The Commodification of Menopause
I have a little mustache. I didn’t care, or even really know, about it until the 7th grade boys pointed it out. Middle school is, notoriously, a deep ring of hell from which none of us return unscathed. It was there that I learned about shaving, bleaching, and waxing to appease the tween critics. The great, hungry maw of the beauty industrial complex (BIC) was waiting for me, magazines and products in hand.
None of it worked, of course. My clumsy attempts to change my face were sussed out immediately by the nasty little sleuths, setting me up for more ridicule. There was a part of me that knew it was all bullshit. I’m brilliant and beautiful, can’t they see? But that part was ground down, pressed ever deeper until it was a hard little kernel in the center of my being.
I was a bookish kid growing up in the 60’s and 70’s. I wanted to be smart. Intellectual. Savvy. I’m not sure that I ever achieved any of those things, but to me they were the foundation of something that might be called beauty.
Strong + smart + kind = beautiful.
The odd calculus of my fevered teen dreams.
I also secretly wanted to be beautiful in the way of those long-limbed, long-haired forever teen nymphs that 1970s culture pushed in my face. I wanted to hate those images, recognizing the objectification and homogenization of aesthetics. But I looked hard at them and yearned for a dose of that thing called beauty. To be female in this world is to be buried under impossible standards. We are all, girls in our youth, eventually forced to kneel and make offerings to the cruel and greedy gods of beauty. And so the mustache had to go.
Seventeen magazine was my beauty bible and I was a willing teen consumer of products and aspirations. Smells and shapes, hair and face, we were given maps to all of it, none of it achievable. There was always one girl in high school who looked as if she effortlessly stepped out of the magazine pages (what happened to her?), but the rest of us lumbered along in ill-fitting clothes with our curious odors, pocked faces, and little mustaches. Individuality was frowned upon. We were a bunch of misguided Farrah wannabes in my tribe. I was 12 years old when that poster went up on everyone’s wall. I…