I like being out in the world and experiencing everything she has for me, whether it's a visit to the grocery store, a night out with friends or a family trip to a far off country. I like to absorb it all, soak in my surroundings and keep my finger on society's pulse.
This morning I grimaced through the cold and snow and took my kids to the indoor playground at a mall. It affords them great exercise and whiles away a morning. I'm not a fan of malls, I dislike shopping unless I'm in a vintage fashion shop or an antique store so I just watch my kids, interact with them, and people watch.
I'm being watched too. We all walked down through the mall so I could get a cup of coffee and I was stopped every 30 seconds. Literally, every 30 seconds. The middle walkways of the mall are lined with kiosks - hawking everything from cell phones to methods that'll make my nails look healthy and shiny. Men and women stand around, eying up potential customers and walk out in front of them, asking if their nails are natural or if they have dry skin. I always promise myself to think of something witty and clever to get them away from me but since I'm not as witty and clever as I'd like, I tend to mumble something about being in a hurry and on I march.
The first kiosk today had a woman asking me if I'd like my head full of curls straightened. She held a hot straightening iron in her hand and wanted me to sit down and she'd show me how (I know how, I straighten my fringe every day and leave the rest naturally curly). I kind of nodded to the 2, 3 and 4 year old beside me, as if to ask her what we all planned on doing with them while I was taught how to straighten my hair with a hundred dollar straightener that she and I both knew she was going to try her darnedest to make me buy once I saw how FABULOUS! I looked with my ironed out tresses. She quickly lost interest in me.
I picked up my self-esteem (and my two year old) and on we went. The next kiosk had a Russian sounding guy who couldn't straighted my hair for me but was going to give me pearly whites to rival those heavenly pearly gates! He thrust the leaflet in my hand and asked me if I wanted fabulous teeth. I agreed that I did and flashed him my best train-tracked metal-filled braces top-and bottom- grin and he asked me to come back when my braces were off and he'd whiten me up then. I told him it'd be next summer and he said he looked forward to it. Alrighty then!
My next attacker was a woman who wanted me to choose a hair extension that would be FABULOUS! (again!) for holiday up-do's. I'm not sure if she noticed that my hair is all the way down my back and I didn't exactly need to spend top dollar on something I already had but she gave it her best shot.
Next was a guy who asked me if I was happy with my cell phone company and I told him I wasn't - and that he was my cell phone company. We all laughed, I made sure my three toddlers were still with me and not engaging in some business at a kiosk and we kept walking.
By the time we got to the coffee place, a woman had tried to get me to buy stuff that would clear my skin 'once and for all' and that one bugged me because what exactly was she trying to say? Another wanted to sell me a sparkly cover for my cell phone and the last one wanted to smother me with essential oils so that I'd be soft and smell good.
What was SHE trying to say?
Most of them left me alone on my way back, except for the Russian who told me it wasn't too early to book my teeth whitening in the summer (no, but thanks, now I'll be paranoid until then) and we finally got to the playground. My kids took off to play and I sat there, thinking I could have just spend an easy thousand dollars in that short trip through the mall - and have great clear skin that smelled soft and would holistically heal me, straight hair, curly extensions, white teeth and a cool shiny cell phone cover for the cell phone whose company I'm not happy with. Not bad for a 5 minute stroll!
Women are bombarded with messages -on TV, at the mall, on billboards, in magazines and at the movies. Someone is always there to make us look better. And then we'll BE better. We see more than 3,000 ads per day and we don't even know it. Bumper stickers, papers, door-to-door and car leaflets, logos on sweaters and other clothing, not to mention TV, radio and internet ads. Hundreds of billions of dollars (some estimates say one thousand billion) a year is spent on advertising. And most commercials for women are about their personal appearance.
Most of the people at all those kiosks wanted to make me prettier. And two of the three kids with me are girls. My girls paid no attention to those mobbing me in these kiosks. For now. Scary to think of what their walk down the mall walkway will be when they are teens. And of my son? Will he expect perfection from his dates when he's older? When he expect perfection of himself? Will he be more worried about the shade of his teeth than the welfare of those around him?
I'm looking forward to summer, when our playtime will again be at the park and no-one will be stomp their way over to save me from my hideousness and decimate my wallet while doing so :)
Do you get tired of the never-ending messages that women are worth their weight in...their weight? And youthful good looks? Is it all getting to be too much or is this just life as we now know it? Where is the happy medium - or is there one?
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