This Is What an Attractive Woman Looks Like
Letting go of the guilt of not fitting in the stereotypical female look
The older I get, the less jewelry I put on. A few years ago, I ditched the colorful bands I used to wear on my hair. Last summer, I threw the only necklace I owned into a lake as a part of a personal ritual.
As a woman, I was never into the typical girly look. High heels were something I wore to make a joke. I also gave up on makeup around the age of 18, after I realized how incompatible it was with my proneness to crying out of both joy and nostalgia.
But as I’m approaching 30 — and gradually starting to feel my girlhood transforming into womanhood — I’m not just indifferent about those outer expressions of feminity. I purposefully avoid them. I make it a point to minimize the facade I display to the outside world through my looks. That seems to be the only way to give my inner beauty a chance.
A few years ago, it would embarrass me to talk about “my inner beauty.” But today, I firmly believe we all have it — and I’m on a quest to crystalize my own.
The less make up on my face, the easier that quest gets.
Since the beginning of November, I’ve been living with two men. This makes me hyper-aware of my feminine side — but also, of how embarrassed and suppressed it has become over the years.
When one of them jokingly pointed out the ugliness of my home fleece, I felt ashamed of myself. It brought to my awareness just how much I internalized the belief that I should please others with my looks before pleasing myself. I’ve known this for quite a while — but seeing my emotional reaction to that casual comment felt like a punch in the face.
I’m shocked to see just how deep that sense of obligation to look in a certain way runs.
The fact that there is shame attached to not satisfying others’ expectations of me is very telling. Shame signals that, deep down, my inner child believes that she did something wrong.
By wearing an ugly fleece, she somehow thinks she hurts someone else’s feelings. She didn’t do “the right thing.” And even though it’s such a minor offense, the shame that follows suggests some kind of sin was committed.
My shame around how I look is one of the reasons I rebel so much against the typical visual expressions of womanhood. I rebel more than others judge as necessary. But to me, it’s so important. It often feels like the only way to find permission to be myself, and not just in terms of my looks.
That shame is the most important reason I stopped shaving. It’s been almost three years, and I’m still discovering how to feel attractive in hairy skin as a woman. Most people don't understand why I’d put myself through such an “embarrassment.”
To me, the very fact that people see hair on my legs as embarrassing is exactly the problem. It’s the essence of what I rebel against. Quietly. I contest the status quo not by taking action — but by ceasing it.
I ceased the harm I was doing to my skin all these years, that society still deems “necessary” for a woman. The more I write about it, the more I fire up. I feel angry because I see that the ideals of a good/beautiful woman can infuse us so deeply that we may sacrifice our health for them.
I did that for many years. I did hurt myself for the sake of fitting in. Maybe that’s why I feel so much hostility towards high hills, make-up, and razors.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that, as a woman, you shouldn’t use those props and accessories to shape your looks as you please. The underlying message here is that each woman should be able to freely decide about how she wants to look.
But all too often it seems like women use heels, make-up, and razors not because the effect pleases them. It’s because it pleases others around. Through that, it's easy to get validated as a physically attractive and, by extension, a “good” woman. A well-groomed one. One that takes care of herself and loves herself.
But to me, a higher expression of self-love is to not do those things.
Not wearing heels helps my feet be stronger and more flexible. Not shaving my legs leaves my skin in peace. Not wearing make-up invites my face to breathe and relax, not having to carry the weight of eye shadows or mascara.
These things — or rather, the lack of them — lead to less self-consciousness and more peace. And if that doesn’t make a woman attractive, then I don’t know what else does.
Certainly not the makeup.