. It’s mostly people deciding their opinions are worth more than your just running minding your own business. Just rude stuff but it can sure have an impact on your day.

            • Yeah I’ll just chime in and say I’ve been catcalled pretty much from about the age of 15-16, up until now…actually just last week I had someone shout “slag” at me as I was walking down the street. I’ve had this sort of thing happen to me in big cities, small towns, rich neighbourhoods, poor ones…in the U.S., U.K. and the Near East. And there’s really no difference between someone shouting “nice ass” and shouting “bitch.” They’re both meant to interrupt my day and make me feel insignificant as a person.

            • I’ve never had to deal with women yelling things at me, so I can’t understand your perspective. I do, however appreciate it and accept that because of those experiences you are going to view men in a particular way when they start talking about women’s bodies.

              I only offer a reminder that many men have mountains of respect for women but also like talking about their bodies. I am one of those men. And men like me are listening to you when you talk about men.

            • “I only offer a reminder that many men have mountains of respect for women but also like talking about their bodies.”

              I’ve absolutely no problem with men talking about what they find attractive in women’s bodies. Actually I don’t think that when men start talking about women’s bodies they’re automatically being objectifying. I talk about women’s bodies all the time, and I’m not being objectifying. The issue is, as Julie said, context…and also whether a someone is discussing physical attributes as if that’s all you are, or whether they are recognizing that you’re a person who happens to have those attributes.

              I’ll risk repeating myself too much and link what I consider to be a really good article about objectification…and it’s pretty short.

            • Jesus that sounds terrible, nobody should have to live like that. I guess if that is the world you walk out into every day then I must forgive you for criticizing men for talking about women’s bodies.

              But I’ll just say that from my side of the fence that criticism feels like an attack on me and my thoughts and desires.

            • I think it’s much easier to tell what is and isn’t appropriate from your side. I remember telling a girl outside a bar once that she had a pretty dress and she called me a creep. I compliment my sisters and women at my work all the time on their outfits and haircuts so I thought it was ok, but that girl taught me that it’s not ok.

              I think I’m a pretty attractive guy, I work out daily and I get looks from girls all the time but I’ve been conditioned to not approach them, to not compliment them, to not even look at them. Because sadly it’s not about a fear of rejection, it’s about a fear of being a bad person.

            • I hear that Jimmy. I do. And I hate that that’s happening. I don’t know why some women can’t welcome an actual compliment, save perhaps they’ve had so many other experiences that, sadly and wrongly, they snap at the very wrong person. This isn’t fair.

              But, just as she shouldn’t internalize her experience and blame all men, you (I hope) can stop internalizing her bad attitude because there are women who enjoy compliments. She is one person of many people in the world. In the case of the girl outside the bar, had you made eye contact earlier? Was it a busy night with others around? Is it possible that if there had been no other contact she immediately went into defensive mode? I’m not saying that’s right or wrong, but when I flirt with people that I don’t know, I go in stages to test the waters carefully. For all you know her boyfriend had dumped her the day before, or she failed a test, or it had nothing to do with you.

              That she acted like an asshole? Says a lot about her ability to manage her emotions and willingness to hurt others, not about you particularly.

              If your sisters or friends can appreciate how you are, certainly there will be women who do.

              Just a thought, not a judgement.

              It also is often regional. In the south, flirting and banter is a part of life, so I just expect that people will banter. I hear in cities like NY, Toronto etc things are much much more difficult.

              If you feel like continuing that conversation let me know.

            • I’ll add that, even though I’m not attracted to men, I’ve definitely had men flirt and compliment me in ways that I enjoyed. And I’ve flirted right back (making sure they knew it wasn’t going to go anywhere beyond flirting). So yeah, plenty of women like compliments. :)

            • Yea, I didn’t blame her, I blamed myself. We hadn’t made eye contact before, I literally just saw some girl walk by with a dress that was a pretty royal blue and said “hey, pretty dress.” I didn’t even mean to flirt with her, I was just complimenting her dress. I understand why she got defensive and insulted me, but I would never compliment another stranger on her dress again. There’s no real payoff for giving someone a compliment, it just feels good to make another person smile, and the risk of being called a creep just isn’t worth it.

              “It also is often regional.”

              I think you’re right. I live in the North in a city well known for how rude and cold people are. So my experiences with women in the city are mostly of them being very closed off and unapproachable (even the ones who are checking me out). I know the unspoken rules about strangers, that I can talk to other men and older women but not to women my own age.

              “She is one person of many people in the world.”

              I know, but where I live women seem to always have their guard up. They could be looking you up and down but that is not necessarily an invitation to talk to them. I don’t blame the women, they probably have had scary experiences and I guess this is how they want things. It just makes it hard to meet someone.

              I mean I meet girls in yoga and martial arts and stuff but I wouldn’t want to date them, because if things went badly I could never go back!

            • Hey, are you in New York? Cuz that so sounds like New York to me. :)

            • It does make it hard to meet someone. I’d suggest taking a trip to Atlanta or Dallas or a city with more of a rep for open friendly behavior and see how things went. More later..off!

            • Boston :)

            • Ah the east coast’s crowded – don’t even look at me right now I’m in too much of a rush – feeling. How I miss it. ;)

              Seriously, though, I found when I was on the east coast that the regulated use of space was highly important. I’ve mentioned this elsewhere…but yeah it’s all about modifying behaviour to fit with the space you’re in. Which, that’s true in general, but I’ve found it even more important in huge cities…particularly east coast cities. Or at least, that’s been my experience. :)

            • “don’t even look at me right now I’m in too much of a rush”

              Yea, that’s pretty much Boston in a nutshell. Keep moving, don’t look at anybody, and for God’s sake don’t say anything.

              I’d move but I love my job and being near my family. Maybe when I’m older.

      • Lisa Hickey says:

        I am SO glad I made you laugh, Jimmy. I don’t have much time to comment back, and I often find myself muttering to myself “Don’t snark, don’t snark, don’t snark.” And then “Poof” out comes something snarky.

        I appreciate your sentiment that this is all just hard to talk about honestly. Really hard. But we have to. The stakes are too high not to. I just hate when discussion is shut down. And I’m not sure an overall generalization like “Men like beautiful women. Such is life.” does any more to advance the conversation than what you see as “attacks.” When you say “such is life” — to me, what you are saying is — “stop talking about it, you are never going to change reality.”

        I just think there has got to be more. I am not judging you for liking beautiful women, as much as trying to understand *what else you like*. Let’s talk about *that* for a change.

        • I guess I’m not clear on the definition of “snark” but that didn’t seem insulting or sarcastic to me. It seemed incredulous, which is why I laughed so hard when I read it :)

          “And I’m not sure an overall generalization like “Men like beautiful women. Such is life.” does any more to advance the conversation than what you see as “attacks.” When you say “such is life” — to me, what you are saying is — “stop talking about it, you are never going to change reality.”

          I don’t want to shut down the conversation. I just want us to have an appreciation of our differences and respective likes and dislikes. But I guess I take issue with the idea that we *should* change reality. I don’t see anything wrong with men liking beautiful women just as I don’t see anything wrong with women liking successful men. Sure, I’d probably do better if women only liked beautiful men, but they don’t, they like men with wealth and power, so I accept that and try to amass wealth and power :)

          “I am not judging you for liking beautiful women, as much as trying to understand *what else you like*. Let’s talk about *that* for a change.”

          I didn’t think you were. You sound unusually open-minded about allowing men to be men and I really appreciate that. To answer your question, I think there is a difference between being attracted to a woman’s body and being attracted to her personality. I can see a woman and think she’s beautiful. I’ll want to sleep with her without knowing anything about her inner workings. It’s animalistic and primal. I could care less if she speaks French or owns a dog or watches the price is right. All I care about in that regard is how she looks. But then again all I want is to sleep with her.

          I also crave a lasting and meaninful relationship with a woman. One consisting of shared experiences and a high value placed on one another. A relationship based on love and trust and admiration and devotion. This is a completely different kind of attraction, but it requires the first kind of attraction. This kind of attraction is based on who she is. How does she see the world around he?. How does she treat other people? How does she view herself? Is she funny? Does she like to have deep conversations? Is she open-minded and understanding? Does she treat me with respect and care?

          Once you get past the initial physical attraction, there is a lot of really good stuff in there. And the second kind of attraction can totally outweigh deficits in the first kind. However I will tell you what I told my sister, although you’ll probably just laugh like she did :)

          The most attractive quality in a woman is a healthy interest in me.

  2. As someone who has constantly been told how beautiful I am by family, friends, etc, and yet, at the same time horribly bullied in elementary school for my appearance solely based on my family’s lack of financial status, I get where you’re coming from.

    But I get it for another reason – I have to work very hard to be seen as intelligent in addition to being attractive. I couldn’t count how many time I’ve had men talk to me, realize I’m not just some bimbo, and end up asking “How is it that you’re beautiful and intelligent,” as if the two are somehow not allowed to mingle at all –as if there’s some sort of law against cohabitation of beauty and intelligence under the same roof.

    Sometimes, I don’t want to be seen as beautiful. I want to just be me, I want to be recognized for the intelligence I have worked so very hard to cultivate. I don’t want to be the knockout in the corner of the room with the amazing boobs.

    All of this has led me to fully invest myself in the philosophy that beauty is in the eye of the beholder and the only beholder which matters is yourself. I choose to believe both beauty and intelligence are capable of cohabitation. I choose to believe my intelligence is part of my beauty. I no longer allow anyone else’s opinion of me to drive my opinion of myself. I’m not a Taxi. I drive this Caddy, and I do a damn fine job of it, regardless of what anyone else may have to say.

  3. I just realized something. When you say you were beautiful twice it sounds like you’re talking about beauty as a zero sum qualitity that you either posses or you don’t. As if it was intelligence or strength or willpower. I think beauty is different because it relies entirely upon another person’s perceptions. I think beauty is more accurately described as an appreciation of the aesthetically pleasing which far from zero sum is entirely subjective. If a beautiful tree falls in the forest and no one is around to see it, was it still beautiful?

    If one person thinks you’re beautiful then aren’t you beautiful?

    Just a thought.

    • Lisa Hickey says:

      Thanks for the thoughtful response. But here’s the thing that’s odd. To me, beauty feels *exactly* like it’s zero sum. When I was beautiful — when I knew I looked really good and everything came together — people would say the words “You look beautiful” all day long. Sometimes proceeded by the word “wow”, but very little variation on the words other than that. And it wouldn’t be from one person, or two people — it would be from *everyone*. Strangers even. It was kind of bizarre quite frankly.

      But now that I don’t look like that, not a single person ever says that I’m beautiful. No one even bothers to lie about it. That is equally bizarre to me. So if there *is* a single person that thinks I’m beautiful, they are being awfully quiet about it. :)

      I don’t want to sound like this is some sort of terrible experience — it’s not — I’m happier now than I ever was. But I still wonder about a world where there is this standard where you can’t remain beautiful your entire life unless you die young.

  4. FlyingKal says:

    I like to see myself as an intelligent, kind and funny guy. And a lot of people also say I am.
    However, when trying to approch women, I’ve always been most likely ignored or laughed at. (Even by “regular” women, not the “fucking hot” ones having hordes of men battling for their attention.)

    The result of this is, that most of my adult life, I’ve been afraid of women.
    Today, I think of myself as most likely to either creep out, bother or just plain bore any woman if trying to strike up a conversation.

    • Lisa Hickey says:

      I know well the vicious cycle that can get you into. The fear — uck! I think learning to comment in public places such as this is a good start. Really listening to others first. Thinking of them not you, that’s helpful in connecting. And when you do talk, be really *present*. Also, going to places like “meet ups”, where at least the expectation is that you are going to meet people. It’s harder to come across as “creepy” when it is a structured environment, designed for meeting people.

      From what I’ve seen of your comments, FlyingKal, you are far from boring! You absolutely come across as intelligent, kind and funny.

      An other mantra I’ve found helpful in my life is “if you want to gain self-esteem, do something esteemable”. It has very little to do with “self-talk”. Take actions that help move the world forward.

      • FlyingKal says:

        Thank you so much for your kind words Lisa.

        Yeah, well I guess I come across as a bit bitter and resentful at times too, huh…At least in written form.

        I’m not really much of a talker, so whenever someone “bothers” talking to me i’m much more likely to listen than do most of the talking myself. And regarding doing esteemable things, i’m quite an “outdoorsy” person, doing and helping friends and other people do stuff they wouldn’t have access to, or maybe even think about, otherwise.

  5. Wow! Thanks for such an inspiring post! I have often felt that when I am ‘beautiful’ I am not a good person. I would bet a lot of women out there are the same, though might not admit it.
    I have to say that after living in a lot of different environments, where you grow up/work has a lot to do with it.
    For example, in my experience, Hollywood types, and stay at home moms who got married for ‘being pretty’- people who make a living on looks tend to be a lot nastier than the equally beautiful girls who are loved and valued for working as a physician, having meaningful relationships.
    I think for some people who have been raised to believe that their looks just plain aren’t a huge part of who they are, they might have an easier time being ‘nice’ than someone neurotic/insecure/competitive, because they must survive on looks.
    For example, I live in a small town now, and noticed how judgemental people could be when I went into the city. When I looked good, jealous/lustful looks, when I looked ‘bad’ just totally invisible, or treated like a second class citizen.
    In a small town, no one cares, people are nice regardless. It all comes down to, are you being treated like a human being?
    Personally I think we live in a diseased society. It’s hard to blame men/women because we are reacting to advertising and societal ‘norms’. The only people I am concerned about are those working in the media to perpetuate these horrible values in order to make more money than they need.

  6. Phillip Le says:

    A wonderful post Lisa. I think the piece reflects not just addiction in general, but also the patriarchal class-oriented system that forces women to develop such “beauty” addiction.

    “What I really want to be doing – instead of going through that same-same ritual – is learning to write code. Studying analytics. Talking with someone halfway ‘round the world about real oppression. Not the kind of oppression that I feel because of my addiction to beauty.”

    But I’d argue that beauty addiction is a true and real oppression caused by a society where it’s okay for men to attribute women’s value based on looks. If this wasn’t the case you may not have forced yourself to LOOK beautiful, thereby spending that effort working on other great and beautiful things such as motherhood, your desire to code, your passion to discuss and alleviate oppression.

    Furthermore, the “solutions” offered to women who make time and have money to dedicate to classes, beauty products etc. are not accessible to the poor and lower classes. They are therefore unable to “play the same game” to establish what constitutes as a woman’s worth and value. So they aren’t simply marginalized by looks, due to a lack of wealth and class status, they are left in the dust by the “beautiful” and the “successful.”

    This same value system prays on men as well although, in my opinion, much more favorably than for women. I’ve selfishly dedicated my time at the cost of relationships to exercise so that I could try looking more “manly” and work relentlessly as to feel more “manly” through success. I am concerned with whether I look adequate for the opposite sex or look powerful to my “competitors.” But I’d argue that my experience is far less demeaning than what many women go through to earn value.

    I’m not saying that I am not a contributing part within that same system, that I do not fall to patriarchal tendencies that hurt and demean value, that I do not objectify women. What I am saying is yes, I am a part of it. And I don’t like it. And I am working on and will continue to work on pushing against these values.

    Terms such as “success” and “beauty” are almost synonymous with “wealth” and “sex appeal” in our social sphere. And while everything I’ve said here is nothing new and oversimplified, I feel that your addiction isn’t simply on your shoulders—they’re on everyone’s—the pain from it very well is. And discussing it honestly is a very good step forward.

    • Lisa Hickey says:

      Thank you Phillip. Yes, we’ve talked about on these pages about the ways in which men feel objectified when it comes to wealth and sex appeal. And discussing these issues honestly every day is what we do here and will continue to do. It’s an important conversation — thank you for joining in.

  7. Samantha says:

    Thank you for this. It is a beautiful account of what women go through for what I consider conformed beauty. It only takes into account appearance nothing deeper. It feels so good to be that girl, though. I have to say I don’t like that some men don’t like that we point out it is unreasonable. I do not like that this is expected of us. My best friend is a 30 year old single female with a horrible dating history. She wants her perfect ten, her flawless dream guy. She knows that it’s unreasonable and accepts that she’ll eventually have to settle. She does not get angry at men for not being the guy she’s looking for, even though if they gave up everything else in their lives they could be. Thanks again for the insight. It’s really nice to know I’m not the only one who wAnts to be that girl and hates loving it when I manage to get there.

  8. Society- such an interesting phenomenon…

    I like the article, it’s well written and personally vulnerable. It is a story- and a good one.

    I also think there is a different ladder to climb when it comes to “beauty.” There is charisma, and this is an energy of attraction which supersedes (most) anything else. The energy of the author was expressed through her being, and this is what made (makes) her beautiful. If the means of energy is changed, it does not mean she participates in the same way. She can be beautiful, but expressive in a different way.

    Learning new, less expensive techniques she can provide for her family as she wishes. Learning efficient techniques she can still run the same energy through her body and maintain her beauty, but have the time she desires for her family.

    Very few things in life are really either/or. And the mentality around this is what plagues most of us in life. It is easy to black and white just about anything, but it is far more difficult to change. Yet the changes can have rewards. This is not just my opinion. I have made lasting changes, and I continue to work on the things I would like to change.

    Regardless, I think this is an important piece of writing. Kudos.

  9. For all this hard work we do, so that men can drop drinks and fall off their bikes for us… I think beauty is not valued enough! I want money instead of compliments!! Or more love!! Hahahah ;) Just kidding there.

  10. What really upsets me is that women have the power to change how important external beauty is to men and therefore women. The power to choose to engage men with their minds, ideas, imaginations, sense of humour. Sex appeal and being attractive have so much to do with personality and substance. When a man interacts with a beautiful woman who is not capable of having an intelligent and inspiring conversation the woman becomes less interesting. Health is beautiful. Mental, physical and emotional health. Being cool, confident, calm and alive. To be excited about something in your life. It’s what gives you that spark and intrigues others. It shows in your skin, because your heart is pumping and you’re fuelled by your own passions. That kind of beauty doesn’t come from a bottle or a chemical peel. It comes from within. When a woman chooses to slap on external beauty she is covering herself up and wearing a mask she thinks men want to see. And they do. Because it mimics true beauty. The rosy glow, sparkling eyes, and healthy hair, warm smile and cool confidence that comes from being healthy.

  11. I’m just wondering… are you using the terms addict and addiction literally? I know that many things other than drugs can be addicting, I’m a recovering poly-drug addict and also have OC disorder, and thanks to the Canadian healthcare system, have gotten the counseling and support I needed to recover from my addiction and lead a full, conventional life and healthy lifestyle. I don’t want to minimize your issue, and I’m not sure how else to classify it, yet I don’t think addiction is the word to describe the emotional maladjustment you are describing. I don’t think it is fair to compare something that can steal life to something that is more of a attention seeking behavior. You can’t just give up an addiction like you have “gave up” your behavior, I have been clean and sober for 4, almost 5 years, and it is still a constant battle, and I have to continuously work to keep myself clean. It is an uphill battle for the rest of my left.

    Now, I’m sorry if I took away from the point of the article, or maybe I lost sight of the big picture, but I just don’t think it’s fair to compare the two different problems. I’m not saying yours is any less than any other problem, I’m just pointing out that it is different.

  12. Perhaps you should do some volunteer work

  13. “The I realized I was ‘the babe'”….

    Such a revealing essay…..! Thank you for describing it so well….

    And, yes, there is no high like turning around and finding a handsome man in a suit looking at you, like he is entranced….especially when it’s a week or two post-op, and you feel like Bride of Frankenstein underneath all the makeup and chic clothes….when I feel “on”, it’s like being Scarlett O’Hara and you are surrounded by people who take note of what you say…the confidence and attention makes me feel funnier and zanier and brings out a more flirtier and more daring side of my personality….it’s like your chest splits open and something warmer pours out…having beauty is a rare power, but you have to run with it…meaning something awesome better come out of your mouth or you should smile and laugh and connect with people (ie., light touch or affectionate looks)….

  14. Thank you for your honesty. There seems to be so much taboo about the discussion of women and beauty. Whether they are beautiful, their desire to beautiful, the power/attention associated with beauty…I hazard a guess that its the experience of many other women. But no one is willing to speak with much honesty about it. If we are intelligent women with depth, we are supposed to be above these superficial concerns, right?

  15. Lisa, I love this post and your honesty. I love this quote: Intelligence doesn’t walk in the door the same way beauty does.

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