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July 30, 2010

Drawing Strength From Going Against the "Beauty Grain"

Man, I'm exhausted. My inner-feminist got a good workout this week (even if I didn’t).

First it was watching an incredibly stereotypical episode of Disaster Date (see Cram another feminist stereotype in there, why don't you?), then it was listening to a bitter Youtubian trying to tell me why "women have it so easy in life," and then kindly reminding him why that wasn’t necessarily true. And now, go figure, a Facebook comment has got my vigilante juices flowing.

You see, I was making my usual rounds on Facebook (scrolling down the homepage to see if anything juicy was going on) when I noticed one of my classmates talking about possibly getting her hair cut. Now don't get me wrong, her hair is absolutely gorgeous - long, shiny, and black, the kind wig-makers would kill for - but I'm a huge fan of short cuts (no pun intended). Naturally, I chimed in with a good pat on the back and “atta girl,” but it wasn’t long before a couple of boys jumped in and disagreed, saying short hair most certainly wouldn’t be cute.

Miffed, I asked: "What's wrong with short hair?"

Nothing, apparently. Except the girl in question "wouldn't look as cute" with it.

"Well, it's not your decision to make!” . . . is what I would’ve said, if I weren’t such a civil person. (Facebook is no place for a fight. Back alleys are so much better . . .)

But seriously, this isn't a stand-alone case. Whenever a girl talks about getting her hair cut on Facebook (yeah, teens have too much time on their hands), it's always girls who show support, and guys who seem to have massive coronaries. I know it's a biological fact that men are attracted to women with long hair (you know, because it signifies "youth" and "fertility," stuff 16-year-olds really care about), but it's the 21st century for cryin' out loud! If we want to get our hair cut short - or do anything that contradicts outdated standards of beauty - what's stopping us?

In fact (and yes, this is going to sound really cheesy), I'm starting to realize the power one can draw from going against the grain. The beauty grain, that is.

For starters, my hair is short. Not a big deal, right? But you're talking to a girl who only had about three trips to Super Cuts in her entire childhood, and who had waist-length hair until the 10th grade. But I've never felt more alive since adopting a short do, and I couldn't care less what type of hair boys prefer. Because short hair - that I can tease mercilessly, that hardly needs brushing, and that creates the most awesome bed-head ever - makes me feel light, free, confident, and fierce.

Something else I've taken for granted until recently is natural beauty. I’ve always seen it in others, but when it comes to myself I’ve always felt the need to hide my imperfections (especially at school) with healthy doses of foundation and mascara. I can even remember the one time I didn't wear makeup to school (because I was so gosh-darned tired), and I ended up feeling self-conscious all day. It sucked big time.

But these days, seeing as I can’t get my license for another six months and my parents both work, I’ve been stuck at home all summer. In other words: no makeup.

Have you ever really looked at yourself in the mirror? I mean really looked?

Astrid Alaud posed a similar question when she asked if we’ve ever actually “tasted” a carrot. Not just ate it, but tasted it. She suggested that “we can’t taste the beauty and energy of the earth in a Twinkie,” and similarly, I think there’s no better time to marvel at the beauty of humanity as when we’re completely "natural."

I know (now) that when I look in the mirror it doesn’t matter whether my eyelashes are long and luscious or straight and stubby, if my complexion is perfectly tanned or perfectly pink, or if my blemishes are covered or just there. It really doesn’t matter. But when I take a minute to actually study myself, feel my face in my hands, or jack it up into an uninhibited smile, I see a girl who’s funny, and dorky, and smart, and corny, and above all passionate about a lot of things. And that’s when I think I know . . . scratch that, that's when I know what magazines are missing these days. Not just me, but us. The real us.

All I’m saying is: don’t let other people tell you how to live your life. Don’t shy away from getting your hair cut (or try to grow it out!) just because you think boys will like it, and don’t wear makeup because that’s what girls are “supposed” to do. Glam yourself up as much (or as little) as you want because it makes you happy, because it makes you confident, and because it makes you want to take on the world. Look in the mirror - really look - and be proud to see what you see.

Despite what Dallas Cowboy cheerleader and/or Hollister employee recruiters would have you believe, there is no single definition of “beauty.” So let's make up our own rules, okay?