The beauty standard

For those of  you who don’t know, I’m heading off to Malaysia for a week starting tonight (yay!).  The oddest thing about planning this holiday has been dealing with one of my work colleagues who has bought into the whole beauty standard ideal.

She’d had a holiday about a month and a bit ago to Thailand with her partner, and we’d been sharing holiday aspirations since before she had planned that trip, so once my husband had gotten his passport organised I told her that we’d set dates and bought tickets.  She told that of course I was going to get waxed before my holidays and told me that she hadn’t been waxed since and… stuff.  Then earlier this week she came up to me and asked if I had been waxed yet (I had, but only because I wanted to be, not because I should), and then asked when I was going to get my toenails done.

I was baffled, because toes are toes… and I certainly don’t see the need to paint my toenails to make my feet something other than they are – well more colourful.  I do, very rarely, paint my toenails because it amuses me to have colours on my feet, but I don’t see it as some social obligation, or even something that is done (apparently I’m wrong in this regard).

I said, to end the conversation – which it sadly didn’t, that I might get mine done in Malaysia.  This suggestion was met with horror… because apparently they may use inferior polish which might stain (which I thought was the point), and because the hygiene standards for their tools would probably be lower than in Australia.

Apparently feet are ugly, and painting your toenails somehow makes your feet less ugly, or your feet’s ugliness less noticeable.  I actually think my feet are pretty and that my toes are cute.  What you believe about feet in general is not my concern, and I’d much rather look after my own feet without interference from other people.

After the topic changed from feet, my colleague told me a story about another work place she’d been in where she’d worked with a “not-girly-girl” who was going away on a holiday with her newish boyfriend.  My colleague asked her if she’d “groomed” herself (meaning waxed), or was she going to get groomed prior to leaving.  When the “non-girly” colleague figured out the innuendo, she said she hadn’t yet, and my colleague and another colleague explained that is was very important to be appropriately groomed and that everything had to be in the right place.  After that they then suggested to this woman that she needed to pain her toenails, and when she bought the wrong colour nailpolish (green – something I assume that she thought was attractive), they got a friend of hers to take her shopping for a better colour.

My previous (Federal Government) workplace did not have conversations in it like this.  I don’t actually have the tools for these conversations other than, “uh-huh”, “yes” and “oh really?”.  I don’t know how to challenge someone who believes that dictating how I should groom, especially when they’re not going to see it.  I know I can lie (and not even feel remotely guilty for doing so) here to a) make her happy that I’ve done something which I may or may not have; and b) get her to go to something else.

I’d much rather gently suggest to her that what she’s doing is wrong, rude, and incredibly judgemental.  This colleague is senior to me (both in time spent in the organisation and in level), so I’m not sure how I’d start such a conversation.  My current responses also involve a level of “HAH” when she goes away or I come home from work and tell the husbands about it.

It’s weird.

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2 thoughts on “The beauty standard”

  1. This is one of the things that makes me grateful to work among ecologists. No one cares about appearance when you’re climbing a tree or wading through a smelly wetland.

    That said, I do kind of the opposite problem, where not turning up in ripped jeans and a faded t-shirt can get us singled out for being dressed up.

    I don’t know how I’d cope with that sort of beauty standard conversation. It would really upset me, so I’d probably either go quiet or rant at them about there being nothing wrong with my body thank-you-very-much.

    Feet are fascinating, because they are so often hidden, but not exactly private. I think people just get a bit used to not seeing them, so there’s the unfamiliar = weird effect. I like feet though.

  2. Gah!

    I am so glad that I don’t have anyone in my life, or workplaces, who would feel it okay to suggest to me that I wax, shave, paint or whatever any part of myself just because I was going on holiday. Well, not entirely no one, mum has opinions and painted my toenails when we went to the Gold Coast together, but otherwise no one.

    I *like* my legs unshaved (you probably can’t tell, I shaved a few times back when I was 16 or so, and the hairs grew back black, bristly and thick, but after a year or more they went back to being pale and soft). I *like* my armpits unshaved (same deal as with legs, although this hair is visible) it tickles more when my lovers play with the hair. I don’t wear make up, or apply nail polish (except the clear stuff to harden my nails when they’re misbehaving). I don’t object to other people doing these things, but I like being the way I am.

    I think if a friend or colleague were to say that to me, I’d either look at them as if I thought they were crazy (which I probably would) and ask them why I’d want to do such a thing; or it seemed much easier, lie and agree with whatever they were suggesting.

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