A poetymology of beauty

I recently shared a guest post by Leanne Moden about body image and it got me thinking about my own feelings on the subject – specifically about how today’s teenagers are exposed to so many more unrealistic images of beauty than I had to deal with when I was growing up in the mid-nineties (i.e. when the internet and mobile phones were in their infancy and social media was just a twinkle in Mark Zuckerberg’s eye).

When I was a teenager, the only place to find beauty and style advice was in magazines and I pored over the likes of Bliss, Sugar and J-17 for tips on how to put together an outfit, apply make-up and style my hair. I remember being inspired by the models in the magazines, who were beautiful in a more wholesome, relatable way than today’s perfectly preened Instagram girls – smiling rather than pouting and promoting hair mascara and body glitter rather than lip plumpers and waist trainers.

I felt a certain degree of pressure to have the ‘right’ look, but I didn’t have to contend with people criticising my photos; they were in an album at home rather than on the internet for all to see! If I wore the ‘wrong’ clothes or hairstyle, the worst case scenario was that someone might make a catty comment as I walked by and I’d be temporarily mortified. For the most part, fashion was fun and I was lucky to have a great shopping partner in my mum, who took me to my favourite shops (C&A, MK One and Internacionale) and helped me find clothes that made me look and feel my best. I probably wrote this poem after one of our many shopping trips:

Dressing to impress

Although it’s a fun, light-hearted poem, I shudder at the lines “having the public admire you / makes your life worthwhile” – I hope I didn’t really believe this! I’m sure a lot of today’s teenagers feel this way though; reality stars like the Kardashians make their living from having millions of impressionable social media followers, so it’s easy to see why young people simply aspire to be famous.

The older I get, the less I care what people think of my appearance. I wear what I like, whether it’s in fashion or not, and I’ve let my natural curls grow out after years of straightening them into submission. I wear very little makeup, except for on special occasions, and I regularly go makeup-free because I just can’t be bothered to put on a face. Each to their own but I don’t feel the need to post selfies (I’m rubbish at them anyway) and I avoid Instagram and fashion magazines because of the unrealistic standards of beauty they perpetuate (I also dislike the omnipresent advertising).

Having worked in journalism and marketing, I know that what you see in the media often doesn’t reflect the truth; that’s the inspiration for this poem, which uses common sayings about beauty to start each verse. I hope you enjoy it.


What do you think about this subject? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.  

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