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.