We think you are
The ads say:
“Here, buy this mascara.
Give yourself full eyelashes that will drive men wild.
Look like this model with tanned white skin and crystal blue eyes.”
When I was 12
I asked my mum how long I could wait before I had to start wearing makeup.
I thought makeup was like puberty.
She assured me, “Never. If you don’t want to.”
I’ve worn mascara on my chin,
To create the effect of facial hair,
More than I’ve ever worn it on my lashes.
Never mind that I have never had an interest in “driving men wild.”
Quite the opposite, in fact.
Not relevant. I tell the algorithms. These ads do not apply to me.
The ads say:
“Here, buy this shampoo.
Look at the volume it will give you,
The way you’ll be able to style those waves.
It’s full of nutrients,
(And a lot of chemicals, but ignore those)
And it will drive the men wild!”
When I was 12 my hair reached my butt, thick and heavy, like a pelt.
When I washed it, it took all day to dry and I shed everywhere.
When I was 13, I had it cut to my shoulders.
I wanted a pixie-cut but the hairdresser was nervous.
She wouldn’t go that short, worried I would regret it.
A month after that I got a pixie-cut from a different hairdresser.
One who hadn’t seen the long locks I’d started with,
Who didn’t see the change in length as drastic.
A year after that I went the whole way,
a barber shaving
most of it off with an electric razor.
At home I made it smooth and shiny with a bic.
I felt free.
Hairdressers continue to be nervous
when I ask them to use
the shortest razor guard on the sides
or take off two inches from the top.
Barbers, trained to cut hair in the style I like,
often refuse to cut mine because: “We don’t cut women’s hair.”
(Even when the style I wear is pictured on a male model
in the window of their shop.)
Short is how I like it.
It’s easier to manage,
To style in minutes.
I also understand that my hair,
With it’s waves and curls,
Suffered for the way I washed it too often
And with entirely inappropriate products.
The products I use now
aren’t advertised widely.
I found them by chance.
Not relevant. I tell the algorithms. This ad does not apply to me.
The ads say:
“Here, buy this razor.
(That costs $10 more than the one we sell to men)
It will make you feel like a Goddess,
(Replacement blade packs are also more expensive than the one we sell to men)
And it comes in this bubble gum pink and this vibrant blue!
(Don’t look to see that the replacement blades we sell to men for less will fit the the handle we are selling to you)”
When I was twelve
A classmate beat me up
In the locker room
After gym class.
The girl who did it noticed I didn’t shave my legs.
“Eeeeewwww,” she said, loud enough that everyone in that room turned to look.
I wasn’t broken down yet.
Hadn’t had months and then
years of bullying to crush my spirit.
I looked her in the eye and told her
I saw how she picked on someone new every day.
I told her today would
be my day.
She called me a witch and
hit me on the head with a bag of ice she’d been using
on a faked injury to get out of class that day.
A bump rose there, and my mum went to the principal about it.
The girl was suspended
and her parents pulled her from the school,
sent her to live with her dad in small town Alberta.
I never had to see her again, but still, I started shaving my legs after that.
I hated it.
I hated the
cuts and the
ingrown hairs and the
itching and the
maintenance and the
I shaved my pits too, because that’s what I was told I had to do.
I hated that too.
I hated that if I didn’t shave
I felt self-conscious
and I only felt self-conscious
because I was told to
and I knew
my brother never thought twice
about what anyone thought about
the hair growing under his arms
or if it showed
because even though we are both humans with body hair,
someone decided that my
totally normal body hair was Gross
and his totally normal body hair
Angry hard bumps rose under the surface
of my skin in the curve of my pits.
Painful things that were
“Irritation from shaving,” the doctor told me. “It’s common.”
(Not cancer, as I’d worried.)
So I stopped shaving.
I practiced feeling unself-conscious
until I didn’t have to practice at it anymore.
I love how soft the hair under my arms is.
How downy and silky.
I don’t get painful bumps anymore.
Or dry skin on my legs.
Don’t have to deal with quick, vicious accidental cuts,
or the guilt of the plastic that piles up in the garbage to go to the landfill.
Not relevant. I tell the algorithms.
This does not apply to me.
Algorithms are funny things
As are demographics
“A thirty-something white woman”
Brings to mind an image, certainly,
But not one that applies to me.
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