Thursday, July 13, 2006

Real Beauty is not High Maintenance

So, as I am about to embark on my post about high maintenance (in this post to be known as *HM*).... I think "I know I blogged about this before" and so I started to look, and low and behold, I did. But I am going to do it again, from a different perspective, and do my best to not repeat myself. And I am not even going to link to the old post, so that if I do repeat myself you will have to find it in order to prove it.

I frequently think about high maintenance. As one of my friends can attest to. The phrase "high maintenance" frequently comes up in our conversations. Not only because we run across people that are *HM*, but because I am always wondering, worrying, am I teetering dangerously close to being CONSIDERED high maintenance? Because I like to get a massage and a pedicure, because I like to have nice clothes and jewelry, because I wear makeup and color my hair? I always worry that people might see me as high maintenance. And my friend always convinces me that won't happen.

My entire existence, I have worn whatever I wanted to. When I was in high school I was often referred to as having a "hippie" style. Funky. Didn't care what was in style because I had my own style. I wore shirts to school that people weren't supposed to wear to school. And while most kids were wearing "Coed Naked" or "Big Johnson" shirts and trying to get away with them, or Budweiser and Marlboro shirts, I never owned any of those. I had my own shirts. But teachers were SOOOO Busy looking for the 'typical" shirts (which got turned inside out before lunch time) they were never looking for my shirts, and so I wore them all the time, without ever being noticed or reprimanded. My "Chronic the Hemp Hog" shirt I wore for two years straight. Never once got noticed. It just looked like a slightly green version of Sonic, right? No teachers noticed that his spikes were really a pot leaf, and his eyes were a little bloodshot. I had a shirt that looked like all the "Mean People Suck" shirts, with a big smiley face. But mine said, "If Mean People Suck, than Nice People Swallow." and I wore that shirt until the day my dad saw it, and it disappeared forever. Damn it.

Well eventually I got into the real world, and while I still have great shirts like "Sleeps Well With Others" and "I blogged your mom" and the cartoon Drawn Together with two cartoon chicks scantily clad and making out.... I don't wear those to work. Ever. Of course. So for years, I have gone as mainstream as I can tolerate on a day to day basis. When I worked in pre-K I wore outfits that made me look like a teacher, although a sexy one. Long dark skirts with slits up the side or back, high heels, and nice dress shirts. I played the part. I was accepted by parents and teachers alike. All teachers are just people. But they all had to play the part. They might be buck naked in handcuffs by the end of the night, but they still have to play the part.

I worked in offices. I made coffee, I took phone messages, I dressed the part.

So one day, probably 6 years ago, I got one of these email memes where you send it out and your friends filled it out about YOU and returned it. I emailed it out. One of the questions was "Describe My style" and I was appalled at the answers. People who had only known me in more recent years had ABSOLUTELY different answers than people I had gone to high school with. My old friends all put "hippie" or "funky" or "individual" and the people who had only known me through work or in recent years had answered "preppy" or "put-together." I was like WHAT?! Preppy!?? Wow. What has HAPPENED to my image? Do these people view me as *HM*??

And then I realized that these new people had never seen me in my tennis shoes with lavendar Care Bear Laces and with Bright Red Streaks in my hair. They had never seen me with my nose pierced (10 years ago, before it was so mainstream.) These people had formed an entire OPINION about me based on my "chameleon" ways, dressing the part of my job. It's the same feeling I get when I walk into Hot Topic at 27, dressed in work clothes or regular bootcut jeans and sandals. I can imagine the punk rock kids in there just thinking "what the hell is that preppy bitch doing in here" and I think to myself.... "No! That's not me! Can't you see?! Don't you KNOW?! It's ME! I am like YOU!"

But actually the last two times I have been in a Hot Topic, I have gotten fabulously treated by all the employees, and they have never ever looked at me strangely. They usually strike up a conversation about whatever I am buying, like how kick ass Sublime is (oh they are so young! It's like they never even KNEW Sublime!) and Family Guy, and Care Bears or Strawberry Shortcake, and I realize, they have to recognize, even just a little bit, that I was once like them. That I am STILL like them! I didn't (and don't) have 9000 zippers on my black pants, but I was an individual and I lived through those cool things and cool times, and I realize that they are just like me. Mostly good kids. Polite Kids. Kids with a job. Kids whose parents don't like the color of their hair or the ring in their nose. And I feel a kinship. And I wonder, can they feel that? Can they SEE that in me? Can they see what really matters? Or do they just see what I am wearing? Where I work. My Wedding Ring?

So how does all this fit in with high maintenance? I firmly hold onto the belief that you can't be such an amazing individual with your own distinctive taste, and become high maintenance. It's just not possible. Because everything you stand for, every bit of being yourself and nobody else, is against the essence of what is "high maintenance."

*HM* is having too keep yourself looking good for the sake of looking like everybody else. For the sake of fitting in and for the sake of being recognized as "magazine/model beautiful." High Maintenance is people having a hard time recognizing the beauty that is individuality. The beauty that is that woman with red hair and freckles and smooth pale skin... who wears no makeup but is fresh and honest and smiling. She is beautiful. If you saw her walking down the street or looking through a store window, you might not recognize it instantly. But the second she smiles, the second she says hello, the second you catch a glimpse of "her" you can't miss it. She is amazingly beautiful. She doesn't look like a porn star. But you like the way her hair flips, the way her eyes sparkle, the way her fingers grasp the hands of her 4 month old daughter. Those are the things that make her beautiful. And anyone in their right mind would be drawn to her. They would feel connected to her. They would want to spend time with her, or just plain watch her from a distance.

Or maybe it's the pretty blonde, she has a nice body, and she has long straight hair. She's wearing makeup and jewelry. She might even be beautiful at first glance, but what makes you look again isn't her body or her clothes... it's something about HER. Something that shines through what you see at first. It's the way her head tilts to the side when she laughs at something a friend said. It's the way she absently twirls her shoelace around her finger. It's the way she picks up her friend's daughter and kisses her forhead and makes her giggle. Those are the things that make her look AMAZINGLY beautiful. It's her personality that shines through. It's compassion and fun and all those personality traits shining through.

And the high maintenance person doesn't see these things, or maybe chooses not to. The high maintenance person is so wrapped up in what the clothes look like, or what the hair and makeup look like, and all the physical appearance, that they completely and totally miss the most important part.

This is what puts the high maintenance person at a disadvantage. They are looking for something specific. They have in their mind exactly what Mr Right will look like, what job he will have, what kind of ring he will buy her, the apartment they will live in. And Ms. *HM* will never even notice when Mr. Right walks right past her. He might turn his head and look back at her but it won't even matter, because she will not be looking back at him. Maybe his profession didn't match her image of Mr. Right, or maybe it was his clothes, or his shoes, or maybe he was missing that chiseled chin that she pictures in every dream. Some people get so wrapped up in *perfect* that a truly perfect thing slips right past them.

High Maintenance people, above all, have an image to uphold. And if someone doesn't fit in with their image, it's difficult for them to look past that.

And I am not saying there aren't some fabulous, fun, and energetic *HM* people out there. I am not saying they can't be funny and compassionate and great friends. But I feel like there's a piece to life they are missing.

Probably my favorite magazine or TV ad of all time is the Dove Real Beauty Campaign. Those women are BEAUTIFUL! Every hair color, skin color, eye color, body shape.... but their personalities are what really show through. Their individuality. It kind of remings me of Benneton Ads from the very early 90's. You know, the United Colors of Benneton? When all the models wore something completely different, different hair, different expressions, different clothes, different skin colors. People. Different People. representing the real beautiful things in life.I guess that my mind keeps turning over in my head what makes someone high maintenance. And there isn't a definition. There never will be. But I have met enough "cookie cutter" people in my life who spend so much time trying to be like everyone else, or like SOMEONE else in particular.... that I really appreciate meeting an individual. A person who has opinions, thoughts, and a personality that shines through. A person who is beautiful in many ways. Who has a good attitude, a positive outlook, and a tolerance and respect for what is different.

What Turns Your Head? Tell me, please?

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Jackson said...

Very well said indeed. Could not agree with you more on every thing said here. I hope I am not one of those that tries to fit in and I still have some individuality

Michelle said...

ditto what Jackson said

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