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Overlooking how we look

Liberating ... are women freed from vanity only when men can't see us?

Liberating ... are women freed from vanity only when men can't see us? Photo: Geoffrey Boccalatte

Cosmetics are a boon to every woman but a girl's best beauty aid is still a near-sighted man. So said Yoko Ono (or so Julia Zemiro on RocKwiz said she said) and, from firsthand experience, I have to say I agree. I spent a weekend with a blind man and it was liberating.

It was also an eye opener. I did not feel free of the constraints of vanity until I discovered he couldn't see. He was the nicest, funniest and best looking one of a half-dozen cousins from Sydney who turned up at a friend's property and I liked him on sight. We got on well from the moment we said hello. I was there on a bush break and not expecting male company (or indeed any company apart from my best mate and her dogs and horses). It was no mascara or hair dryer, and strictly old T-shirts, trackies and various other bits of deeply unflattering clothing (including borrowed bathers), with no options available. We were in the sticks. I was feeling pretty ordinary, I looked pretty ordinary and suddenly it mattered. I liked this funny young man but felt slightly inhibited because of the way I looked. And I'm a grown woman.

Once I worked out that he was blind (or was told - I might be grown up but I can still be slow on the uptake), all that could be forgotten and a fun weekend was had playing music and hanging out. I learnt all about surviving the boondocks as a 21-year-old with oversolicitous brothers; he learnt about navigating inner suburbia as a middle-aged writer with enchanting sons. He didn't know - couldn't know - about my crazy hair, morning face and woeful attire. It didn't matter and I felt free to be myself. I was also able to observe, with interest, my own insecurities. As I said, liberating.

Have you been in a situation where you've felt free from expectations, free from the hang-ups of appearance? Have you become more self-conscious or less so as you've become older? Or does it depend on the company - like me, have you proven carefree (or careless) about the way you look among other women but suddenly uncomfortable when men arrive? Maybe it's vanity, maybe it's etiquette, maybe it's indoctrination.

52 comments so far

  • If there were no men, would we slob around as we pleased? It's hard to answer that because looking attractive is so ingrained in the female psyche. I rarely go out looking daggy unless it's to the supermarket outside of high traffic times and I only need to pop in for a few things (and I'm pretty sure I won't run into anyone I know).

    I always feel more powerful and sure of myself when I look my best, even if it's just the ''effortless'' casual makeup look that takes as long as the full on look. And I consider myself pretty together and confident generally. Yet I would crumble in an embarrased heap if I ran into an old boyfriend sans makeup or if I spied a cute guy at the bookstore that I would normally try and flirt with.

    As unenlightened as it is to say, I confess that I would just dag around in unironed comfy clothes all the time if there were no men in society. Men are visual creatures and a well groomed gal will always get noticed more than the daggy one.

    I suppose making an effort before I leave the house at any time is better for me because I tend to be really daggy and slobby when I'm just at home by myself. That's pretty much the only time when I feel unencumbered by society's expectations.

    Audra Blue
    Date and time
    April 26, 2012, 12:41PM
    • Why do you feel the need to "get noticed"? And why do you think that shallow men are worth attracting?

      Old bag
      Date and time
      April 27, 2012, 9:10AM
    • Men aren't shallow simply because they notice physically attractive women - they're shallow if that's ALL they ever notice.

      Date and time
      April 27, 2012, 11:55AM
  • I've never been in exactly the same situation as above but I can understand what a refreshing experience it would be. Occassionally I've felt like that during some holidays - far flung places where absolutely nobody knows you, or are likely to see you again! Also, a laid back place like Rottnest Island in WA where it seems most people just kick back and relax and so appearence just doesn't seem to matter so much.

    To be honest, I find it hard to completely through off all beauty products even so - I just feel better wearing my mascara and The Eyelift Kit where ever I am.

    Date and time
    April 26, 2012, 1:08PM
    • How nice that would feel. I am a mother of three kids under three years of age, and to have clean clothes and a shower would be luxury. My husband is not blind, says he does not care how I look, however, he is constantly looking at young girls in tight clothes on the rare occasions we go out. Looks definitely matter, except to my dog. He is the most loyal.

      Date and time
      April 26, 2012, 1:19PM
      • The real problem comes down to this. Seeing past the appearance of someone to appreciate who they really are takes an effort. Being loyal to your partner and sticking by them in the face of temptation is an choice every person in a relationship has to make.

        For a straight man to notice and feeling attracted to young women in tight clothing who walk past? That comes entirely from the inside - it's not something you choose to feel. If you're in a relationship and want to stay faithful, it's still something you have to resist every day.

        Date and time
        April 26, 2012, 2:45PM
      • Christian, please correct me if I am wrong in understanding your comment, but are you saying that heterosexual men are always "tempted" by other women and it is an "effort" to stay with your partner/wife?

        I wish I could feel "tempted" by other men, and force myself to be attracted to my husband. What a luxury that would be!! Even having the ability to do so.

        I suppose it boils down to the XY chromosome. 250 million years of evolution.

        Date and time
        April 26, 2012, 2:55PM
      • I don't know if "tempted" and "effort" are the right words. And it's not necessarily "always" every man either or even any man all the time.

        But put it this way - in my mind there is no contradiction between being attracted to my partner and finding other women attractive at the same time. One doesn't cancel the other out. I think most men feel pretty much the same way.

        The only real reason why I am not having sexual relationships with other women besides my wife is because my wife sets that as a condition of our relationship. I'd love to have my cake and eat it, but that's the price I pay for having a happy, stable relationship with the woman I love. And that's ok with me, I can live without it.

        Ultimately, forgoing sexual relationships with other women is a commitment that I've willingly made. It's a choice and one that makes getting along with women in the world much easier, to be honest.

        That doesn't contradict or change the fact that I still regularly feel some level of attraction to other women besides my wife whether I want to or not, it just means I've chosen not to act upon that feeling and need to keep making that choice whenever I find myself experiencing that feeling.

        Date and time
        April 26, 2012, 3:55PM
      • @ Christian and @ Dianav:

        I know exactly how Christian feels because I have felt attracted to other men occasionally, even though I am a woman, a mum of four and have been very happily married with an excellent sex life with my husband for almost 23 years. Some of us just have higher libidos than others, I guess, and it's not always just men. You can't help your body chemistry, but you can help what action you choose to take (or don't take).

        mum of four
        Date and time
        April 26, 2012, 5:06PM
      • @Dianav - well for you husband to be constantly looking at young girls in tight clothing on the rare occasion that you do go out is highly disrespectful if you ask me. You can barely get to shower and wear clean clothes as you slave away caring for his children you carried for 9 months and bore. The least he could do is make you the centre of his world on the rare occasion that you get a little time together sans children!

        Date and time
        April 26, 2012, 5:58PM

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