Somewhere between Au Naturel and Body Mods
This post is going to be a little different from some of my others, but it’s something I’ve been wanting to write about for a while.
I have felt for a long time that there is a very complicated set of pressures facing womxn, femmes, and people of all genders in our fitness and beauty industry but also within feminism and the anti-diet-culture movements. On one hand there is this pressure to look “perfect,” to look this specific way, muscular but not too muscular, thin but not too thin, natural but not too natural, done up but not too done up, etc. But there is also this pressure to finally listen to our bodies, to do what feels good and natural and stop fighting our instincts so much and to fight cultural norms all at the same time.
This pressure can sometimes be overwhelming. Caroline Dooner in The Fuck It Diet book, blog, and podcast discusses how intuitive eating, moderation, and listening to our bodies can become a whole new type of diet prison when we become obsessive about making sure we are always listening to our bodies perfectly and never overdoing whatever invisible limit moderation implies as “too much.”
With this pressure, I have also long felt the pressure that I wasn’t a good feminist if I didn’t decide to leave my body hair as is to fight cultural norms, but if I wasn’t going to go all in, I might as well go all in on making sure I didn’t have a hair out of place so that I was at least living up to some standard female of desirability.
Meanwhile I’ve also felt that my body mods like my colorful hair, my shaved undercut, my tattoos, and my nose ring made me a little outside of typically attractive, but also I just wasn’t quiteee tattooed enough to feel I fit in at a tattoo parlor.
This all goes to say, that no matter what decisions you make, you may very well feel some sort of body anxiety about them at some point. You may feel that that you are too much or too little in some way, shape, or form, or someone may make you feel less than for the way you have chosen to take care of and present your body. This is all okay. It’s okay to feel confused about trying to live comfortably in your body after years of not accepting it in our toxic culture full of competing pressures. The main point is just to continually check in with yourself and ask these simple questions: Is this way that I am caring for my body for me? Does this way that I am caring for my body make me feel happy and fulfilled?
For me, this has meant going all in and getting tattoos whenever the mood strikes, instead of making myself wait “just because.” It has meant getting my nose pierced when I have never even had my earlobes pierced. It has meant not shaving my armpits for multiple years now and more recently getting comfortable having my legs unshaven, while beginning to do electrolysis for my eyebrows again and getting regular bikini waxes. It has meant keeping my hair some sort of colorful for years on end and even moving away from the “more acceptable” grays and pinks that I has been sticking to for years to move towards green and navy and maybe red/orange/yellow in the near future. And also keeping my undercut shaven even though I don’t wear my hair up often except when I’m lifting, mainly because my hair is already thick and prone to knotting (yes, from years of bleaching my hair) as is, so it’s nice to not have sweaty hair on my neck all the time. It’s knowing that I can happily go most days without any makeup at all and then go through a phase where I want to wear winged eyeliner or glittery eyeshadow and/or black or navy or green lipstick every day for weeks on end.
It’s knowing that I can contain all these beautiful complexities of trying to eat organic food when possible and also sitting with harsh bleach on my head every 3 months, of leaving much of my body hair natural while trying to make the hair on my head as far from natural as possible, of rarely wearing makeup but decorating my body with tattoos and my face with a piercing in one whole and complete human being.
It is not easy to begin to go against what you have been told is good and right your whole life, and it is not easy to sort out which of those things you’ve been doing your whole life is actually enjoyable to you and should stay around as something you do for you. But it is worth the work. It is worth the work to lean into becoming fully you. It is worth the work to try something that may be scary because it is not deemed normal but because it feels like a truer representation of you. But people will pick up on that infectious energy. Hey, somehow I still have clients with the way I present myself! Haha
So this week, as we enjoy this nice, warm weather, try something that scares you a little. Wear the crop top you’ve been told you don’t have the body for. Wear shorts instead of a dress even though you feel like you don’t have the figure. Get that second piercing or new tattoo. Stop shaving something you’ve been begrudgingly maintaining for years, or make that wax appointment you’ve been afraid to.