Inconceivable Beauty Standards

Sunday. It’s all about waking up late, sipping on coffee, leisurely reading the newspaper and dozing off whenever the heart desired. On this day, I let my heart do what it truly desires : Sleep, read a little. Mostly sleep. The only two dreary thoughts that lure over my head, on this seemingly blissful day? A visit to the beauty parlor to get my skin plucked out and the impending Monday with deadlines and meetings.

Parlor visits have always filled my heart with terror. When I was a kid, a trip to the parlor meant a haircut. Some wonderful lady would wash my hair with shampoo that smelt like candy and spruce me up nicely with a blow dry. Ah! I remember feeling like the world was at my feet. As if I were some princess, whose handmaids had done a fabulous job! This feeling slowly started to fade away as I grew up. Insecurities began to creep in. I was less a princess, more a toad. I reassessed every snip made by the scissors and was left teary eyed after the blow dry. My hair didn’t look as shiny as the girl’s in the Pantene advertisement. I did not like the image I was looking at in the mirror. My hair wasn’t silky smooth and my face wasn’t clear enough. I looked nothing like the teenage girl who starred in the clinic plus commercial. This was me at the age of 13, trying to achieve ‘beauty goals’ that could never be achieved. Learning from glossy magazines that adorned our coffee table at home : hairless, spotless, thin women are beautiful.

In the summer of 2009, I was to go on a 8 day trip with my friends. We were heading to Rishikesh, and the agenda was to do white water rafting, kayaking and camping. Wearing shorts was a necessity and the norm. 5 days before the trip, my mom announced that we are heading to the parlor to get my hands and legs waxed. I got super excited. Smooth, silky, hairless skin was stuff I had dreamed of for a long time. Finally, it was my chance to look like the women on glossy covers. I remember screeching in pain when the hot wax touched my supple skin and when the piece of wax strip pulled all the hair apart. But I accepted it all. I was ready to endure all pain, to become a hairless chimp at the age of 15. I understood that with beauty, came pain and I continued with the self-inflicted torture. Monthly parlor trips had officially turned into a nightmare.

I slowly began to succumb to the beauty trends, pouring thousands of rupees into an industry that was already thriving. I visited a skin doctor to address my acne problem, binge read articles that told me my pores were too large and needed a toner, cleansing oil, primer, serum and a long list of items I didn’t know existed. My mind was overtaken by a numbing sense of insecurity that kept telling me I wasn’t ‘pretty’ enough. I lived in an era where undone eyebrows were pointed out and hairy legs were shamed. Beautiful, perfect looking women ruled the television screens and told us “Ab marks se nomarks sirf 3 dino mein!” Thin thighs, flat stomach, clear skin and glossy hair was normal, everything else just meant you weren’t ‘pretty’ enough.

I was chasing perfection that was out of my reach. It took me a while to realize that the beautiful women I revered had a team of beauticians and skin specialists, ensuring their perfection. To stop abhorring my gene pool for my naturally hairy legs and curvy body. To not let my body define the woman that I am today. I had internalized my insecurities regarding the way I looked to an extent where it had started affecting my self confidence and self worth. I used to filter out all the compliments that I so generously and lovingly received and debauched the few snarky comments that came my way.

Here I am, all of 24, sitting with kajal in my eyes, a mac lipstick worth thousands smeared on my lips and primer concealing the marks on my face reminding myself that beauty standards have been contorted to suit the ever increasing needs of the cosmetic market. That there is a difference in being presentable and looking like a magazine cover girl every single day. That imperfection in terms of beauty is something defined by the society which needs to be defiled and reformed. Thin thighs and flat stomach should not be aspired to, fitness and strength should be a goal instead. It’s okay to have acne as long as you are eating right and are a happy soul. Dark skin is beautiful, imperfection is beautiful. You are beautiful.