Head to Toe: A Gal’s Guide to Being Socially Acceptable (Maybe Even Desirable)

I’m tired. I’m only 32 years old and I am overwhelmed by maintenance. It is hard being a girl if you want to be considered socially acceptable, let alone desirable. And even if you have your bodily sh*t together (okay fine, not the best turn of phrase), what about your lawn or your car or that leaky something-or-other you swore you’d fix when you moved in or YOUR KID? None of it will maintain itself. It is, I’m realizing, our purpose in life to just keep maintaining sh*t little by little until we die.

And can I just say I am SO OVER showering daily? Unfortunately, showing up in the office looking like I’m on the run from zombies isn’t the best career strategy, so I at least shower before work.

But if you must run from zombies, sleeping with
the boss is a valid strategy.

What follows is, from head to toe, a collection of things women are assumed or expected to do to our bodies in order to be seen/heard/smelled in public. By all means, feel free to add to it. Our culture has been doing so for centuries!

If we’re being good little girls, we will show up to work/happy hour/dates/parties with all of these things accomplished. I have to admit I’ve never had my ears pierced or dyed my hair, but I’ve felt pressured to do both. Also, I am [ahem] slightly behind schedule in my hair removal routine. What do you want from me? It’s frickin’ January, people.

At some point in my life, I have felt pressured to do every single thing on this list. And ladies? I. Am. EXHAUSTED.

Yep, seems about right. Especially the sound effects.

So, I’ve taken the liberty of drawing up what I believe to be a slightly more accurate depiction. At the very least, it’s closer to what goes on in my own head.

What about you? Which part of your daily/weekly/monthly routine do you find most irritating? What can you think of that I am forgetting (or maybe just in complete denial about)?

29 thoughts on “Head to Toe: A Gal’s Guide to Being Socially Acceptable (Maybe Even Desirable)

  1. While this is all true (and I do a pretty crappy job of keeping up with some of it, especially at this time of year), I have to say that the one thing I’ve never been able to wrap my head around is the fact that men get up every morning and SHAVE THEIR FACES. And it is much, much harder to get around this than letting your armpits or legs go for a couple of days if one does not care to look scruffy, or just can’t for professional reasons.

    Shaving your face!!! Hair coming out of your face every day!!!! Can you imagine?

    • I dunno, I think shaving one’s face is a little less stressful and dangerous than removing the hair around one’s nether-region. But this is coming from someone whose husband doesn’t have to shave daily!

      • I had two immediate thoughts when I read this comment, and I bet Addi’s were exactly the same:

        (1) Hair comes out of my face every fucking day.
        (2) My guy doesn’t have to shave his face every day! (though, for the opposite reason as Joe)

        I appreciate the point though Addi. Some guys, esp with certain jobs, HAVE to shave every day and girls never HAVE to. But honestly (and I mean, you both know this is the bane of my everyday existence) I do seriously look at my face every day to make sure my various face hairs are not a problem. And if a dude has face hair …it’s not…humiliating.

        • I can understand the sentiment, but Abby is right. I have to pluck a couple times a week and wax my upper lip every month or so. And that’s at minimum!

          And here’s the thing. Some guys have to be clean shaven for work. The same is true of some women who have to be hairless for their line of work. So that isnt a fair comparison.

          Let’s take your everyday joe. If he doesn’t shave for a day, a week, a month — no one will think anything of it. But if a woman stopped shaving her legs for a week or month and walked down the street with her legs showing, people would take notice. Hell, I saw a hipster chick at a wedding this summer with fully grown leg hair, as if her legs had never know the sting of a razor, and I couldn’t stop glancing over at her. Part of me was disgusted, but the other part was super jealous that she was free from the chore of shaving her legs. Think of how much of her life she reclaimed! It just isn’t the same thing.

      • Oh, I don’t mean that a man goes through what a woman goes through grooming-wise. Not at all; it isn’t even close, and they can “get away” with a lot more. I just remember being notably struck and appalled when, as a grown woman, I realized that men had to take a razor to their faces just about every day to combat hair growth. I think it comes from growing up in a house without men.

        Personally, I like most grooming procedures, because they make me feel like I’m taking a few minutes a day just for me, which doesn’t happen in most other areas of my life. But there are a lot of things I just don’t do, like waxing or pedicures. I’ve never had a manicure in my life. I don’t think it’s ever cost me anything at work or in romance or anything.

        • There are moments where my routine can be soothing. Maybe it’s age that makes me feel more and more like it’s a chore.

        • I just realized that last sentence didn’t come out the way I intended…like, I have everything I want and I don’t even shave my legs!!! Um, no. I just meant that, while society does pressure us to do all these things, I’m not sure that I can point to a measurable difference it’s made in my life. I guess it’s hard to say for sure (I’m my own control group).

          I definitely know what you mean about it becoming more of a chore as we age. I dyed my hair for the first time last week, and it was FUN, but I wonder what will happen one day when the roots come in and I don’t feel like dealing with it.

          • I TOTALLY agree Annie about the whole “time for me” thing. I can be really lazy about taking a shower. It’s similar to the gym where, when I ACTUALLY get off my ass and do it, I feel great, but there are 1,000 reasons Idon’twanawrightnow.

            Anyway, when I do take that shower, I often reflect how relaxing and/or recharging that was for me. There are other examples I’m sure of grooming things that feel that way.

            But the hair. Oh the hair. I wax so much hair and it’s so gross and expensive and annoying and stressful and I can’t ever stop because I’ll never not think it’s horrid looking.

          • Well, yes. I think it’s important to distinguish that these tasks can absolutely be seen as “me time.” But the anxiety comes in when you realize you can’t just do it when you feel like it. It has to regular according to society’s rules.

            And the hair. OH, THE HAIR.

  2. I was just thinking about this due to the new year rolling around. In trying to come up with resolutions, I thought, “This year I’ll be more put together,” meaning, I’d try and actually have my nails painted, finally find a perfume that suits me, actually shave my legs close to daily, etc. But I’m tired of just thinking about all this stuff and all the extra time it will take me. I hate having to shower every day! Let’s all get together and rebel!

  3. haha – love this Addi 🙂 I must admit that I fall waaaay behind on the grooming. I’m in desperate need of a mani-pedi and have been for about 2 years now. 🙂 I live in my headband and with my hair clip. they’re my best friends 🙂
    And I about died at the “It puts the lotion on its skin….” comment. Ha!! James always says that in the freaky voice from the movie (when I put lotion on my legs) and it makes me laugh every time.

    • I will admit I’m probably the worst on weekends. I feel like a shower is necessary before work, but before going out on a Saturday night, unless I’m extra greasy for some reason, I’ll just slap on some deodorant, dry shampoo my hair, throw on some makeup, and I’m out the door!

  4. I really need to get that dry shampoo you use! My only problem is that when I sleep on my hair, it inevitably manages to always give me a horrid bald spot/part in the back that no matter how hard I try will not go away. So… when we go out, I have now just given you a big clue on if I washed my hair that morning or the day before.

    Also, I will fully admit that on days off from work, like today, I have a hard enough time mustering enough energy to make Easy Mac for lunch, let alone do anything with myself.

    • I have the same problem! You have to finagle it a bit. I often do dry shampoo first, then use a curling iron to coax the hair back in the right direction, then hairspray the sh*t out of it. 🙂

  5. You want additions? I got your additions RIGHT HERE:

    (some of these are in theory applicable to men looking in the mirror too, but we all know the male gender has far less judgement on this stuff and also, they are not conditioned to think about it as much)

    -lines pointing to face, around eyes, etc.–wrinkle check/do I need to start buying age defying skin-cells-of-baby-kangaroo serum?
    -lines pointing to stomach/thighs/ass/arms / do I need to wear a shrug because of my arm flab / do I need to go to the gym today? / oh, I washed my jeans now they are too tight, good tight or bad tight? Bad tight? I’m depressed for a week. (this is a whole other can o’ worms but seriously…)
    -line pointing to legs: do my legs look long enough or do I need to wear high heels with this outfit, making my feet hurt all day but necessary to pull off this skirt
    -line pointing to any area of skin: how pale am I? should I adjust my makeup? Can I wear this color with my paleness? Should I start going tanning? That might lead to wrinkles…see first item on list
    -line pointing to belly button: possible maintenance of a piercing that girls were sort of expected to get on a flat belly as soon as they turned 18. Luckily I’m a moron, and because of that, only had my bb piercing less than a year .
    -line pointing to hair: how long has my hair looked this way? Should I get bangs? Did I wear my hair curly to the last party? I should straighten it for this one then.

    Okay, I’m stopping now though I’m sure I could keep going. It’s incredible. Absolutely incredible the running list of things we are expected to do, inevitably think of when we look in the mirror, are going to work, going to a party.

    Also, as someone who just dropped about $50 at Rite Aid before writing this: I’m not only exhausted: I’m broke.

    • Oh my god, YES, Abby. Yes. And the list can go on! Are my teeth white enough? Omg is that DANDRUFF? What jewelry should I wear, classic or trendy? Ugh, I’m so tired of it all…

  6. Girl, showering every day is for suckers. I mean, during the summer, maybe, but the whole vicious cycle of wash-off-oils/slather-on-lotion is just cruel in the winter. Rub a little baby powder in your roots and give yourself a break.

    But seriously, let’s not forget the thin line ladies walk between effort and too-much. Don’t wear make-up? Bland. But a little too much rouge? Slut. Don’t get pedicures? Grody feet. Get them every week? High maintenance. Not only are we meant to put in a ton of effort, we are meant to maintain the illusion that it is effortLESS. Try, but look like we didn’t. Guh.

    • Well, that’s basically what dry shampoo is — baby powder — but you spray it on and it doesn’t make you smell like a baby (which is nice when you’re 30-something).

      And you’re spot on about walking a thin line. Plain vs. slut is absolutely true for young women, but I feel like the older I get it becomes plain vs. crazy. When was the last time you saw an older woman wearing too much makeup and didn’t wonder if she is a little off her rocker? Too much rouge becomes dangerous territory as we age!

      • Good point Addi. Started by awesome point, Liz. (the older thing is if not “crazy” then “SAD.” I either think it is a crazy old lady with the dark pink lipstick or a saaaaad older lady who is trying really hard to pull off lipstick I can barely pull off. You know who I’m talked about. 59 year old Sheila with the low cut leopard-print blouse and the overly tanned skin and the black-as-night mascara and the dark lipstick. HORRIBLE. All of this is horrible.)

        Something I wonder about is bikini waxing. I’ve had a lot of wacky stories happen at bikini waxings (that’s a weird sentence) and I’ll find them interesting fodder for like, an anecdote at Ritters. I often censor myself because I wonder if guys will be like (a) gross, pubic hair removal or (b) what a high-maintenance princess–waxings. But I also wonder if this is a weird side shoot of a thing where dudes think it’s a little sexy? Or are simply more “oh man, you have a smooth vagina right now” rather than the other things.

  7. this is exhausting just reading this and the replies.

    I have a friend who has had laser hair removal in all the right places. She swears by it. It’s expensive, but it pays for itself in the time and effort it saves.
    So I’ve been considering it, but here’s the weird part- I’m hesitant to get in on my legs, like below my knee. And I can’t tell if the reason is weird or not:
    if I have a kid, I want him/her to see that it’s natural and normal for women to grow hair. Like I would want my daughter to not feel ashamed of her body and I’d want my son to have a realistic view of women’s bodies. Is that weird? Too heady? On the other hand, it would make my life so much easier to just get it. And even if I didnt I’d still be shaving my legs sometimes. I DON”T KNOW.

    oh before I go any further I should let you know I HATE SHAVING MY LEGS AND I RARELY DO. A can of shaving cream can last me a year.

    Anyway. Sorry for commenting so late on this. Great post addi and I really enjoyed reading all these responses. Liz, great point about the thin line.

    • I’ve considered laser, too, but Joe cares so little about my leg hair that he should probably be in the Guiness Book for it, so I’m not sure I could justify the expense.

      Here’s what I think about the kids thing: there are far more important ways to teach your children that same lesson — and the question that your post leads me to is this: would you go out in public with super hairy legs? Because I think trying to take that stance is all for naught if you cave in and shave them before you go out in public.

      Just my two cents you can put in the jar toward your laser hair removal. 😉

      • good point. I would go out in public with super hairy legs, but not to an event/party where i was supposed to look nice. I would think it would be ok though, because even if I shaved, and I taught my daughter that she had the option to shave if she wanted when the time came, I’d want to normalize that it’s ok to not do it sometimes, too. So they’d see me around the house looking “ungroomed” or whatever. But then they’d also see that their dad, actor/director George Clooney, was okay with it and loves me no matter what.

  8. I was guilty of attempting all of these grooming tasks when in my 20s. I’m 41 now and the older I get, the less I worry about the smaller things. It’s odd what you keep and what you toss. I’m still a stickler with the eyebrow grooming and facial hair (it grows in the freakiest places, doesn’t it?) but only shave my legs in the summer. It helps that I gave up wearing dresses and skirts – always hated them, so figured why bother? The pits get a swipe in the shower when I think about it or if I’m planning on a tank top – again mostly summer shaving.

    Hair dying – forget it. Too much maintenance. (I may rethink this when the gray starts coming in, depending on how patchy or gross it looks. If I get hair like Emmy Lou Harris, I’m keeping it.) Haven’t worn earrings in years. Another unnecessary item, in my book. I also don’t do perfume because nothing annoys me more than having to work with or ride the bus with people who do wear it. Which brings me to the most important task – daily showering. This is a must, if you do nothing else. Makes the perfume unneeded (well, for most people).

    I can’t type with long nails, so I chop them off the minute they get beyond an 1/8 inch. My toenails, on the other hand, approach Guinness record length before I get around to them. I just forget they are there until my shoes start hurting. (Or until I break out sandals for the first time in the summer and am horrified by them.)

    If I’m making any point here, I suppose it’s this: screw what society or Cosmo or our mothers or whoever has put these “rules” on us. It’s 2012. Let’s make our own rules! How about do what makes you happy because life’s too short to sweat the small stuff like this? 🙂

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