On Vanity in the Pandemic

May 8, 2020 ,
The Internet is filling up with jokes about women and their desperate need for nail salons and hairdressers. Some of them had me laughing in tears. We had videos of Italian mayors screaming at their constituents that they should not be calling their hairdressers at home. And you really shouldn’t. You should most definitely respect social distancing. However, I would like to point out that societally imposed or perceived beauty standards don’t stop at the locked door of your apartment.

Yes, it is funny to think that some people have nothing better to worry about than the fact that they can’t get their nails done. Hahaha! Silly ladies, having first world problems when the world is going down in  flames. And I get why it might seem silly. People are dying in hospitals all over the country and you cry about your damn beautician appointment?

But I would also like us to take a moment and realise that for most people the issue is not that they can’t paint their own nails or get a haircut. The way that society sees us has a pretty big impact on how we see ourselves. And for most women, that lens is often stained with expectations regarding every details of their physical appearance. Now, I can’t speak about other women’s personal experience, but I can tell you about mine.

It took me a good 4 hours of intense discomfort to take off my acrylic nails. Which I ended up getting in the first place because chronic anxiety cause me to bite my nails bloody. I have been getting my nails done for over 4 years now and I was very happy with them, mostly cause I only worry about getting them done once a month and you really can’t bite through those motherfuckers. I promise you, cause I definitely tried. I also get my hair done, cause it makes me feel special and pretty and a worthy human to walk out of the salon with the perfect color. Also, cause the last time I tried dying it at home, it ended up being a gradient map of the colors red, pink and yellow.

I was in the process of getting some hair removed with laser. Which I have had to stop. And that is uncomfortable since now hair that was supposed to #begone is still very much there and growing under my skin. And now I know that this much honesty might have many of you wincing, but I promise you that when I look in the mirror, I don’t feel particularly good about myself. Because a woman “should take care of herself”. Because I “look like a slob”. Because I have “let myself go”. Last night I impulsively put some pink dye I still had around the house in my hair, to give it a bit of oomph. It helped some.

And with all of this, keep in mind that I have been handling quarantine quite well. I am not alone, I still have a job, my mood has been mostly stable and I have managed to keep being productive (which definitely shouldn’t be something that we constantly worry about, but, hey, capitalist society has got me covered on that anxiety). Now think how my image of myself might have been affected if I hadn’t been privileged enough to handle quarantine well.

Yeah, I know, crazy ladies running to the salon first thing in the morning to get their perfect eyebrow on – funny. But do think of the fact that our first world problems represent real distress that we really have to deal with and which can be really disruptive. And if you don’t have to deal with such vanity, it might be because you were detached enough to not internalize societal standards about outward appearance. Or maybe it’s just that society didn’t direct all of it’s decorative expectations onto you.

And for those out there who feel as I do, I get you and I share in your discomfort and distress. Take care of yourselves and rejoice when all of this is over.

Leave a comment