Don’t “should” on me.

When I was a little kid, I stood in front of a department store’s fitting room mirror in what would become my new dress. I twirled around in it. I fiddled with its floppy collar and poked its buttons and bows. I held up a matching hat and patent leather purse. I smiled.

“Aren’t I pretty?” I asked my mom.

“Yes,” she said. “Of course.”

“Good,” I thought. Her answer satisfied me. And simply, I moved on.

I didn’t know then that when girls grow into women, it is rarely that easy. Most of us don’t smile anymore when we look at mirrors. Instead, we scrutinize. We point out the parts of us we think are too big or small. Fret over wrinkles. Curl hair that’s straight. Straighten hair that’s curly. Color grays. Cover imperfections. Whiten teeth. Wax and pluck. Diet pills. Body wraps. Brow lifts. Botox. Boob jobs. Some women get fat sucked out of their butts and injected into their boobs. Others have had a toe on each foot amputated to make uncomfortable shoes bearable.

We aren’t satisfied. Ever. What a way to live. It is sad and unhealthy. It is a disaster for women and men alike. And frankly, it pisses me off.

But it makes sense.

Why would we be satisfied when men exist who tell their girlfriends and wives what to wear and what body parts to augment?

Why would we be satisfied when we are bombarded by ads that imply that teeth should be perfectly white, you can’t be attractive with cellulite or stretch marks, hair should always be shiny, hair shouldn’t be gray, boobs should be big, boobs shouldn’t sag, eyelashes should be thick, wrinkled skin should be avoided, it’s gross if you sweat and people who aren’t skinny aren’t happy?

Since I hate to be a bearer of bad news, let me give you some good news: Teeth don’t stay white when you use them. Cellulite and stretch marks happen. Hair turns gray and frizzes. People sweat. Boobs are hangy blobs of fat that come in various sizes and are good for feeding babies. The girls in the mascara ads are wearing false lashes. Skin gets wrinkly. There is something wrong with you if you don’t sweat. There is nothing wrong with you if you have curves. So, stop “shoulding” on us. And if you do it, stop “shoulding” on yourself. There is no good reason to make your body do what our culture says it should when our culture says “God forbid your body functions normally.”

In the words of a producer of the fabulous documentary America the Beautiful, these industries of so-called beauty “bring women down in order to sell products to bring them up.” They fabricate a problem and sell you a solution. In the process, what both men and women expect of women morphs until it is unattainable. We are taught to deplore what occurs naturally so when it happens — and it will — we hate ourselves and will do anything (i.e. spend everything) to “fix” it.

You don’t have to do that anymore. You are not defined by what other people think of you. You are not defined by how you look compared to someone else. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

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