I decided to go on an impromptu weekend away last Friday. My best friend was in Glastonbury so, remembering I had a camper van, I decided to go and join her for a bit for some much needed bonding time.
I’ve never been to Glastonbury. Well, I went to the Glastonbury festival when I was 17 (a looooong time ago) but I didn’t go to the town while I was there and have never been back since then. I was intrigued to see what it would be like as I only had a vague idea of it. I’d heard that it is quite a spiritual place and seems to be somewhere that is popular with people looking for meaning in their lives, hippies, pagans and worshippers of many beliefs.
We spent some time at the Goddess House with a few ladies and, although the sessions I went to aren’t what I would usually attend, it was lovely to spend some time with women embracing all that is great and powerful about us. I left with feelings of peace, calm, love and strength. Not just from the other women but from myself too. It was part of me and a part that I don’t often connect with.
The funny thing is that behind all this peace, calm, love and strength, there is also that inbuilt self-deprecation and feeling of not being good enough that is probably partly innate in women but also expected. As women, we grow up being told that we should be demure and pretty and not take up space in the world. These messages are sometimes subtle (seeing the same kind of images in magazines, traditional film roles, adverts for beauty products) and sometimes overt (“that’s not ladylike”, “why don’t you wear this pretty dress”, “why can’t you behave like a young lady”), but we are bombarded with them from every angle.
Why can’t we swear or get dirty or not wear makeup? I’ve been trying something recently that I didn’t plan but I’m quite enjoying. I haven’t worn any makeup since 4 May this year (my cousin’s wedding). I hadn’t planned on doing this, but I went to Spain for the Camino on 6 May and although I took my makeup with me, I didn’t wear it at all. I mean, it’s not a huge thing for me because I never wore it everyday and I never really wear a lot of it anyway. But the idea that we’re supposed to really pisses me off – why should we cover up our natural skin (and make that skin unhealthy by doing so)?
In my early twenties, I used to work in Boots and had the same break times as some of the women who worked on the beauty counters. We used to smoke together and chat about everything and nothing. I remember vividly a casual conversation about how most of them wouldn’t leave the house without makeup and I mentioned that I rarely wear makeup. Most of them looked shocked and someone said “But you wear foundation though don’t you?”. I looked confused and said that no, I don’t wear anything unless it’s a night out. I had a resounding chorus of “You’re so brave”. I can’t remember if I corrected them by saying that, actually, I was just lazy about putting makeup on!
The point of this is that yes, I was always lazy about makeup but it didn’t mean that I wasn’t aware that I should be wearing it. I should be wearing loads of it. At a bare minimum, I should have been putting on foundation, blusher, mascara and lipstick every day. I always joked that I wanted more time in bed when having conversations about why I didn’t do this every morning. Although I think that was actually true. But it’s not bravery because I just didn’t get into it and I’m thankful for that.
I also had a conversation about cellulite at the weekend and it’s one of the things that I now just ignore and don’t look for on myself. Most women (and a lot of men) have it, no matter how much fat they have. Nothing actually gets rid of it and yet we’re still being sold creams, massages and who knows what else which all but guarantees to get rid of our unsightly lumps and bumps. No wonder so many women have body-image issues.
We shouldn’t be expected to cover our natural, beautiful bodies up so that they are more acceptable to people. We shouldn’t be expected to hate our bodies and faces so much that we spend millions of pounds over a lifetime on treatments and surgeries to make them more acceptable to other people. What we should be doing is encouraging each other to look beyond the surface to what makes us great people. Looking at the kindness, patience, humour, intelligence or whatever it is that endears you to that other person.
Now all this sounds like I’m free and happy in my own skin but, unfortunately, I’m not quite there. I have my body hair removed, I use moderately expensive skincare and there are parts of my body that I wish were different. But I’m starting to like those bits. And quite frankly, anyone who doesn’t can stay away from me. I don’t want that kind of judgement or negativity and I don’t think anyone deserves it. I want the peace, love and strength that comes from spending time with all the incredible women in my life (which is all of the women in my life, and all of you by the way).