May 15, 2009

Women and "Beauty"-- I Just Don't Get It

Surprise: This Is Not Crabby McSlacker!
Image: Vogue Magazine

How To Lose Friends and Alienate Readers

So this is one of those ill-advised posts that I will probably regret soon after I hit "Publish." But as a female health blogger, there is a nagging question that comes up for me all the time: why do women seem to be so obsessed with physical appearance?

This is not just a rhetorical question. For those of you who do care a whole heck of lot about your appearance, and the appearance of other women, I really am curious about why that is.

I know it's weird to question something so ubiquitous in our culture. But it seems to me that is still often considered the most important thing about a woman, or at least one of the most important things: how does she look?

Lurking behind nearly every mainstream media women's "health" magazine or website is a not-so-secret agenda: tell women what they need to do to lose weight and become more attractive. "Health" in the conventional sense is almost kind of a side note: oh yeah, and here's how not to end up with diabetes or die of cancer.

(That's why I especially like fitness bloggers who focus on health and empowerment, rather than pant size, like Kelly at Fitness Fixation or the inimitable MizFit).

So What's With All This "You" Stuff?

So here's part of the reason for my confusion, and part of the reason this post may seem really irritating: I may be a woman, but I think more like a guy when it comes to this beauty stuff.

Sure, I'd rather be attractive than unattractive, but it's not something I'm willing to spend a whole lot of time or thought on. Like with a car: it might be fun some days to drive around in a gleaming vintage Jaguar convertible instead of a dented station wagon.

(Bringing More Boys to The Yard
Than Milkshakes Since 1935
Photo: Jigmi

But who has the time, money, and patience for a Jag? That dented station wagon gets me to the grocery store just fine, even if it doesn't turn any heads along the way. And I don't have to throw a bunch of time, money, and emotional energy into maintaining it. And as long as it runs great I'm happy!

It really does seem to me that the average woman spends a LOT of time, money and energy maintaining that Jaguar. Is there a cost associated with that? Are there other things that are being sacrificed in life to keep those heads turning when you drive by? Or are the benefits so totally worth it it's not even a question?

What's Wrong With Crabby?

I just don't think like a normal woman! I see a typical shoe store display full of designer stiletto shoes and I wonder: Why do these even exist? Why would a woman put these on her feet when sneakers are so much easier to get around in?

My pragmatic stance on such matters is certainly not because I've pondered the issue and meditated over it and sought spiritual guidance and decided there are more important things in life than how I look.

It's just that truly I don't care that much! I seem to be missing the normal girly genes that make fashion, hairstyles, footwear, skinny jeans, makeup, etc, etc, etc, subjects of so much interest. I don't even find highly "feminine" styles attractive--I like a more androgynous look, on both men and women. I just seem to have been born with a different set of operating instructions than most females.

(So I realize that while plenty of straight women can probably relate, and plenty of lesbians are totally feminine, girly, and devoted to their physical appearance... I don't think it's entirely a coincidence that so many of us with female partners instead of male ones started of as "tomboys." It wouldn't surprise me at all if there were something genetic that goes into gender role development as well as sexual orientation, and that's why I think more like a guy on all this).

Help! I Really Do Want To Know!

So, girly girls, can you help me understand? I have several questions, and I'd really like to know what you think. Just consider me like a clueless alien from another planet, or perhaps, a guy.

1. Do You Want to be Pretty Mostly For Yourself Or Because That's What Men Demand?

In my younger days, I used to think it was all men's fault that so often, women were judged solely on their appearance. (And back then, I think there was a lot more societal pressure on women to just "shut up and look pretty"). But now, I can't help noticing that women themselves seem to drive a lot of this focus. I don't think it's men who are clamoring to know where Michelle Obama buys her sweaters or how many pounds Valerie Bertinelli has lost and kept off. Would the editors of women's magazines keep putting waifs on their covers and promising miracle beauty solutions if that wasn't what women wanted?

So I'm starting to wonder if this focus on women's physical appearance is actually driven more by women's interest and their standards, not men's? But I actually have no idea.

2. Is the quest for physical attractiveness pragmatic, recreational, or is it a major source of self-esteem for you?

I'm guessing that women who look like beauty pageant contestants are treated differently than women who do not. They probably have an easier time getting promoted and catching a cab at rush hour and finding husbands. But I sense there's something more than practical and financial benefits at stake behind the quest for the perfect shade of eyeshadow or the skinniest rear end. What does being beautiful mean to you?

3. Does your fear of not looking slim or attractive enough ever cause you stress?

The nice thing about driving an old dented station wagon is that when the runaway shopping cart slams into your passenger side door? Meh, not such a big deal. Not quite the same thing if you're driving a Jag? Or are you pretty content with your appearance regardless of how close it is to fashion model standards?

4. Does this whole blog post make you extremely irritated with me? If so, that's cool, feel free to share your annoyance in the comments!


    (thanks for the love)
    I oft giggle to my friends that people who dont know me think that my disheveled always in old shorts & tees & nikes appearance is a result of being a mama----but Ive always been like this.

    no make up
    no heels
    no pantyhose
    (unless forced. I do don those on special occasions when compelled but family members to avoid embarrassment. THEIRS)

    for me it's another one of my daily choices.
    I make the choice to soend 40 min a day on MEMEMEMEME.
    working out.
    I dont have nor do I really wanna have 40 MORE minutes to blow dry and make up myself.

    Id rather read :)

    am I ranting?


    happy friday!

  2. I'm SO WITH YOU HERE! Being so movement oriented myself, for all the benefits it comes with (health, fun, livelihood) I guess the looks thing was just secondary,, never on that list really. does that even make sense?

    I barely wore make up at my own wedding..I sometimes have to tell people it was our wedding in the photo's HA! But I wouldn't change it for the world...

    I do sometimes like to take my mind to the place where these women come from, thinking how it would be to live in a world dominated by fashion, make up and beauty. I can respect the art aspect of it, it's just not for me.

    Pass the asics please, never heels for me :)

    Oh, my true idea of beauty is that gorgeous way a body moves when a skilled climber/dancer/martial artist is performing their specialty!


  3. some of it is vanity... i didn't wear make-up for YEARS, but started recently when my psoriasis decided to try to take over my face. it's one thing for it to be on my ankles, knees and elbows, BUT NOT MY FACE!!!!!!! as for the rest of it, i don't follow fashion. i have one on-line store whose clothes i love, and buy just about everything from there, in their clearance section. they also have great shoes. mostly, though, i wear my work uniforms and work definitely isn't fashionable.

  4. For a ton of years I wouldn't go out without mascara. Now the thought makes me nauseous.
    I grew up as a tomboy, I hate to shop, I obsess about the 20 lbs I can't lose, and it makes me crazy ......this worry about how one looks. My husband jokes that I am a "fashion plate", and that I don't have one shirt or pair of jeans without either a hole, or a stain.
    And this morning, I put on a pair of shoes....."pretty shoes", that cramped my feet up 2 sizes smaller, and I said "hell, no!"
    I'm with you. There are women out there who are rebelling against this whole idea, that we have to look like the models on the covers of the mags.

  5. As a male that's been on earth for some time, I too don't get the “look like the magazine model” stuff. My feeling is that women dress to impress other women, not so much men. They want to point out that they have a true understanding of today’s fashion by flaunting hair, makeup, clothing and shoes as badges of honor to show they belong to this club.

    Give me the healthy woman any time in a t-shirt, a pair of Nikes and something comfortable to walk around in like sweatpants or shorts.

  6. dragonmamma/naomiMay 15, 2009 at 8:14 AM

    I'm with you, too. I don't do panty-hose, high heels, or make-up. (Well, I do cover the occasional zit and use lipstick for a bit of color.) And I'm definitely heterosexual.

    But, hey, I've already got me a man, so it doesn't matter what I look like, right? COUGH COUGH.

    Pleeeze. I think I look pretty damned good with my muscles and functional clothing. The guys seem to think so, too, since I get "hit on" on a regular basis.

  7. You mean we are not just all prisoners of our biologic urges?

  8. Let's start with the shoe thing. I love shoes. I always have loved shoes. My mother has said that the only time I ever threw a tantrum in a store when I was little was because I wanted a pair of red shoes and a matching purse that she would not buy for you.

    I couldn't tell you why I love shoes so much, but it's been a lifelong habit. I also like gardening and reading a cooking. Have never been a big fan of fashion mags, but I like health and fitness magazines. It's just the way I am.

    And yes, I like getting dressed up nice and putting on makeup to go out - Husband doesn't care about my outfit and thinks I look great without makeup. So, to answer your questions...

    1. I think I want to be pretty for me.

    2. I'd say it's a self-esteem thing, it makes me feel good.

    3. Sadly, yes. Particularly the 'slim enough' thing.

    4. Nope. The world would be boring if we were all exactly the same. :)

  9. Trust me I love to wear sneakers, or flip flops but unfortunately I work in corporate america that requires dress shoes and since I'm flat footed and the podiatrist requires me to wear a heel, I want the shoes to look nice, but honestly if I had my choice I'd be wearing jeans and teeshirts to work everyday, but alas I cannot, suits only. And up until a year ago we were required to wear hosiery if we wore dresses until finally a female became the head of the company and she said her first agenda item was eliminate the requirement of hosiery YAY!!!

    But I think your questions are valid. Women are much more critical of other women's appearances but I think it has more to do with competition then anything else. But as far as becoming thin etc. I want to do it for health especially but i'm not going to lie I want to be physically attractive to the opposite sex, now don't get me wrong I am a cute girl and I know there are men out there that don't mind a little extra weight on a girl, but dating is really hard out there, I've been roughly single for 10 years since my divorce, and I really haven't met anyone significant, the men are overall lazy when it comes to dating and the internet hasn't helped that, afterall, if they don't find you cute enough to talk to they just have to flip NEXT on the computer and dial up their next prospect. You know what I mean? Gone are the days where your personality can really shine because I'm convinced men look at pictures first and then maybe they will skim your profile.

    It's tough out there.

  10. Oh Crabby, you really hit home with me today. A tomboy at the get-go, I am so not a girly-girl and just don't get all the time and money spent pursuing it. I don't color my graying hair, wear minimal makeup (because my evaporating melatin cries out to define the disappearing facial features), really do drive a dented station wagon and - GAK! - like power tools. I generally find it easier to talk with men (and former tomboys, of course) as I love their no-frills approach to life (and the enormous slack that society cuts them). I prefer sneaks to heels and tees to blouses but can morph if the occasion demands. I place a much higher priority on being smart, funny and kind than dumb, gorgeous and petty.

    I need to lose weight as I do not want to wind up like my father who after years of not caring for himself has diabetes, emphysema and not enough energy to pick up the phone.

    It's great to know I'm in such good company.

  11. I don't get it. I can appreciate the way some women transform themselves through style. I can definitely have fun at times with makeup (when they started coming out with blue mascara again? HELLO CHILDHOOD!) I even own a few dresses that I wear when feeling particularly flowy/whimsical. But I just don't get the general female aesthetic in our culture nor do I understand suffering to obtain it.

    Yet, I'll spend days each week hoisting very heavy things in the air followed by a day or so of being sore so it's not like I can judge someone in heels.

  12. I am much happier wearing sneakers and being able to move, rather than wearing high heels and having to take innumerable small dainty steps to get anywhere.

    On the other hand, I really like having the option of wearing makeup and such on days when I need to boost my self-esteem by trying to make myself 'pretty.'

    I am not consistent.

  13. I kind of get it. I don't wear make-up or dress up now, but I think that is more because I am not happy enough with myself to take care of myself. I gained roughly 50 lbs (which I can't seem to get rid of) after my last pregnancy because due to complications I was put on bed rest. Nothing will put weight on you faster than not being allowed to move from a reclining position for months.

    When I was happier with my appearance I wasn't a fashion plate, I tended to find clothing that suited my personality and body at the time (I have always been curvy). But I would put care into choosing my outfits, my make-up....never really my hair (waist length, just braid it). I didn't do it for other people. I did it because it made me feel good.

    I wish I could convince myself that those things are worth my time again because that would be a sign to me that I am comfortable with who I am again.

  14. I think it really has to do with how the other women are around you or in your circle of friends. If you live in some place like New York (i don't), you feel like you want to keep up with the other women. I don't wear heels, but do wear makeup and get my hair done. It makes me feel good to look good. I do think people treat you better when you take care of yourself and have pride in your appearance. It is all about putting your best foot forward.


    I love love love shoes and jewelry and scented lotions and flowy dresses and yes, I wear a little makeup every day. At my dayjob I wear jeans and sneakers everyday, so when I get the chance to dress up, I DRESS UP.

    I'm not by any stretch of the imagination a high maintenance girly-girl, but I do like all things girly. Can't help it, I just do.

    When I wear heels, I feel confident (maybe because I'm kind of a short gal, so the extra height gives me new perspective?) and when I have on a completely killer outfit, I'm unstoppable.

    I don't read fashion mags or wear the latest trends, and I really don't care what celebrities are wearing. I think I do it for my own vanity, plus it's just fun (for me anyway)!

  16. I think you're right on the nose about gender role and sexual orientation being more genetic. Sure, there's a lot of cultural stuff that goes into it but we are all exposed to a lot of the same stuff so our reaction to it has to be linked to our biology, even if only slightly. That's my *scientific* opinion. heh.

    As far as the role beauty plays into my life. *soapbox* I believe that every one should love themselves all the time. Self love should not be conditional upon whether we have the perfect hair cut, good skin, trendy clothes and shoes etc. Self love should be there even when all that stuff is not. With that said - yes I like to be pretty - though my standards of pretty differ than what society tells me it should be. I'm not supermodel material. I'm fat for one. But I know I'm not ugly. I love what I see when I look in the mirror. I take the time to make sure my skin is taken care of and I LOVE makeup - LOVE LOVE LOVE it. However, that is for me, not for men, not for other women, not to be accepted by this superficial culture. I wear it because I like it. Sometimes, I don't feel like it and I'm just as comfortable being out in public without it on. So, I guess it's recreational for me. I enjoy the way I feel when my clothes look good and my hair falls into my place and that color of eyeshadow really makes my eyes stand out but I'm not going to hang my head in shame and not face the world if everything isn't in place.

    I do not understand the women that will absolutely not risk being seen without looking "perfect." That is a self-esteem issue that stems from our society feeding us these images of what is beautiful and feeling like we will never amount to anything unless we look like HER too.

    whoo. That's a lot of words. I has passion.

  17. I love buying clothes. I like clothes that are unique (I especially enjoy clothes shopping in other countries). I think part of it is that since I have to wear clothes, I might as well find fun ones that make a statement.

    But despite all that, I'm definitely not fashionable. I don't wear makeup. My theory is that if nobody wore makeup, then nobody would feel like they needed makeup. But once someone starts "enhancing" themselves with it, then everyone else has to to compete. It's a self-fueled vicious industry meant to make you think you're ugly without help!!

    And heels - I hate them. Which sucks since I work in corporate America where heels are the unspoken law for women. Every time I wear them I think, "Damn, if a serial killer were chasing me, I'd be useless unless I can get these off fast enough to stab him in the eye with..."

    But I definitely think it's a woman driven industry. Women competing with each other in a strange arbitrary world that is designated by the makeup and fashion industry.

  18. I'm definitely not a girly girl. I come close to despising pink and I'm crap when it comes to my hair and doing make-up. Saying all that I do get it slightly. When I'm around other women who are funky and fashionable and into their hair and make-up I feel like a real plain jane. I know I shouldn't compare myself to them but it's VERY hard not to when you are in the situation. While I do try to be that girly girl at times most of the time I'm a jeans, nice top and comfy shoes kinda gal.

    As far as doing it for men... I think that can be part of it too. Lets be honest we all want to be found attractive whether it's right or not to need other people to see us that way so that we can feel it.

  19. I'm not a girly-girl, but I played one in a past life. And for me, it was all about the boys/men, and trying to live up to the standards I saw around me. I wasted so much time and money on make-up, hair, and clothing. Now I look at young women and the ones that are, by far, the most attractive are the ones that are healthy and comfortable in their own skin. I wish I could take credit for discovering that the human body and face are beautiful as they are and do not need to be all dolled up to be attractive, but my husband is the one that eventually opened my eyes. Face paint and dangerous shoes are not a turn on for him. But if he sees a woman with bright eyes and a nice smile, he will usually remark about nice they look.

    Hey Gigi--I drive a dented station wagon too!!

  20. I am a tomboy and have eschewed the girly look for a long time.

    I sometimes wonder why it still perpetuates, I mean, we had women's lib in the 60s - THE 60s for goodness sake!

    Girls as young as 10 are now more concerned with how they look than doing well at school or having fun.

    I do blame the media - TV programmes that show young, thin, bronzed, blond bimbos, magazines that tell girls how to look, what to buy and where to buy it.

    Having said that, I do enjoy getting all dressed up occasionally (within limits), lol!

  21. I don't really get it, either. But there's so much about conventional femininity that mystifies me ("romantic" comedies, pretending to be less smart than you are so as not to appear threatening, the entire wedding industry).

    I try REALLY REALLY hard not to judge other women for their choices because I think they should be free to wear crippling shoes and wax off all their pubic hair if that's what makes them happy. But as you can probably tell, it is a struggle.

  22. I wish I knew the answer to this!

    I swing between not taking care of my appearance (I still actually care, but are just too lazy) and being very meticulous. I seem to take greater care when I'm exercising regularly which generally makes me feel good about the way I look. When I'm feeling frustrated I let it all slide in that well-I-didn't-really-care-in-the-first-place sort of way.

    I want to look good because I feel more accepted (sad huh!) and I then worry less that people are judging me and not liking the result. At the same time my natural laziness and love of comfort means I'm never going to be terribly "fashionable" in the classic sense.

    So basically:
    1. Mostly for myself, but I also feel that most men appreciate some basic level of effort without going over the top.
    2. Self-esteem sadly.
    3. Not stress exactly, just frustration.
    4. No! I love that this blog can be so varied!

  23. So I think there are a couple reasons women pick up feminine things like clothes shopping and makeup and whatnot:

    1. To feel grown up. Lacy lingerie is something you'd never wear if you weren't grown up.

    2. As a form of self expression. I liken dressing up and doing makeup as a type of art. There is individuality in choosing colors and styles and channeling a look. Much the same as drawing or painting.

    3. Competition. This is the uglier side of women. A lot of times women will be judging who looks the best or will envy someone else who does look good. It takes work to be that person, but the silent social ranking that goes on between women makes it worth it for a lot of people.

  24. Words, Crabby. Out of my mouth. I don't get it either.

    I've always been pleased with the way I look, and I've never done much about it. I lovelovelove clothes, but I'm so picky about just what I want that I make a lot of them even though I totally hate sewing. (When I was three I threw a tantrum because my mother wanted me to wear a pair of white lacy socks with a blue dress with an embroidered ivory collar, and the blue socks I usually wore with it weren't clean. I wore a different dress. With a white collar.) If it's not comfortable, I don't wear it. I think of getting dressed as creating a three-dimensional fabric collage.

    I've gradually rebelled against stockings to end up, ten years ago, going bare-legged to my mother's funeral (outdoors, at the hot end of May) so now I have to stop saying I only wear nylon to weddings and funerals.

    I enjoyed makeup in high school, but since then I haven't worn any unless sunblock counts.
    My hair has never been touched by anything but shampoo and scissors. (Er, and brush and comb.)

    Mary Anne in Kentucky

  25. all i want to do is feel good about myself, and know i'm healthy.

    frankly, the chick in that pic is gross looking, just like most rail thin models. then again, i've never and would never buy one issue of a magazine like Vogue, simply because it just focuses on the materialistic and visual.

    takes me 30 mintues to get ready in the morning, and that includes the shower... quick, out the door. if i have to stand in the bathroom and prep for more than that, it's cuz i felt it was time to shave something.. LOL

  26. I think heels get a bad rap. I used to say for years that I'd never wear heels. Then I tried them and they're actually not uncomfortable! (depending on the pair, of course). I don't wear high heels, I try to stay below 2", and they're quite comfortable.

    I didn't start wearing makeup until I was 27, when my stepsister (17 at the time) showed me how). I've never been much of a girly girl, but I do always put on makeup. It's very light, and you can hardly tell I'm wearing it, but it helps accentuates my features, which I like. Definitely not going over the top there.

    I think women definitely dress for other women. Guys obviously want attractive women, but attraction is so subjective that it's not necessarily the makeup and heels that's gonna do it. But you know what? Women who go to all-female gyms will still apply makeup BEFORE their workouts (that I don't understand).

    For me, I enjoy wearing skirts (I haven't owned hose in years, hate the stuff) and low heels and wearing light makeup. It makes me feel more attractive and sexy, and that's what makes a difference (because if I feel that way, I'll exude more confidence in myself, which is going to be more attractive. It's all about the self-perception, not the objective perception).

  27. One further thing to note, however, is that some women take it too far. Sometimes, I feel a judgemental eye because I haven't shaved my legs or my bikini line or plucked my eyebrows or whatever. That's irritating. Because seriously, in the grand scheme of things, how much does that matter? (especially since I'm blond and you can barely even SEE my leg hair!)

    I'm going to stop now before I start ranting on and on :)

  28. I am a jeans and tee shirt kinda gal, always have been, always will be. I'd rather play sports than sit on the sidelines. (Or jump up and down on the sidelines with pom poms.)

    I don't wear pantyhose anymore. Just for weddings & funerals, and luckily neither has been an issue as of late.

    I own makeup, but VERY rarely use it. Again, weddings & funerals. And of course for those awful business dinners my husband drags me to.

    In addition to your questions, I also wonder why it is that all older women need to dress to the nines to sit on their butts and play bridge for hours on end. AND, why, if you don't like to play bridge, you are deemed too stupid to understand the game.

  29. I enjoy dressing up, wearing makeup (not tooo much!) and wearing heels. I don't shop at those designer boutiques or stores nor do I spend $900 on a pair of shoes. I work out and keep in shape and I do all this for ME-not a guy, not for society- but for me. Don't get me wrong, I love nothing but to wear a comfy tee, shorts and a pair of sandals but I love shopping and fashion, always have. But I wouldn't consider myself a girly-girl. I like to play sports, I get dirty and sweat a lot-and it doesn't gross me out- I don't go to salons and spend $250 for a haircut. I guess you can say I am more practical when it comes to beauty. But I don't think there is anything wrong with going out and dressing each their own.

  30. Cranky, I never wear makeup at work. Since I have to work sometimes 60 plus hours a week, I always end up with a ratty pony tail and plain faced. I really dont enjoy putting on makeup, but I still want to look pretty. I used to think it was simply because I wanted "boys" to notice how pretty I was, but I realized as I got older, I only dressed up and wore makeup for the other girls I was hanging around with. No, this isnt a coming out post, I am completely hetero, I dressed up for the girls because of the mocking and teasing if I didnt. None of the guys really care what you wore or how your hair was fixed as far as I could tell, but I sure didn't want to get teased because I was wearing the wrong thing or my hair looked like a rats nest.

    The preceeding was my feeling when I was younger. Now that I am more mature, I will still dress up occaisionally and put on the jewels and face spackle, but mostly to shock my family and friends into remembering I am still a woman and not house slave/major butt kicking cop. I cant imagine dressing or doing up like that every day though, ugh too much work.

  31. Do I think it's men? Not really. My dad always said that men like women who look like women, not like little boys. In my experience that's been true. And more to the point, most men I know find the most attractive thing about any woman is a willingness to have sex with them.

    Why are women so obsessed with weight? I don't know about anyone else, but this is what's true for me: I feel like we've been taught to believe that what's on the outside is a reflection of what's on the inside. If you are chubby on the outside, you are lazy on the inside. Genetics and natural variation have nothing to do with it. It's all about personal choice and self-control. When I think critically, I don't believe this is true, but it's easy to get caught up in that train of thought.

    I've never been a big clothes or shoes person, but I actually love the show What Not to Wear because I think the hosts have a great attitude about what makes a woman attractive. They tell participants to dress the body they have in a way that flatters it and reflects their personal style. And it seems to go a long way in developing the participants' sense of self worth: no dieting or plastic surgery needed.

  32. This is a great post, Crabby! And obviously, a lot of your readers are very sensible women who realize that the high fashion industry is crap.

    When I lived in the city and did "city" type things (belonged to clubs, theatre - both as a performer and a spectator, worked an office job, etc.) I spent a lot more time worrying about hair and makeup and how I was dressed.

    Nowadays? When I get dressed in the morning, I ask myself, could I chase a cow in these shoes? Or fix a barbed wire fence in this outfit?

    If I am going to town to shop, I like to wear clean clothes (with no holes in them from being hung up on a barbed-wire fence!) and be clean and neat in my appearance. If I am meeting a friend for lunch, I'll even put on a little mascara so it looks like I have eyelashes, but other than that? Not so much attention paid to fashion.
    My one "vice" that I've hung onto from my city days is perfume. I love wearing perfume. (The cows can always smell me coming! *snort*)

  33. You're totally not going to regret this post. :)

    I don't wear makeup and often I'll be in the car on the way to work before checking the mirror. No heels. Same jeans and t-shirts on rotation. For me, I'm pretty sure it was where/how I raised and educated that made me this way, and I appreciate it, mainly because it means I can sleep much later in the mornings. ;)

  34. I like this post - it asks questions that i believe are important to women. My answers to your questions are:
    1) I want to be pretty for me. The thing about men is that i'm only interested in CERTAIN men (the hot ones) thinking i'm pretty. Not the dirty old men or the schoolboys.
    2)My quest for physical attractiveness is recreational - i find it FUN to dress up in a gorgeous outfit and to flaunt off the things i love about my figure. Does it give me a boost of self-esteem? Absolutely, but that doesn't mean that i'm not comfortable with myself when i'm not wearing make up and am running around in jeans/sweatpants and a Tshirt.
    3)I don't feel stress over not being attractive enough, because i don't think i'm not attractive. I'm no supermodel, but i don't look like the back of a bus. I'm happy with the way i look regardless of fashion. Fashion is just fun.
    4) No this post was not annoying or irritating in any way.

  35. Excellent and thought provoking post. I grew up as a tomboy playing with toy trucks, getting lost in the woods, swimming in a pond and riding horses. Sometimes all in the same day. I was always more comfortable with the guys than the girls. Still am. (but I don't think I'll be switching teams LOL)

    I have tried to understand fashion and fit in but I just suck at it. So now I just get what I like. I want to look good. I don't want to have to go around saying "I am not an animal." I'd rather get a whistle or two and look pleasing to the eye. Yes, that's one reason I started on the weight loss journey. I looked at myself in the mirror and thought I looked disgusting. I had more rolls than the Sara Lee bakery.

    But I also was having some heart issues, blood sugar issues, breathing issues, walking issues....just so much. I want to be healthy and I want to hike the grand Canyon and do things. I only get one life and I didn't want to let it go by as an inactive unhealthy person.

    I can't help you with the fashion questions. It must be some evolutionary thing with trying to attract a mate or something. I don't know.

    Though I wish I were hot, I'll just continue to try to look good in my own eyes. And it doesn't hurt that I have a husband that sees me for who I am and thinks I look beautiful no matter what.

  36. I don't get a lot of it. Especially the emaciated models slowing getting organ failure (or at least losing hair and needing extensions and wigs). Beyond me. And, stillettos. They hurt. OH, and don't get me started on fashion. Really, some of that stuff looks rediculous! OH, and panty hose. Ugh. yuck.

    But, I do get the wanting to look girly. I paint my nails (keep them super short though so that they don't break and hurt and so they don't interfere with typeing) and sometimes do my hair and makeup. But, it takes forever so time to do other things usually wins. I want to look attractive for me and for my hubby. Attractive for me (not for or on everyone) is make up, cute shirts and painted toes and nails.

  37. I don't think it's weird to question ideas that are prevalent in our society, I think it's NECESSARY!
    Like MizFit, I avoid heels, make up, and ESPECIALLY pantyhose (tools of satan, I'm tellin' ya!).
    I do, however, obsess over my weight. I think, as women, we're taught, from an early age, that our looks are our most important asset. And it's just getting worse. The female "ideal" is getting more and more unattainable, and the more we focus on our looks, the less we focus on the really important things.

  38. To answer your questions:

    1. Mostly for myself.

    2. All of the above, but mostly self-esteem.

    3. Most definitely.

    4. Not at all. I'm a little jealous, if anything. I wish my self-esteem wasn't so tied in with my appearance. And I think these are very interesting questions that are not asked often enough.

  39. The focus on typical beauty in women's magazines does frustrate me but I don't think it is going to change. Now, for the questions:
    1. I want to be pretty for me. Call me vain, but I like looking at myself, especially when I am all dolled up. My husband thinks I look great as I am so it is all for me.
    2. For me, the quest for physical attractiveness revolves around losing weight. Not because of anything except I need to get healthy. My triglycerides are thru the roof and I would rather lose weight and be healthy than get on meds.
    3. I have a pretty high self image, so not looking slim enough doesnt really bother me. I know I have other great qualities.
    and 4. Why would this post make people irritated? I am pretty sure it's what everyone thinks.

    And as a side note, the thing that bothers me the most, and i see this in mainly Bridal magazines, is the super anorexic girl who puts her hands on her waist, and hunches her shoulders over. SJP did this in the Sex & the City movie also. I think that is the worst pose ever.

  40. I love these comments and I'm learning so much!!

    Both from women who like the girly stuff and those who don't.

    One thing I want to clarify, which I was probably sloppy about, is implying I think there's anything wrong with wanting to look pretty, especially if it makes you happy. I think it's a question of how much energy goes into that quest, and why it's worth it or not to various women. And it is cool to find out from you more feminine gals which things are fun and which things are a pain for you too!

    But I do think there's something wrong with our cultural assumption that the most important thing about a woman is what she looks like and whether she's slim or heavy or whatever. And to the extent we women perpetuate that ourselves, that can be troubling. (I don't think many Cranky Fitness readers fall into the category of women who think nothing is more important than looks!)

    Oh, and I had no idea so many straight gals had many of the same issues I do! I really kinda thought maybe it was a gay thing!

  41. 1. I always think I look great and that is just me and not about what others (men or women) think. This drives my doctor crazy, because she thinks that I would work harder on my health issues (lose weight faster and more regularly) if I thought it affected my appearance.

    2. Pragmatic in the sense that the doctor would have a point if she was dealing with anyone but me!

    3. I have no such fear.

    4. Nope. I was only irritated when you took away the cupcakes, but after a while that passed. I think this is a great blog topic and by the comments I think everyone agrees.


  42. 1. mostly for me, but I must admit to enjoying the extra attention I get when I'm pretty(er). However, I don't take it to extremes or anything.

    2. Recreational. I seldom wear more makeup than some tinted moisturizer & mascara. The only 'beauty item' I really take seriously is my shoes. I love high heels. LOVE THEM. (which for regular readers of my blog will not come as a surprise - stop by later today for some shoe porn.)

    3. No. I have a pretty healthy self esteem, and although sometimes I really do worry if I look good in my clothes, if I feel uncomfortable, i change my clothes, and then life goes on.

    4. No :) Although I was concerned when you started bagging on my beloved stilettos.

    I spend a maximum of 30 minutes getting ready in the morning (and that's if I decide to blow dry my hair). I love cute clothes, because I like how they make me feel (yay for summer & summer skirts!), but I'm just as comfortable, maybe more so, in jeans and a t-shirt. And high heels, of course!

  43. I don't understand it either. One of the perks of being a personal trainer is getting to wear Adidas pants and Saucony shoes... every day! LOL. Comfy clothes. I'm about to try wearing makeup (which amazingly, I wore in high school when I was desperate to fit in then grew out of), because the other side of training is selling yourself. My theory is that looking more like other women might help me sell more training sessions, plus I am getting older. Unfortunately I'm surrounded by 20-somethings so I'm feeling the need to compensate a little - very uncomfortable and weird feeling for me.

  44. I'm kind of stuck in girly-girl/tomboy limbo.

    If I got down to my goal weight I'd probably lean a lot more into girly girl, though. Fact is I feel more comfortable in jeans right now than a skirt. They rein in the gut and hide the thighs that much better, you know?

    Anyway. I wear a size 42/9/11 shoe. Which makes it nearly impossible to find women's shoes. I usually end up in men's shoes - sneakers. Which means I have to wear jeans, because skirts + sneakers = stupid. I'm hoping, somewhat naively, that when I get down to my goal weight, my feet will also shrink. They might. Ha.

    As for why I want to be girly? It has very little to do with men. I don't think men give a rat's ass about fashion. They only really notice if a woman looks sexy, which has really little to do with fashion. They don't notice the width of the belt or the height or shape of the heel. Cleavage? Oh they're there. But handbags? Those are for women.

    And I have developed some taste for girly things as I've gotten older. I don't have any money and I can't fit into the clothes, but I'd at least WANT to which is a big step from when I was 12.

    I get upset sometimes, when I try to go shopping and nothing is fitting. It makes it hard for me to be dressed appropriately for social occasions where something elegant would be in order and I end up looking like a sausage about to burst out of its casing. And I'll admit that most of my attempt to lose weight is so that I can buy nice clothes, but that's mainly because I'm otherwise healthy and my weight wouldn't bother me if I just could fit into stuff.

  45. Well this is what a lot of feminist theory is about, isn't it? The fact that "society" derives the worth of women based on their beauty. I feel heartened that man women on here *can't* relate to that, cause it means things really have changed. But to answer your questions...
    1. Do You Want to be Pretty Mostly For Yourself Or Because That's What Men Demand?

    - Any time I devote to beauty is cause I think it's fun. I probably worry more about the opinion of other women, than that of men. Women have MUCH higher standards of themselves than men do (in general, I mean).

    2. Is the quest for physical attractiveness pragmatic, recreational, or is it a major source of self-esteem for you?

    It's related to my self-esteem, but not in an obsessive way. I mean, I hate looking like a slob - my mind gets slobby, too - but I won't get up at 4:30am cause I need to do my make up, or something.

    3. Does your fear of not looking slim or attractive enough ever cause you stress?

    - I've been downright depressed from feeling fat or ugly.

    4. Does this whole blog post make you extremely irritated with me? If so, that's cool, feel free to share your annoyance in the comments!

    - It's AWESOME you're posting this! Magazines like Shape, Self etc. are supposedly about health and fitness, but they're not - they're about looking like an underweight Hollywood star. Which is not healthy!

  46. I love clothes, hairstyles and fashion for their creative aspects and once I'm in the groove, trying to accomplish a particular look, I can get obsessed.

    Once I'm done, though, I forget about it. Costuming myself doesn't play as big a role in my life as it once did, either. It was fun in my teens and twenties, but I've got a busy life now that I'm in my forties. I have little time to fuss over my appearance if it's not a special occasion.

    Most of the time, I dress very simply. I have professional clothes for my office job, and jeans and capris for casual. I have a hairstyle that looks good with little effort but that can be styled in a lot of different ways if I'm so inclined. My makeup is simple and I almost never do my nails because I don't want the upkeep.

    I try to find the middle path. I follow fashion just enough to not get frozen in a particular decade, but not so much that anything I have on today will be passe by tomorrow afternoon.

    I'm a naturally active person and I've never had a taste for junk food. I'm proud of having kept my teenage figure, but I recognize that at some point it may become real work, and at that juncture I'll probably let it go in favor of more interesting hobbies than the tape measure.

  47. I'm definitely the sport utility station wagon driver with racks for bikes & kayaks. I'm traumatized by the mall!

    I find magazines like Vogue as alien as Hunting and Fishing & Nascar magazines.

    However, I do color my hair (highlights too!), wear makeup (minimal natural look) and love to get really sweaty exercising or doing yard work and then take a shower. After the shower, a light fresh, yet warm fragrance (Amazing Grace by Philosophy) and unscented Aveno lotion to make my skin feel and look good.

    Maybe there is no 'category' for me.

  48. Interesting post!

    1. I do it for me. I do not want attention from men - makes me very uncomfortable. I feel more confident when I'm dressed decently and my hair is done, although I don't stress if I have a bad hair day (because then I would be stressing A LOT). I am pretty much a "fix it and forget it" type of person though - I don't keep messing with my make up throughout the day.

    2. Really, it's mostly recreational, although I do have to look nice when I'm at work.

    3. I let go of those fears a long time ago - it's what I had to do in order to survive being overweight for so many years!

    4. Not at all - I love reading all the different takes on this! Plus you've given me a great idea for a blog ya, Crabby!

  49. Oooh - very interesting post! I am what you would probably describe as a VERY girly girl. And I kinda think I've always been that way. Starting from the moment I could dress myself, I refused to wear anything but dresses - even in the winter. I love high heels, makeup, doing my hair... and yet on some level I do realize how shallow it all is. And that frustrates me. Esp. because my appearance is a big source of stress for me sometimes. A "fat day" can ruin my mood for a week. Which just isn't right.

    But to answer your q's - I think women do it for other women, not necessarily for men. It all comes down to power I think. Beauty is equated with power in our society and for some women they think that is their ONLY way to be powerful.

  50. First, great post! I think many women think about this. For me, it is a complicated question due to issues from my youth & being fat, the "less good looking friend in the group", not dating one etc. So, all that stuff along with being teased for being not only fat, but Jewish in predominantly Christian communities, left me with hang ups to say the least!

    The one thing I do know is I like being healthy & fit now. I lost the weight originally form just being tired of being the fat, not dating person. But now, just glad to be healthy & fit. And I like the muscles even though I know many men don't. That does not bother me at all & my hubby likes them so......

    As for the pretty question.. complicated I used to want to be that for men but now I would like to look better for not only me, BUT unfortunately, it gets you places you need to go sometimes. For example, I would love to fitness model now, since I am in decent shape for my age BUT my face does not love the camera & I don't seem to have "the look". So, looks do get you places as you mentioned in your post. And I do think it may help with self-esteem, I hat to say. Too many probs from my younger years that surface when you least expect!

    But now, I really don't wear make-up during the week because I am not working outside the home right now.... makes it easy. I do put it on for weekend outs & about with my hubby. I try to look somewhat decent for him & me when I am out on the weekend.

    I guess I wish it were easier & I get mad at myself for caring about looks so much but I do care & it is not that I want to be "pretty" but just wish to look a better....

    See, I did not even make any sense. It is still complicated to me!

    Thx for a thought provoking post!

  51. I really think this is just part of conditioning in a patriarchal society.

    It's one thing to enjoy "girly" stuff, but quite another to have a fearful obsession with youth and appearance (the stuff eating disorders and plastic surgery are made of).

    I think that there are very few models for women in our society: you can be a mom (noble, not denigrating it at all), you can be a whore (now, with MILF's, you can actually be both a mom AND a whore), or you can be like a man. That's it. (Even nuns are somehow "like men" because, at least in Catholicism and Buddhism, they are modeled after priests and monks.)

    BTW, I'm a hetero, married, feminine (but not into girly stuff) woman who adores men. I am not blaming the state of our society on men--it's been patriarchal for a long time, and has a momentum all its own.

    Hope this comment does not unduly offend anyone.

    Great post, Crabby!

  52. I've never been the 'girly girl' type so I'm not sure why the makeup obsession, etc exists. Most of my friends, too, are more into outdoors and physical fitness than into makeup and beauty. I have a problem with the stick thin figure. The girl on that cover is way too skinny - and the older I get, the more I realize it is unhealthy and unrealistic to have these women on the covers. In my younger years I may have looked at her and thought, "Hotty!" Now I think, "Go eat a burger!"

  53. Sheesh, do you all have to write so much? I have a life that doesn't completely center on reading comments on blogs, ya know?
    But of course I had to read them all.

    Cranky, I don't know if you know this but because I am a ravishing natural beauty, I don't need makeup. When I met Chris years ago, the thing that got him in the sack was my self-confidence and I'm sorry, but try as one might, you do not slather on self-confidence out of some tube. It's naturally produced (at least in me). So...what can I say? Other than follow my lead in the physical beauty department (floor 14) and I'll help set the standard.

    Now I believe without a doubt that all this "women and beauty" crap is driven by greed and the media. Way back in the days of yore, we had corn, right? (follow me here..this could get lengthy but like your commenters, you obviously have no life either). We just ate corn. Planted a seed, ate the product from the seed. Then along comes Kellogg and builds factories and hires employees and everyone has to make money to buy houses, so Kellogg starts making cereal out of the corn. Then they make cereal bars. Then cereal bars with fake milk. Then a billion different kinds of cookies and other crappy, useless products, all because people need to make a buck. Then the public sees the stuff advertised. They think, "Oh, I'm sick of eating corn all the time. I have to buy one of these corn flavored, corn-syrup soaked portable snack goodies or I'll die if I don't have them" So the consumer buys the Kellogg products and eats them (and everyone is still making bank) and advertisers start advertising more crap that Kelloggs makes and customers keep buying more crap cuz they think they have to have it.

    Makeup and beauty products are the same way. Revson has to make his money to pay his employees and buy his sports cars. Loreal has a huge pool that needs resurfacing. MAC has to have a facelift. Bobbi Brown has company coming. So they get with the Advertising Age staffers (and everyone needs to have donuts during the meeting to keep Dunkin and Winchell in the latest fabulous styles) and come up with reasons to tell women that they look like crap, need to look prettier, need to buy their product or their SOs will leave them, can't have rough elbow skin, no droopy chins, (need plastic surgery), cover those wrinkles and make their cheeks rosier among a million and one other reasons to slather makeup.
    After all, we all have bills to pay!

    Plus Chris tells me that guys are really visual. So if you think more like a guy, does this mean you are excited by the visuals?

    Or is Chris insane?

    To answer your questions:
    1) Don't hate me because I'm beautiful.
    2) I guess, pragmatic.
    3) The fear of not looking slim does not cause me stress. It is the fear of dying from not being optimally healthy.
    4)This blog post has nothing to do with my irritation toward you.

  54. Wow - I thought more girly girls would show up in the comments. I'm not one too - but I have to say - so what?! If a girl or girls want to spend 1 hour on hair, makeup etc - nothing wrong with that. Same as there's nothing wrong with girls who take 10 minutes and go. Why is anybody's way the only right way?

    I don't wear sneakers or sweats to anywhere but the gym. I think that's where they belong. That said, I'm 5'10" and don't wear super high heels either, but I have a friend the same height as me who's never met a heel too high for her.

    That's the beauty of the world. Different strokes for different folks. And I don't think they should have to explain or justify their choices to me or anyone else.

    Same thing for people who talk about girls who work out in the gym in full makeup. Why do you care? Maybe they are self conscious - but hell, they don't have to explain their choices. More power to them for showing up no matter how they look and what they're wearing.

  55. I agree, Crabby! But, I'm one of those vain people that need to wear some makeup when I'm going to town etc. I guess I'm just too vain! I exercise regularly, but, am sure that some of those people on those covers don't each much more than a bowl of salad a day, and a peanut for protein!

  56. I feel whatever floats one's boat is cool, but basically I'm with you Crabby and the rest of you who prefer jeans and sneaks. I actually prefer barefoot unless I'm around horses, as I want to keep my toes!

    I also grew up a tomboy, climbing trees, riding bikes and horses, playing baseball, preferring Tonkas over Barbie, and my Barbie had a G.I. Joe for a hubby, not a Ken, Ken was a weenie. I could tell that when I was 9! I had dolls but didn't care so much for them (I think it was the hard plastic aspect, not so much that they were dolls), but I also had younger siblings and had enough of changing their diapers for real. I always liked stuffed animals better (than my dolls, not my siblings). I did girl stuff too, like the spinning on the bars, and dressing up, but I was really active!

    Makeup was always fine with me but a PITA, it was hard to keep on and looking fresh for more than 5 minutes. Anyway I discovered guys were looking at my ass not my makeup! Girls too, LOL, I had so many girls who had crushes on me. Those were the days, if I could go back and do it all over again with what I know now I'd have had a lot more fun but probably broken a ton of hearts, and I wasn't even on the periphery of popular. I think our DNA pretty much dictates what we look for in another as attractive, and healthy and fit and confident is the biggest pull. The enhancements of makeup and fancy clothes are more a cultural and social thing. Even with heels, it's more the resulting accentuation of the calf and ankle that guys look at, the illusion of a longer leg, that makes heels "work". Women want the fancy strappy stilleto, but men really just look at what it does to the leg, and like the way the rear moves on a wobbly foot! Probably also the shortened stride which makes a woman in stilettos easy prey, it's a very primal and unconscious attraction.

    I believe healthy, clean and neat is more attractive than major makeup. Every one of my husbands has said "Why are you wearing that crap?" re: makeup, especially lipstick! And I always had a very light hand with it, being an artist. They pretty much didn't see anything but the lipstick, but hated kissing it! I think women buy into the product marketing that one can't be beautiful without a cupboard full of product in 50 different shades. A few shades of lipstick and eyeshadow, and 3-4 different polishes (toes only for me) are plenty. Anything else is superfluous in my book, and just more money in the bank for the companies that spend so much to convince us we need their crap.

    That said, I was very lucky that I was skinny, fit and cute with great skin when young (say up until 40!). I always believed in function over form as far as clothes, living with horses and riding bareback 60% of the time especially in the summers meant a butt and thighs caked with foamy stinky horse sweat and dirt which was pretty disgusting but acceptable at a stable back then.
    To me practical was smart. Later I enjoyed going out in long skirts with pretty blouses, fancy jewelry and makeup, but only for special events. As soon as I got home it was out of that stuff ASAP and back into Levis. Those days are gone, but all I do now is pluck and shave where socially dictated and use a little Bert's Bees on my lips, a moisturizer on my face and hands, and I stopped coloring my hair. No money to spare, and I wanted to see how it looked with all the gray anyway ( a little shocking!). The current better half still says Ew every time I put on lipstick.

    So I'd say I've always thought middle of the road and comfortable was the most practical way to go, I felt all the high fashion stuff was dorky and over the top for the most part (I loved "Absolutely Fabulous" for how Edina always had to make sure everyone knew she was wearing La Croix and it was horrid, but Patsy actually had the fab classy look). Classic fashion makes sense to me, but model wear does not. Stick thin models to me means male domination and control, I think it's a backlash to women's lib, any way the dominant male mindset can make women weaker to offset strength and equality is acceptable to that way of thought. I just saw some pics of the top women personalities and this skinny to the point of emaciation freaks me out!

    So long ramble but maybe answers some questions? I dunno. But I'm with MizFit, I'd rather read than primp every time. And also with Gigi, the personality is so much more important than the outer look. And with Rupal; our wedding was hiking themed and held in a forest, we wore REI and Columbia and Merrell! And the guest wore hiking shorts and jeans and sat on tarps in the oak leaves. And a wheelie on a bike or sweeping through a canyon on a moto is what we think is beautiful.

    And as my word verification noted, it "costsless"

  57. I miss my heels! They don't have to hurt, and you don't have to shorten your stride, you can run in them, but, why you would want to run is beyond me. I was never a girly girl, but I did (occasionally still do) enjoy dressing up. I did it for me, for the fun. If I wasn't at work, I was in jeans and a shirt and if I could get away without a dress/skirt at work, then I did.

    Of course the weight gain has curbed my enthusiasm for dressing up, along with my increasing allergies to makeup and scents.

    I know how to use most power tools and I am not afraid to get dirty and sweaty, but I hate breaking my nails!

  58. I think asking if women want to be pretty for themselves vs. men is a false dichotomy.

    The way I groom, dress and take care of myself is an expression of who I am, how I feel about myself and how I prioritize all the things in my life. It lets clients, my kids' friends' parents, neighbors - anyone I meet out in the world - know they can trust me. People treat you differently based on how you look.

    So the question is - how can you minimize your grooming time and maximize the returns you get from it?

    Yes, I am a pragmatist. Though I enjoy being considered attractive it is not a driving force. At least, I'd like to think that. :)

  59. I don't understand all the fuss either, but several recent studies show women are more concerned with their weight and appearance than physical health. Scary isn't it?

  60. This post made me laugh, because I've been pretty clueless on the fashion/girly stuff for awhile. And now I'm mom to She-Who-Must-Wear-Pink! But she also likes her muscles, too, so I think we'll be okay. I think girls these days aren't necessarily either/or. My niece, for example, is both sporty AND feminine, with her own great style, always has been. I love seeing this.

    I'd have to say I'm sort of in-between on this. I'm really picky about how my hair looks, but less so on the other stuff (like manicures). Sometimes it's fun to wear makeup and get dressed up, but it's not something I do every day. It's usually more for fun + self-esteem when I do it. (Which is probably what keeps it fun! I guess I did it more when I was in my teens/20s, because it was still a novelty and not a chore.) I don't like wearing heels or pantyhose (they're only good for when I've been too lax about shaving my legs. ;-) I do like wearing clothes I think are pretty, but that's more about suiting my own sense of what looks good on me vs. what's in fashion. I'm usually a pants and nice top kind of girl when dressing up. I'm content with my appearance.

    Oh, and AMEN to this:
    "I especially like fitness bloggers who focus on health and empowerment, rather than pant size." (My current quest is definitely driven by a need to get healthy, although gotta admit, looking better is a nice perk! Vogue, however, is not going to be calling me anytime soon.) Love the Miz! Love the Kelly! (She also writes some hella-funny articles on's parenting blog, "The Poop.")

  61. First, I love this post.

    Second, I've had so many different versions of a comment marinating in this little box all day long. I've been thinking how I fall on both sides of the fence. I'm so a tomboy. I will always BE a tomboy. But I love me some cute (but always comfortable) shoes. I sometimes care a little too much about how much I weigh, sometimes I like to dress up and look a little nicer than my everyday uniform of flipflops and tshirts.

    In my head, there's some sort of line that many women cross. When it comes to comparing themselves to others, caring so much about how they look that they become self-absorbed and/or judgemental. Or place all of their value in physical appearances. It bugs the crap out of me.

    That said, in a few short months I will be on a quest to lose my baby weight again. This time I hope to be a little more sane about it, follow Miz's lead with no scale and staying away from measuring success with sizes. I guess in my head I see myself as a dented station wagon that has, for nine months, morphed into a gigantic garbage truck. That dented station wagon starts to look pretty svelt after awhile. I think it's one thing to whine about that last 10 pounds, another to gain enough weight that I just don't feel like ME. And while I think it's just fine to want to feel like "myself" again, I'm wary of ever crossing that line. The line where pressure from _______ (other women, men, society, whoever) is my motivating me to look a certain way, and not just a desire to feel like myself, look *decent, and be healthy.

    *decent = showered, teeth brushed, dressed, clean, etc.

    As for this post annoying me? YES. (But only because I've been thinking about it all day! And can't seem to find the right way to say what I want to say...)

  62. What a response! I think I can safely say that someone has said exactly what I was going to say.

    I'm old enough that I like to be comfortable above all else.

    When I was a youngster I would have loved to have been ravishing - but I wasn't and you soon get over it.

  63. I ADORE this post.

    I think most women do it because of women rather than men. For me, looking good is a high priority (I'm aware of my vanity. Sighs. It's lame, but, I like looking good!), but I really equate looking good with FEELING good. If I'm feeling great, then that's all that matters. When you feel happy and good then that automatically shows, I think.

  64. crabby
    you have hit a sartorial vein for us all.
    yes - i love "product", i love clothes and am endlessly looking for sexy shoes that don't hobble my poor feet.
    and yes - i do it for myself, knowing full well that i am a victim of a society run amok by sex-crazed aging men who own all industries, fueld by women's insecurity of self.
    and yes - it definitely causes me stress (or maybe that's from weighing myself obsessively at least twice a day?)
    so it's a worship/despise kind of philosophy, full of knowledge that it's ridiculous and not being able to help myself either.
    SO glad you wrote this post - it is falling on receptive and deaf ears

  65. While I very much enjoy the "feminine" clothes and girly stuff *when comfortable,* I am totally with you on wondering why women wear uncomfortable heels and such! I mean, we get one life. No more pain than necessary!

    When I was younger (read: pre-kids) I did my hair and makeup and worried more about clothes. Now I am too busy treasuring my children to spend an hour a day on that stuff. I spend 10 min on my hair and I skip the makeup most of the time.

    BUT I do like my nails long, my toes painted, and a curvy figure. Yeah, I like the male attention, even though I am married and don't *do* anything with the attention I get from others. It just makes me feel good.

  66. Me - hetero, 57, married for a long time, mother & grandmother - haven't worn make up since I was about 19, heels either, pantyhose hardly ever. Hair so short I don't even own a brush. But both of my daughers, one straight, one gay, seem to like the make up & heels. I guarantee they don't so it to please the men in our family - most of them would never even notice. And they sure didn't learn it from mom.

    My assumption: that people's dress style must in general be something that appeals to them. Even I liked to dress up in costumes when I was younger, even sewed a few after I first saw Gone With the Wind. And that, genetically (remember, this is just my assumtion) more women than men like that stuff.

    I am mostly glad that men can now (at least in San Francisco, where I live) dress up if they like, and women don't have to.

    The weight thing? It is increasingly difficult to present in a way that works. We should NOT be seeking that model's look. But more and more of us are overweight, so we have to talk about it.

    By the way, Jaguar? No! I ditched the car last fall & have been very, very happy. Now the only clothes I like as well as jeans are my cycling shorts.

  67. What a great question!

    I wish I could write a book to answer this.

    When I was younger I loved "tomboy" things, and aspired to dress like a skater chick. Later, in art school, this evolved to semi arty androgenous hipster chick.

    Then I realized, for me, looking androgenous or arty or hipster or took as much work or more than wearing whatever I wanted.

    After school I realized there really is a difference between those who think about what they wear day to day, and those that "dress like a student" (an Ab Fab quote). Meaning, just wearing clothes to cover your body... wearing pajamas to class.

    Clothes, and I imagine, makeup too - have a transformative power. In a matter of minutes I can change my entire appearance. Throw on a dress (it can take 2 seconds) and I'm suddenly glamorous and girly. Throw on a blazer and I'm looking corporate. It's amazing.

    There are so many different choices, I realized it was more fun to play than to keep myself in this same - sometimes equally frustrating- "student" rut, where I never felt my clothes really expressed who I was or how I was feeling inside. Honestly, I never felt my best in those clothes. Comfortable? Yes. Like I had a real presence, like I was walking taller, like I was making a statement -- wearing my personality (and how I'm feeling that day) like a badge of honor? No.

    So for me, clothes are now more of an expression. Do I wear girly heels and a ridiculously frilly dress? When I'm feeling like it, sure. Will I dress up for others? Sometimes. Do I still have days where I don't have time to think about it and I'm lucky just to be covering my butt? Yes. But usually, I'm sending a message about me through what I'm wearing.

    It's hard to find clothes that fit well, express my personality, and are comfortable. And, I can't really walk in heels anymore , so I need to be able to move and walk and maybe even run in my clothes and shoes, be them girly or less girly.

    When I find items that do that for me, I love them and hold them and squeeze them and frankly wear them everyday until they turn to dust.

  68. This comment has been removed by the author.

  69. I am SO with you on this. I'm all about my sneakers, comfy clothes, no make-up, and my Nike hat. (24/7)

    I don't even own heels anymore b/c i have zero reason or interest to wear them.

    My friends think it's very weird--but after reading all these comments, I don't feel so weird after all!

    (I've always said this is the reason why God has only give me boys. I have no clue on how to raise a girl!) :)

  70. I think you may find as many variations to the answers to those questions as there are women in the world. ;-) I don't strive for a fashion model look and don't spend hundreds of dollars on shoes, but I do like looking and feeling beautiful. Mostly for myself, but I also like pleasing my husband and enjoy the little glint he gets in his eye. (Which, if I think about it, he always has no matter what I look like. ;-) He just plain adores me and I'm very blessed.) My makeup is minimal most of the time. And most days I'm wearing Crocs on my feet, but I do occasionally love wearing the girly heels, just not too high anymore. ;-) Since I'm almost 6 feet tall, it's not always easy to find the most fashionable clothes, but on the flip side, it's easier to pull off some designs when you are tall. I've always loved being tall. Dressing nicely in pretty shoes with my hair and makeup nicely done makes me feel pretty and confident. And when we go ballroom dancing, I love wearing a dress or skirt with lots of material for twirling! LOL

    But I think a big factor with our self-image is the environment in which we grow up. My parents were always supportive and encouraged us to be happy with who we were and not try to be someone else. Growing up in a loving, nurturing environment usually turns out a totally different person than an environment that is critical and/or abusive. A loving environment can bring out the beauty from within. And it may have nothing to do with the latest fashions, hairdos or makeup. (And I pray that I've passed that on to my own children as well.)

    Path to Health

  71. ...
    sometimes I forget that I am freaking brilliant, not average. It's really easy to designate myself as the default/baseline, but using that standard some things I come across online are insanely frustrating.

    Do they have sociology in your region? I might give it a glance if I were you.

  72. Sure, it's easy to blame it all on men "...because that's what men demand..."
    But the truth is that women do this sort of stuff more for each other than they do for men at all. Fashion magazines? Written for, and purchased by women, and look at the credit pages, usually female names as the editors. It all plays to a competitive nature in many women, keeping score by accumulating shoes, handbags, clothes etc. Yeah, men are responsible for plenty of ills, but this one is on the ladies.

  73. I can't go a day without makeup or trying to look my best. I feel like i'm always competing with other girls, when really, i'm not.
    If I didn't have a boyfriend I think I would probably spend less time getting ready. Because if i go out with him and i'm lookin like shit and some other girls walk in looking hot, I feel like I am the ugliest person in the world.
    I definetly think the makeup, clothes, etc. is a self confidence booster.
    I wish I could be like other women and not try to worry so much about my apperance but if I dont have my nails done or a tan or a flat stomach or makeup on or my hair done or the cutest clothes on..I feel ugly!!

    I always wonder what it would be like if there weren't any of the things that may you "beautiful".

  74. Everybody seems to think that beautiful woman on the magazine cover is just an empty-headed "Jaguar" beauty symbol. In fact, she's obviously a martyr who must smile glitteringly through her tears. Just look at her posture: she has a heckuva back pain, caused by her obvious malnutrition, that she's gritting through. Give her three cheers!

  75. 1. It's not what men demand, it's what people demand. Let's face it, we're all nicer to attractive folks, as long as they don't act in ways that piss us off. Attractive children get more attention, and it snowballs from there as the attractive kids have more opportunities for social interaction and practice and develop better social skills, which in turn helps make them more attractive, etc.

    2. I would have to say my focus on physical attractiveness is pragmatic. I'll never be a great beauty (and I'm not sure I'd want to be), but I need to be attractive enough for people to be kindly-disposed to me and not annoyed or distracted by something in my appearance.

    3. Yes, I do stress over not being slim in certain situations where it's likely to be noticeable. But it's also not likely to be something I can really immediately do something about, so my stress takes the form of being vaguely pissed off wiht myself for being so lazy that I look lazy.

    4. Nope.

  76. Great post. I do agree what happened to natural women and why are we so obsessed with looks. While I do think people should try and look their best, I never take the time to do so. I do work out all of the time but never buy new clothes, get pedicures, facials, or even wear makeup half the time. True beauty is within. Such a cliche but very true.

  77. As a former tomboy who would also play with dolls...which maybe explains my bisexual nature?

    My parents took very strong measures to ensure that I would not have a "sexist" upbringing. My mother told me once that she was so dissappointed when as a small baby I reached for the doll rather than the truck - but she still made sure that I played with both!

    Anyway, I love clothes and shoes and make-up and all of that stuff. And I have thought a lot about why, since I *hate* that women are judged on such things.

    For me, it comes down to personal expression and some sort of creativity. I may not be able to draw or paint or compose music, but I can put together current trends in a way that says "this is me"

    So in answer to your questions:

    1. I want to be pretty for me. But yes, I like it when others - men OR women - notice. Especially women since they understand what is behind it!

    2. All of the above. Having weighed more than I do now, I *do* notice a difference in how I am treated - and not just by men - both at work and in my private life. So yeah, being thin(ish) is a practical thing. And recreational - like I said, I enjoy the artistic side of getting pretty. And self-esteem - I like to look nice!

    3. Yup, I do stress about my weight. I weigh myself every morning and when it is unusually high I sometimes have trouble reminding myself that this is still the body that ran a marathon and 2 days later wore amazingly beautiful high heels. ;)

    4. I think this is a great post. Honestly, sometimes I wish that I didn't care so much about "beauty" because it is hard for me to be the feminist that I am and feel like I am not practicing what I preach! So I totally feel ya'.

  78. 1- It's mostly what women demand (my male friends don't notice when my female friends get massive changes like dyed hair; little weight losses or designer clothes would largely be lost on them!) and also that we are told constantly that we had to look good to succeed. I remember an advert for wrinkle cream, where the woman applied it, turned round and hugged a small boy, before saying to the camera "Now my wrinkles are filled, and my life is too!" Subtle, no? But there are similarly bile-inducing adverts directed at men so I don't know why they don't get the same pressures. Or maybe they're better at hiding it?
    2- Majorly self-esteem related, but this is mostly because I have low self-esteem, don't want to be noticed, and don't want to look bad enough, or weirdly, good enough, to attract attention. I'd rather be average-looking. Which I think I am. And healthy. Which I'm not, very. I don't think they can be entirely separated though, good looks being good largely because that is how we judge someone's health at first glance. Well, except for whatever weird-looking stuff fashion has come out with.
    3- Yes, when I allow myself to get all compare-y and competitive. This is kind of in my nature and constantly in combat with the retiring part of my personality. So long as I look OK, I'm usually happy, though. I wouldn't say that my average looks means I don't mind getting belted with a shopping trolley....
    4- I don't get irritated by this kind of thing, it's worth thinking about how important your image is to you before you get upset over it. And it's worrying how important image is made out to be. But on top of these issues, I've often wondered if there's a kind of reverse-snobbery going in the other direction, where you don't want try for beauty pageant pretty because of the bimbo associations, or whether you don't want to look like you've made an effort, because that would be admitting you care, or if there's any pride in looking scruffy and rebelling against the idea of the perfect image. I've certainly felt like this in the past. I think I will have to go have drunken student-y discussions with friends on the subject and set the world to rights. Any excuse.

  79. GIRLY GIRL all the way here! I love makeup and shoes and clothes and feeling good when I get all dressed up in high heels. I do it because it makes ME feel good, though. And as sad as it is (and NOT that I agree with it), people who look a certain way in this country and take care of themselves (on both the inside and outside) get treated differently by others-- in the corporate world and by members of both sexes.

    On the FLIP side, can anyone please explain the ad nauseum ad infinitum obsession that men (and some women-- like my sisters) have with SPORTS? Is it not sort of the same thing? And by that I mean, inexplicable interests that are sort of inherent and ingrained in us from early on? I've been a girly girl for as long as I can remember, and I'm sure it's the same for men (and women) who love Sports. Yes, with a capital S. Or for those who have other obsessions.

  80. Tessa SchlechtriemMay 19, 2009 at 7:42 AM

    First of all. I'm married to a guy and I've always been a tomboy.

    Here comes the 'shocker'. He actually likes me looking like a tomboy. Does not understand high-heels and thinks panty hose look very uncomfortable and unattractive.

    How about that? He likes me happy and comfortable.

    For me, dolling up has nothing to do with looking good for my or any other guy.

    1. Every now and then I enjoy putting a bit more effort in my appearance. I like looking pretty according to my own rules. I sometimes like to wear heels but never at ankle snapping, back breaking height. I HATE panty hose ergo I do not wear them. My skin is just fine thank you very much. I refuse to wear any item of clothing that limits me in my freedom of movement, itches or hurts any part of my body. Comfort comes first.

    Usually I like dress up when I have an important business meeting or something like that. It's a confidence booster/comfort giving mask. Not something I really am.

    2. When I was a bit younger it was all about self-esteem. Now it's mostly a matter of feeling good in my own skin. A healthy body happens to be a (more) attractive body. I love having a body that 'suddenly' can do stuff I previously thought it couldn't do (dance, jump, run, kick etc).

    3. Rarely. Mostly pre-party when I discover I forgot to do my laundry.

    4. Does this whole blog post make you extremely irritated with me?

    Nope (sorry) Nice to know there are other sensible people out there.

  81. Being a male...I am not going to touch this one!!

  82. Love the post! I definitely don't get it. I don't use "beauty" products, I don't bother with makeup. Heels, are you JOKING? My feet/ankles never would take those, I started spraining them way to early in life.

    Pantyhose... well, once in a while when I was in high school. Don't think I've ever done that since.

    I'm more happy to wash my face, brush my teeth, keep my general hygiene up and eat well. Occasionally I apply some Chapstick.

    And for fun, every so often, I break out my assorted vintage/quirky/fun hats and wear them.

    Hubby is a pretty basic guy himself and seems to like me in my natural form. Thank god. Because it's unlikely I'd change.

  83. I'm kinda late in posting, but I just stumbled upon your blog/this post.

    I'm a 25 year old straight, married woman from NYC. I've always had a weight problem and while I've lost a lot of weight and learned to eat healthy and exercise daily, I'm still overweight and definitely NOT modelesque (or even close).

    Since I was a little girl, I'd always considered myself rather masculine (or maybe 'gender-neutral' if a better description) and despaired for hours over this feeling as a 100lbs-overweight high schooler. I always WANTED to be the kind of girl that knows all about make-up and knows how to choose clothes and how to do her own hair in crazy complicated styles. But I just never was.

    Nowadays, I do wear light make-up each day, do blow-dry my hair, do try to choose clothes that flatter me, etc. and I'm conscious enough of fashion to know what styles/clothes I should try to avoid, but I don't think I will EVER be the kind of woman who lives for that stuff. I just don't care THAT much but despite this, I've actually come to view myself as quite feminine as I've gotten older and matured.

    And I think the trick is to separate femininity from the magazine-cover skinny fashionista ideal so often thrown at us and to understand that there is no one particular "correct" way to be feminine, to be a woman, what have you.

    Regarding your questions about whether women impose strict beauty ideals on themselves, or whether they are imposed by men, I have to say that while it's probably a little of each, I TEND to think it's mostly in women's own minds, reinforced by companies out to make money that present unrealistic (for most) ideals. But I generally do NOT think that most normal guys really care all that much about their wives or girlfriends being perfect magazine-cover/music video ideals.

    I think most (straight) men worth a damn are sincerely out to find a woman they can love, live with, have fun with, being emotionally/intellectually stimulated by. If that woman happens to look like she just stepped off the cover of Vogue, that's great, but I don't think most men care that much.

  84. Oh, and just to answer another of the questions you asked -- the few very basic/simple beauty things I do engage in, like wearing make up, choosing clothes I think suit my shape/coloring, fixing my hair, I do for MYSELF, not for my husband or anyone else. I just personally feel better when I "put myself together" each morning before I leave the house.

    On the other hand, I do NOT feel comfortable in heels, so I don't own any (okay, maybe I own one pair somewhere...) and I do NOT feel comfortable in copious amounts of makeup, so I mostly stick to simple foundation, powder and maybe a little mascara. I also don't feel comfortable maintaining a hair style that would require any more effort to style than blow drying it. I'm just not willing to mess with weird gels and potions, so I keep my style easy to manage. But it's all about my comfort and how I feel.

  85. I stumbled upon your blog as I am getting my hair cut for the first time in 8 months, (due to time constraints because I am busy, busy in my business), and googled hair styles,and all I found were celebrities styles. I don't give a crap about how they have their hair styled, I don't live their lifestyle, so how could I handle their hairstyle. It really peeved me!

    I love your blog and comments from others. I too, as a woman, wear makeup, blowdry my hair, try to wear office attire mostly for work, but wonder,......why, who am I trying to impress?? Who set the standard of office attire anyway?

    Who says I should dress up to become a better person. I don't wear heels, or dresses, I am more comfortable in workout clothing than dress clothing, who ever said a professional, has to dress a certain way???

    I am kind, giving, honest, polite, loving, and helpful to all people I meet, why do I have to try to impress them with my clothing, makeup, hairstyle and weight. Are those good qualities not enough??? I actually consider myself a better person, than a lot of people who dress the professional part, as I am real, down to earth, and would not do just anything, to earn a buck. (ie: a revealing dress)

    I am frustrated because I believe woman resort to makeup and clothing to boost their self esteem, and really if they thought about themselves and their beauty they have, they would not need a man, or any outside influence to confirm that beauty.

    Bringing another thought to mind, I have friend, who in the cold of winter, will not wear a coat, because in her mind. a man may see her as fat, if she is not dressed seductively.

    Sad, sad, sad, In my mind.

    Thank you for letting me rant!!

  86. Thanks Anonymous (and everyone!) for all your great comments. And Ranting is very welcome at Cranky Fitness!

  87. A bit after the fact but I'll put in my 2 cents. I am a girly girl. But for me beauty and being healthy are the same. Because the things that I find most beautiful are those things which prove my health- and so those are the things I cultivate. I also believe that men (by nature of evolution and whatnot)sense this same beauty/health connection. Now I'm not saying being a size 2 is healthy. But it also hasn't always been beautiful. Back in the Medeval/ Renaissance world a woman that thin would have been considered sickly and unfertile- because food was scarcer then and for a woman having more body fat meant you had a better diet and could survive childbirth. But now food is everywhere and so is obesity and so we see health in those who can manage to squeeze into those skinny jeans. But some of it has remained the same throughout time. Having long thick hair, a clear complextion, rosy lips and cheeks- all of them are signs of health- and what the fashion industry tries to do is recreate this qualities artificially. And yes some of it is just ridiculous. I do not wear 4 inch heals to work, but I can't pretend that this strategically placed sundress I am wearing today wasn't worth it (far more comfortable than pants anyway). So yes I take the time in the morning to pretty myself up. Make my hair a bit shiney and my lips a bit rosy, but its not about going overboard. The thing is that men say they just want a girl who is low maintenance and looks natural, but the fact of the matter is that not every woman can wake up every morning and look "naturally beautiful" without a little help from a blow dryer and a strategically placed sundress. I could go on... but this is rambley enough already


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