Turning Thirty: Beauty Part 2

“So, if ever you feel less of yourself. I understand. If you ever feel self-hatred for yourself. I understand. If ever you feel low, dark, unappreciated, then know that I understand…for I have been there, walked barefooted and burning under the auspices of humiliation and almost-to-death attitude until I decided to live…”  -My dear friend, Bandy Mkhize

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Beauty.

1) A concept or belief/Vague awareness or understanding/An impulse or desire/A combination of qualities that delights the aesthetic senses
2) The quality present in a thing or person that gives intense pleasure or deep satisfaction to the mind, whether arising from sensory manifestations (as shape, color, sound, etc.), a meaningful design or pattern, or something else (as a personality in which high spiritual qualities are manifest).

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Beauty came to me late. Or rather I took it seriously pretty late in life. Partly because I only really realised I was pretty in my 20s and also because I grew up believing beauty was something that other people had. I wasn’t the pretty daughter so I figured I would just focus on other things, since I couldn’t change my looks. So I focused on my love for books and writing as well as working with my hands. (Side note: I also used to collect keys, had an obsession with insects and snakes and briefly had a pet chicken. Don’t ask.) It was one of the few creative things I was allowed to do. That and choosing what hairstyle to have next. (Hair texture had to be straight though.)

 
I became even more anti-beauty in my early teens because beauty was strongly tied to attracting boys. And I hated boys at that time. I found them immature and annoying. So I didn’t get why girls were putting in so much effort into looking good for idiots. Basically. Then there were the whole oh-but-you’re-so-pretty-and-have-a-nice-body-you-should-wear-clothes-that-accentuate-your-figure moments. Such an annoyance. I was highly self-conscious. I hated attention. I still do. Beauty drew attention so I didn’t want it. So I would brush off any compliment I got about my looks or my body.

 
Until I found beauty in my creativity.

 
Beauty became about self-expression as opposed to just adorning myself to attract a potential significant other. It became a way for me to express myself. It became creativity and came from within as well as from the outside. It also plays an important part of my relationship with my mom. It’s how we bond. (I gave her advice on her hair when she had to cut it off and ‘go natural’).

 
I found my first grey hair on the week of my birthday. And I freaked out because who starts greying in their twenties, right? I didn’t pull it out or anything. But I’ve dyed my hair twice since then so I probably wouldn’t be able to find it if I tried. All in all, I truly believe (and know) that the older I get, the more beautiful I become. And this applies to everyone as well. Anyone who is truly comfortable in their own skin and is able to fully be themselves is beautiful to me. Because if they believe it whole-heartedly, I have no choice but to also see it and believe it.

 
To quote Bandy once again,

“Beauty? Why don’t you go to the mirror right now and point, talking with the same passions you place on meaningless things and say “You are friggin’ awesome!” And smile. I mean what else shows more of your soul than your smile?”

beauty over coffee

Turning Thirty: Beauty Part 1

Written on: 19 August 2013 for Beauty Bulletin

Today, someone on Facebook posted this question:

“Is a weave, make-up, colouring your hair always a reflection of self-hate or an adoption of a foreign identity?”

I sighed deeply and thought all kinds of thoughts before I commented: “I’d have to write a whole article to answer this question properly. But the simple answer is no.” Like most (if not all) black women, I’m sick to death of my body (and hair) being used to reflect or push some racial/cultural/political/socio-economic issue. That everyday when I wake up in the morning, get dressed and adorn myself as I see fit, I’m somehow trying to prove a point or…trying to be revolutionary. That my individual expression is automatically up for scrutiny because it’s not the norm/standard or because people are fascinated and curious. Why is black women’s beauty being prodded and dissected? Why are we “separate but equal”? Why is our beauty treated as something exotic? Why?

 

 

Turning Thirty: Intro Part 2

If someone had told me at 19 that this is where I would be ten years later, I would have laughed. By that, I mean ‘living’ (of off one bag) between Cape Town and Port Elizabeth, working part-time as a tutor while studying full-time with half of my things at home and in storage, in a long distance relationship and STILL not earning an income from my writing. But honestly, I’m fucking happy with my life. I panic sometimes because I feel like I’m not working hard and/or smart enough towards my success. There’re still so much I need to do. My family isn’t particularly happy about my life. Mainly because they don’t understand it. But I’m learning everyday how to not let this bother me.

I had the idea a few months back of doing a few Turning Thirty posts. Look, I don’t necessarily think that age is all that hectic. It’s just a reference point if anything. A rough guideline, if you will. And honestly I didn’t think 30 would be a pivotal age for me. But it turned out to be so I’ve gotta make sense of this growth spurt so I can move on to the next level in my journey. I’ve been scared of writing these Turning Thirty blogposts. Or even just writing in general. I had been feeling very fragile these last few months so I didn’t want to put myself out there because I wouldn’t be able to handle the ‘backlash’. Of course, not all comments to my writing are negative, but the negative ones really hurt. And so I wanted to wait until I was feeling a bit stronger to start writing again.

When I started writing about being in my 20s and growing up, I was frustrated. I was tired of hearing people dissing the 20s and referring to it as the time of cluelessness, naïveté, lack of self knowledge/ awareness and (retrospectively) a time of regret. I wanted to argue otherwise. It is often difficult to be introspective and go through the process of getting to know yourself when they are expectations. People in their 20s are expected to fulfil a lot of things. You have to be highly successful, earn a lot of money, support your younger siblings and/or parents. Just generally prove to your parents/guardians or whoever that your life is worth telling others about. It’s more about results and less about the process. Some get to travel and be supported in that. Others travel anyway despite any lack of support and so forth. I’m generalising of course. People are different.

So each week, I will be choosing a theme and reflecting on it. This is not meant to be a one-size-fits-all tips and tricks of the trade sorta thing. I believe people need to figure their own things out in their own time. And if sharing my thoughts can somehow help with that then cool. If not, then also cool.

Till the next post.

Cheers

Turning Thirty: Intro

 

“It gets dark and a shiver moves across my skin.
There are stars, but the cloudy skies won’t let them in.
I’m gonna write a few words and I hope they carry all this way,
Back to the start of this girl,when she still had something good to say.

Seventeen,
And you know exactly what you need.
Twenty-two,
And they still see something great in you.
But no one tells you a word about the lonely echo in your heart when it’s been filled up with hurt.
And your whole world starts to come apart.

They rest in peace [won’t ever come back] all the stories I was told.
I had a dream, it’s fading to black.
Just like me it’s growing old.
So rest in peace. There is no comeback,
I will never have or hold.
Now hear me screaming from the pitch-black that this world is not a home

Say goodbye.
That’s the only word you’ll ever need.
When you try, it gets so much harder to succeed.
If I had nothing to lose, I would surely lose it in the end.
And you know if I could choose, I would never do it all again.

They rest in peace [won’t ever comeback] all the stories I was told.
I had a dream, it’s fading to black.
Just like me it’s growing old.
So rest in peace, there is no comeback,
I will never have or hold.
Now hear me screaming from the pitch-black,
That this world is not a home.”

R.I.P by September