To do this, I have been posting a daily update on the joys of living with five little fuzzballs on Facebook. You know – kittens eating my hair, kittens standing on my keyboard and kittens climbing my legs – the kind of stuff that makes people desperate to have one of their own.
Then, last week, instead of wearing jeans, I wore a pair of three-quarter leggings. The kittens climbed my legs as they usually do, and I ended up with a complex pattern of scratches on my ankles. Since this was a relevant part of the narrative, I prepared the photo for posting.
And then I noticed... I needed a wax. I wasn’t at the gorilla stage yet (thanks, Portuguese heritage), but here and there, among the scratch marks, was the occasional black hair. Also, my legs are very pale (thanks, British heritage), and I hadn’t applied lotion that morning. In short, my ankles weren’t a thing of great beauty, kitten scratches notwithstanding.
So now... to post or not to post? This was a very vinegary pickle indeed. In the end, I thought damnitall, and posted the photo anyway. I didn’t make excuses and I didn’t draw attention to the hairs – I just said something about what kittens do.
Of course, someone made a comment like, “That can’t be unseen.” It didn’t surprise me or bother me, but I responded by saying, “I decided to be true to my authentic self.”
What did surprise me was the number of likes that comment got. We’re not talking a “break the internet” level of likes, but enough to make me realise that – among my friends at least – the tide is turning against the obligation for women to be pretty and well groomed.
Pretty is not in our job descriptions
Even as I type that, I feel a swell of rebellion in my chest. “Why are we opposed to being well groomed, again?” my brain asks.
The answer is simple: we don’t have to be. Our function is not to be an aesthetically pleasing experience for others. We don’t have to pretend that the unpretty parts don’t exist. If we are happy to engage with the world unplucked, un-made-up and unbrushed, the world should accept us as we are – not treat us as if we have broken some pact.
I know this. I know this very well. But sometimes, it’s hard to remember. And I’m not going to stop waxing my legs – heavens no! – but I try, more and more every day, to let myself off the hook when I don’t make an effort.