Thursday, 19 January 2012

Hair, Makeup, and the Power of Simple Routines

In American culture, makeup and hair have a special place in the female routine. Yet, how important a makeup and hair routine truly is depends on the woman herself. For myself, a two minute brushing of my hair is simply enough, makeup doesn't really have a place in my life. For others, perfect makeup and the perfect hair are essential, it is a tool of power, a shield from the world, or simply a confidence mechanism. Watching Sulastree talk about hair and makeup though gave a whole new dimension to the essentially female tradition of hair and makeup. As I watch the video of Sulastree explaining her hair plucking I notice two things: 1. How calm and matter of fact she is about this frustrating practice. 2. A quote across the screen: "it is a constant battle between my facial hair and me." Sulastree's soothing, matter of face tone and her depiction of the daily routine seem somewhat paradoxical if not completely at odds with each other.

However, this paradox does not only show bravery and zen like acceptance within an extremely difficult situation, but also the constant paradox and bravery involved in being a transgender woman. To be a woman is difficult enough, to completely change from one gender to the other, from my perspective anyway, is somewhat unimaginable. It is truly amazing to see how something as simple as plucking facial hair can attain such different meanings, connotations, and battles. It is not a rare situation to challenge or question something that is so much a part of ourselves. Something as simple as our hair color or the shape of our eyes can send someone into a spiral of insecurity, self-hatred, and despair.

As a young American teen, I struggled very much with insecurities due to my weight and physical appearance. In my mind I imagined myself as a very attractive and beautiful person; however, when I looked in the mirror, reality would strike and my mind's image would remain within my mind. It took many years for me to come to the realization that I had to take control of my situation and act purposefully to turn into the self I knew was the true me. Those years were filled with physical pain from running cross country and mental battles over eating what I want versus eating what I should. Long after I had lost the weight, and become more physically active, I still found myself unhappy with how I looked, pinching at the lose parts of my midsection, pulling at my thighs, hoping to look more like my mind's image of the physically perfect me. Through physical perseverance and the development of a healthier body image, I was able to love myself and find the confident beautiful person within myself.

Dealing with a physical attribute to feel more at peace with one's self can be difficult to a certain degree. However, Sulastri's changes to her physical appearance symbolize much more than attaining a personal goal. Every time, this courageous woman performs her morning routine, it is a symbol of endurance and success for others who struggle with their gender identity. I can only imagine, that for Sulastree, plucking hair is at the very least a nuisance and at most a frustrating reminder of certain limitations. But her can do attitude and her patient eyes give me faith in her. I am certain that she will win the battle with those hairs and that the hair plucking battle is only one of many that she will face and win.

So here is to hair, makeup, and the power of simple routines, may they bring us comfort as well as challenge our notions of what it means to be human.

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