Happy Valentine’s Day. Today I did something that I do not usually do, I went for a … manicure. Not that out of the ordinary you might think, but I only treat myself once or twice a year, so it is a special occasion for me. Sometimes I’ll paint my own nails, but most often I just leave them bare and unadulterated. I like the manicure. It makes me feel pretty and fancy – a good thing to feel on Valentine’s Day.
I started thinking about the reasons why I do not get a manicure/pedicure more often. Partly it is because I see it as a luxury that I do not need – an extravagance to spend fifty dollars on something so frivolous and fleeting. And partly because I tend not to invest a lot of time and effort on myself, and especially on my beauty routine. This has always been the case with me – I just do not place that much importance on how I look.
One of the reason I spend so little time on my appearance, is because I want to be doing other things. I think to some of the vacations with my husband, and how many wives sit by the pool looking beautiful in their coordinated ensembles and with their coifed hair. But me? I am in my shorts and tank, my hair pulled back, and face without a scrap of make-up, taking a jog or renting a paddleboard with my husband. I do not want to worry about how I look or by whom I am seen. I want to do the seeing, take in the view, partake in the sport, and engage in life.
But deep down do I care what people think? Especially my spouse? I know he loves that I do all these activities and sports with him, but can I get a balance and make the best of how I look at the same time? When I started my first job in London I did not have a balance. I had a long commute each way and did not want to spend time in the morning making myself look pretty – I threw on a suit, combed my hair, and was out the front door. I recall once a male colleague took me to one side and said “You know you could look really pretty if you made an effort.” I took it as a back-handed compliment – I have the potential to look pretty, I just wasn’t reaching it most of the time.
I often hope that my kindness towards people and tendency to smile make up for my lack of grooming. After all, we spend time trying to encourage our impressionable teenage daughters, nieces, and friends that it is what is inside that counts; that all the women in the magazines are photo-shopped, and that is not what real beauty is. But there is no getting away from the fact that we live in a society that bases its impressions on appearance. People strive for the perfect body, teeth, hair. We have to remind ourselves to look at what is inside. I once read a quote that went something like – Pretty is what you look like, Beauty is what you are inside. I like that. How about a balance between pretty and beauty? How about being both?
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