I recently had a small cyst removed from my face. The process was messy and painful, and I neither wanted nor needed to have it removed, but the doctor persuaded me to have it done by implying that it might be malignant (“we’ll just send it away for testing”). It wasn’t, and based on the fact that it had been quite happily nestled in the corner of my nose for over fifteen years, the likelihood of it having been dangerous was extremely low. One of my rules in life is to never let someone take to you with something sharp, cut you open and sew you back up again unless it’s absolutely medically necessary, and I was a bit grumpy over having been manipulated into breaking that rule.
The truth, I suspect, is that the doctor removed it because he thought it was ugly. Now I have swapped an ugly lump of flesh for an ugly scar. I’ve simmered down somewhat since the stitches came out, though, because upon reflection, I realized something.
My beauty routines are a misnomer; they’re not about beauty at all, but about adhering to cultural expectations, just enough so that I don’t embarrass my husband and children, don’t have people edging away from me in public places and don’t have to fend off awkward questions from candid children. I experience the awkward questions regularly in my day job as a teacher aide. It used to be, “What’s that thing on your face?” Last week it was, “What happened to your face? Why do you have a Band-Aid on it?” A few brave souls said, “Stitches? Can I see them?” Yesterday, it was, “Is your hair naturally curly? What about the colour? Why did you dye it that colour?” I also got, “How old are you?” (followed by a look of horror when I told them). The lump on my face never bothered me, but I have discovered since having the lump removed that it bothered a lot of other people. They were just too polite to say so.
You might have heard women say things like, “I don’t wear high heels/make-up/dye my hair/go in for expensive plastic surgery for other people, I do it for myself.”
That’s not me. I don’t attend to my appearance for myself, I do it for others.
Imagine you are the last person on Earth. All of humanity has been instantly transported elsewhere by an envoy of alien beings with impenetrable motives, leaving just you alone on the planet. Alone, that is, except for a team of incredibly sophisticated robot beauticians, hairdressers and plastic surgeons.
I don’t know about you, but I’d be leaving those robots to rust. I’d become grey of hair, ragged of fingernail, spotty of skin and hairy of leg, while I spent my solitary days doing much more important things like amassing a huge personal collection of high heeled shoes. Not so I could clatter around the deserted streets in them, admiring my own hairy calf muscles, but because high heeled shoes are art forms in their own right.
There will be a story resulting from this real life experience. The story will not involve aliens, robot plastic surgeons or shoe collections (although perhaps it should). There will, however, be pain and blood and horror, far in excess of how it really went down. If I can’t be a Beauty Queen, I’ll just have to settle for Drama Queen.