One Woman, Two Faces


I went to the dermatologist yesterday to have a small face rash looked at for a second time, as nothing previously recommended (or spawned by Google searches) seems to be helping it disappear. The red cluster on my lower left chin has been bothering me for weeks—adding a few extra minutes of anxiety and self-loathing to the usual process of getting ready, providing me with one more thing to hide from the world.

See women are very used to hiding from the world—in fact, it is part of our daily process, regardless of where we fall on the scale that is “woke.” Even when we make the least amount of effort to shield who we really are, we still inevitably take more daily pains than most of the men around us.  It is why I often feel I lead two different physical lives—that which is put on and that which isn’t… that which reveals the face rash and its ilk in all their glory, and that which shrouds it in a layer of concealer and shame. The former is mostly at home, or on the subway at midday, when I can hide behind sunglasses and the assurance of not running into anyone. The latter is virtually anywhere else.

I was thinking about this at the dermatologist’s yesterday as I stared at a flyer for botox with “Defy Gravity” scribbled across a mature woman’s immovable face. What a comical goal, I thought, one that is also so prevalent and so sad. But what’s more sad may be how many of us realize this—realize that the pressure we’re under to look a certain way for all our days is absurd—and subject ourselves to it anyway, seeing every imperfection as something to be denied, hidden, even blasted away.

Not being “above this” whatsoever, I argue with myself internally about it often—part of me yearning to shun all societal expectations once and for all, and the other swallowing them whole. Unsurprisingly, the latter tends to win out, with the process of smoothing and shaping myself into submission feeling more comfortable, safer even, than that of letting it all (every loose hair, red mark, bloated limb) hang out. It’s a habit long-ingrained and continuously reinforced all around me, often humorously so—but in the darkest way.

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