8 Things I've Learned About Beauty From The Men In My Life
I know what you’re thinking — we’ve spent a hundred lifetimes trying to make it very clear that our female beauty cannot be determined by a scale, a jean size, or the opinion of men. And I agree, one-thousand-percent. And despite what you may have gleaned from the title, this isn’t that.
As much as I’d like to separate myself and my worth from the male gaze, it’s kind of tricky (read: impossible). And honestly, I don’t think it solves that many problems. Not only do the male species make up half of our population, but they make up like 98% of my life.
Here’s the thing: I grew up surrounded by boys and men. In my immediate family, I was the only girl sandwiched between two brothers, one older, one younger. When my parents divorced and eventually found new partners I got two more step-brothers from my mom’s re-marriage, and two more almost step-brothers from my dad’s almost re-marriage (the engagement lasted 10 years).
Needless to say, I was almost always surrounded by a lot of testosterone. And that’s cool. It’s been fun. I grew up in hockey rinks, and gymnasiums, and I’ve never ever had to kill my own creepy crawlys—ugh, I know, I’m a bad feminist.
While growing up GIRL amongst a ton of guys hasn’t always been easy—like sometimes, I just really wanted someone to play Barbies with—I’ve learned a lot over the years from the men in my life. And not just stuff like how to throw a proper punch, or change a tire. I’m talking important stuff, like how to be a good human, an empowered woman; and the semi-complicated stuff like love, beauty, makeup, and thigh gaps.
These are some of those things...
A short Q&A with my youngest Brother
Question: How do guys really feel about eyebrows?
Answer: We simply don’t feel about eyebrows.
Question: What’s the verdict on lipstick these days?
Answer: Honestly, it’s very situational. Day to day, meh; going out for supper, sure. The bright stuff is nice, but if it stands out too much, it’s just too much.
Question: And last but not least...what are your thoughts on the “thigh gap”?
Answer: Ummmm… I guess If it suits a girl’s physique, naturally, I can appreciate it. But I don’t think girls should be killing themselves to achieve one.
A quote straight from my Boyfriend’s mouth
“If you get botox I’ll break up with you….Okay, I won’t break up with you, that’s not fair but honestly, you’re perfect exactly the way you are. Plus...you love bulldogs so there’s proof that wrinkles are cute.”
(It’s true. I really want a bulldog, or just any wrinkly dog for that matter.)
My grandfather always used to tell me...
"My, you're a beautiful, beautiful, girl."
This might seem insignificant or shallow, except he would often say it to me after a basketball game—I'd be red-faced, puffy and sweaty. Or he'd tell me it in the morning, when I'd just come down for breakfast, sleep in my eyes, hair a mess, and drool still crusted on my cheek. (Don't judge.) Because to him, beauty wasn't about physical appearance, beauty was something else entirely. It was an emotional quality, a characteristic, something you couldn't see in a mirror.
I asked My Eldest Step-Brother what advice he would give his daughter when she doesn’t feel “pretty.” Here’s what he said:
“I would invite her to look at National Geographic pictures of aging women in Muslim-rich and money poor countries, then take a moment to smile.”
3 qualities my Dad appreciates in a woman:
The ability to eat (especially things like cabbage rolls, deer sausage, and elk meatloaf).
The ability to sing (as much as my dad loves George Strait, he really admires a woman who can belt it — Carrie Underwood, Martina McBride, Nicole C Mullen, to name a few).
The ability to do absolutely anything outdoors or active (like go for a run, a bike ride, swim in the lake, hunt with him, etc.).
Notice how none of these qualities have to do with physical appearance?
(Fun Fact: I possess only two of these qualities. Can you guess which ones?)
On Makeup — A conversation with my Eldest Brother:
“I don’t get why girls wear makeup,” said my oldest brother. “It’s like, why are you putting all that stuff on your face, you’re not a clown.” He was sitting on my bed, while I was at my vanity blotting my cheeks with bronzer.
“We’re not clowns!” I protested, between blots. “We’re just a-c-c-e-n-t-u-a-t-i-n-g,” I added, drawing out each syllable of the word to accentuate my accentuation.
“You don’t see guys putting that stuff on their faces,” he said.
“Well that’s because it hasn’t yet become socially acceptable for guys to wear makeup.”
“Even if it ever did, you wouldn’t catch me rubbing that stuff all over my cheeks. Besides, in my opinion, guys don’t even like it when girls wear makeup. It gets on our clothes and stuff.”
“I don’t even really wear that much,” I defended myself (though I’ve certainly gone through stages where the opposite has been true).
“Yah, you’re not too bad, but you’re just as pretty without it. You don’t need it.”
Furthermore, when I texted my eldest brother to ask his permission for using his words in this article, he added this Text Message Rant to the conversation:
I find that men's reactions to makeup can be very different. For me, I appreciate a natural look and no makeup because there is nothing more attractive than a girl that says to herself and everyone she sees, this is my face, unapologetically. That's another thing I can’t stand—when chicks apologize for the way they look. When do men ever apologize for how they look?
That said, if there is an insecurity or something that can be easily fixed, I say fine, but getting up every day and covering up your face for fear someone will see your real face has got to be continually hard on your self-worth. Like talk about a terrible daily practice... get up, look in the
Mirror and tell yourself, I have to hide all this cause I'm not good enough...
Like what are those things called that you’re supposed to say in the morning to yourself, daily affirmations??
"I'm worth it, I'm beautiful, I'm smart, etc etc..."
Like, that has got to be the opposite, right?
Anyways... I think that most guys associate no makeup or very moderate amounts with confidence and there is nothing more attractive than confidence.
How’s that for a ramble?
My Stepfather says:
“While mom is beautiful all of the time, in her many different forms, one of the things I love most about her is her natural class mixed with her, respectfully-I-don’t-give-a-shit attitude.”
And allow me to express LOUD AND CLEAR: none of this is to say you need to listen to any of the men in my life. I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again—what you do with your face, your body, whether or not you wear makeup or get your eyebrows micro-bladed is nobody’s business but your own.
It’s just that, being surrounded by boys and men while growing up, they often gave me a different mirror to look through. One where I could see myself in their eyes — perfect without all the powders and primping, perfect without a thigh gap, perfect simply because of who I was to them.
And I think maybe that's the takeaway here, we try so hard to fit the standards of a society that is constantly telling us we aren't thin enough, pretty enough, blonde enough, that we often forget our own self-worth. We forget that it doesn't really matter because the people who matter already know the truth about us: we are enough.