On the convenience of beauty.
During my last breakdown (the van, not my psyche) I had the epiphany that 20 years ago, were I stuck in traffic in the middle of the road, there would be no question about receiving help from passing motorists. I would merely have had to exit my vehicle. Picture it; long hair flowing, makeup on fleek, the figure of a typical young goddess and likely with a bit of leg/cleavage showing. I would have been immediately aided by every straight male within eyesight.
Now short-haired, makeup abandoned due to no A/C, my skin having deciding the best reaction to heat and stress is to rash out on me, (mostly on my once prized legs,) my figure is a bit rotund and any cleavage showing is usually by mistake.
Things have definitely changed.
I honestly like myself better now than I did back then. My self-esteem and confidence have risen to the point where I am very comfortable going out and being myself during the day to day. But I must say, I miss the convenience of beauty. The ability to take for granted the fact that people would be helpful when I needed it. The lack of fear of running into problems because of the nearly subconscious expectation of the knight/damsel response.
This came strongly into focus when I broke down in an intersection and hopped out to push my van after throwing her in neutral. Now granted, I didn’t emerge from my vehicle looking like a flowery helpless waif. There was no waffling, no tears, and certainly no size six making me look about 17 years old. Nope. There was 160lb woman wearing a trucker’s cap, busting out screaming “Goddamit!” while kicking the van and cussing more for good measure.
Now that I think about it, maybe the many men sitting around in pickup trucks were too scared to get out and help.
Or maybe the “help the lady out” relex only occurs when the heat index is below 90 degrees (it was over 100, after all.)
Once I finally was able to maneuver my ¾ ton vehicle over to the gas station, it occurred to me to take stock. Maybe a little lipstick? Perhaps jeans to cover the rash? Maybe a wig? A part of me sat back and judged these thoughts with scorn, “What kind of a feminist ARE you??” Another part was realistic, “We’ve read about this countless times, from all kinds of women across cultures and timelines. This is nothing new.” A third part of me was pretty much thinking, “Would you two just shut up? I’m dealing with a mechanical crisis right now and don’t have time for this.”
I’m not sure when I hit the other side. I saw it coming, and am not sure when I arrived. At some point I think it will flip back, perhaps when my hair goes white. Then I will again hear the, “…need a little help there, Ma’am?” The Ma’am of course replacing the Miss that would have been there before.
Until then, I’m gonna have to work this out.
It was convenient, dammit. It was useful, and finding it suddenly gone is like reaching into your toolkit for something you know you had and discovering not only do you not have one anymore, they’ve stopped making them.
At our last KOA I saw a woman frantically applying makeup in the bathroom. She was a mother travelling with three young children by herself. I smiled at her broadly, admiring her determination to get her full face on when I had just decided to skip the routine again.
Glancing back at her, it struck me that she would still get the response I hadn’t. Her long blond hair, legs up to there, and perfect figure would likely aid her far more than AAA ever could.
I expected this thought to arrive with some jealousy but was met with merely amusement, like knowing a secret that you really can’t share yet.
So here’s to the women on both sides of this reality. I love you all and celebrate all of our beauty.
(While missing the damn convenient kind.)