Op-Ed: For Women, the Work Behind the Beauty


Pencil drawing of Guido Anselmi (Marcello Mastroianni) and his mistress Carla (Sandra Milo) from the movie 'Otto e mezzo' by Federico Fellini (1963)/Creative Commons/by Dimitri N.

Unless a man is supernaturally perceptive or goes through the same rigors of everyday life that women do in preparation for an alternate lifestyle or sex change, he’s just not going to get why you spend so much time, energy or money on certain things. And I realize all the things I’m about to impart on you concern cosmetics and vanity, and yes, I fully agree that the value of a person isn’t and shouldn’t be based on their outward appearance. In fact, I couldn’t agree more. That said, there is an undeniably positive bias toward good-looking people, and I think it’s fair to say that most women, to some degree or another, strive to achieve the (impossible) standard of beauty perpetuated by the mainstream media.

As a people of the mountainous Caucasus region, we are a hairy bunch. Unfortunately, evolution has not yet caught up with us and we’ve still got a generous pelt of protective hair to help against the elements, since, you know, clothes just aren’t enough. Guys, here’s where the injustices of the world come into play, because while the ladies in your life go through hell and back to groom themselves, it’s perfectly alright for men to let bodily hair grow free and wild – and have it be ok.

When men go to the barber, it’s usually a pretty quick affair. A speedy trim, maybe a nice close shave, and off to the rest of the day. When women go to the salon, that is the day. Between wash, cut, color (and I’m talking only one process) and styling, a women can spend anywhere from two to five hours at the salon. Throw in highlights, lowlights, mani/pedi, maybe a Brazilian blow out and any of the salon’s professional hair removal services and we are talking a full day ordeal. Granted, I’d wager many women enjoy a lovely salon day, however, it would be really great, every now and then, to let it all hang out and only devote a tiny sliver of time to hair care like men do.

And while we’re on the topic of hair – men, have you ever experienced the blood-curdling feeling of having hair in some of your most sensitive areas ripped out by the root? Perhaps the agony of an electrical current surging through each individual hair follicle, or the heat of a laser singeing not only your hair but also the top layer of your epidermis, casting the smell of burning flesh into the air? No? Well, while you complain that you have to shave your facial hair every day, please take note that women have to do any combination of the following on the daily: pluck, shave, thread, wax, sugar, epilate, bleach, and depilate. Also, (ask any honest women) all that effort is mostly for your benefit, so, you’re welcome.

There’s no denying that the significant women in your life do indeed take a long time to get ready. And though it can be annoying when you’re running late, please consider that while you’ve simply taken a five-minute shower and slipped on some jeans and a t-shirt, the women in the house have to go through a ritual which could rival building an Ikea shelf with a flathead screwdriver because you’ve lost the Allen wrench that came in the package. In addition to taking a shower which involves hair washing, conditioning, face/body cleansing and shaving, there’s also a lot more thought that goes into picking out clothes than “this smells clean.”

That, coupled with hair care and makeup application can take the average woman at least a couple of hours on a good day, and forever if her hair is not cooperating, her new foundation is the wrong color or those jeans on which the entire rest-of-her-outfit was based on have a stain. If all these steps seem pretty exasperating, well, they are – for all parties involved. Some girls primp because when you look good you feel good. Others do it for male attention. Either way, if you’ve every overlooked a plain-looking lady for a done-up one, or have secretly wished that your girlfriend would put on some makeup before you guys go out, you should have no problem understanding our motivation.

Of course, there are loads more I could add to this list, and I’m sure men would have no problem creating a list of their own about women. I think the reason that men are unable to fully grasp certain facets of being a woman, such as the grooming-related habits listed above, is because they are largely responsible for creating these constructs by valuing beauty over substance. And, as much as this archaic view of an individual drives vanity, everyone (including women) is guilty of it. Nonetheless, it’s an idea that is cemented in our culture for better or worse. In other words: guys, we get that you like pretty, but please understand that pretty doesn’t just happen for most women; it takes work.

This essay is part of a series written in honor of International Women’s Day and Month.

Nathalie Nourian is a full time video game publicist and copy editing enthusiast. She credits her Lebanese Armenian and Persian Armenian roots for helping her master both dialects and enjoys a good knefeh as well as delicious ghormeh sabzi any day of the week.



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