We have this really unfortunate problem, humans, where we think we are always insufficient. We are disturbingly good at developing tools to legitimise that fear, to keep ourselves in a panic about our faces and our bodies especially. This is a tool that offers the deceptive glimmer of freedom from scrutiny – “You can make yourself flawless!” – but encourages us to believe we must continue to strive for perfection, since of course we will never be free from scrutiny, not really.

The girl on the left looks like she’s in the midst of puberty, judging from that little pimple by her lower lip, a place where my skin tends to rebel often. Her cheeks are the bright red of sunburn, exertion or rosacea, or all three, and freckles dust her face. She looks like she’s been enjoying an Australian summer. The set of her lips, her steady dark brows and the determination in her slightly tired, striking eyes conjures the impression of a tough, cheery country girl who’s seen the effects of a drought up close, who’s sat by animals as they are put down out of necessity, but maybe that’s just my cultural baggage trailing along behind me. I don’t have any idea who she is, really, but there are things written on her face, and they may not mean what I have arbitrarily decided that they mean, but to her, they mean something; to her family, they mean or meant something; to her friends, they mean something; to her high school teachers, they meant something. Something both incredibly superficial and informed by deep intimacy and experience. A thousand different somethings.

The girl on the right is beautiful, and enhanced, and diluted. Ruddy cheeks and freckles are not acceptable; the appropriate response to sun is a tan. Pimples are not acceptable; you may look young in the sense of dewy skin and a lack of wrinkes – and the lines beneath her eyes have indeed been softened – but the imperfections of youth are unacceptable. Her brows have been curved, lengthening, very slightly, the space between brow and upper eyelid, for the greater appearance of naivete and eagerness. Even the planes, peaks and valleys of her face have been smoothed – the indentation above her cupid’s bow; the points of cartilage shaping the tip of her nose. Her eyes were apparently not bright enough. Where once they were inscrutable, old and cheeky, perhaps guarded, now they invite you in, unambiguously, and yet are empty, the same expression you’ve seen so many times before that it has ceased to mean anything, the endless invitation. Her skin has no pores.

There was nothing wrong with her. She didn’t need correcting. I don’t know that she would agree.

We really do hate ourselves, don’t we?

Crossposted here, at the tumblr.


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