A lot of emphasis is placed on Matric Farewells/dances/balls…well at least in my community a lot of emphasis was placed on them. It was like your societal debut, could you be the well turned-out woman everyone one else seemed to be so effortlessly? The archaic and patriarchal reverb so apparent in these events is frightening and when it was my turn to get all fluffed up I felt in a real bind for a number of reasons.

My family, unlike the community I grew up in, does not place huge emphasis on these things, on the contrary, we were actively discouraged from seeing too much value in “ridiculous societal shows of money and materialism”. Nevertheless I was still a 17 year old girl, and while my friends shopped around for exquisite gowns and professional hair and makeup artists, my mother just asked a family friend to make a dress. I longed for some of the material attention I knew I would never get in my household, for value and financial reasons.

I thought I made peace with how we were taught to operate as a family, and all I requested was a plain grey dress… somehow this request was denied, and I ended up with some hideous homemade pink chiffon number that I couldn’t stand (why the family that supposedly rejects societal shows of materialism still felt the need to dress their daughter in pink is an irony I only saw later on, and why a product of this family felt unable to stand up for herself is also something fairly telling).

I have curly hair that is generally unkempt and at that stage was at an awkward in between length stage… On the day i decided i would straighten my hair. big mistake. when it was all done i looked like a had a helmut on. my thick hair, now coiffed to the ridiculous extreme, was straight and stiff and looked as fake as a blond whig might have. I had to do my own makeup, which was a mistake on many fronts too… I don’t really wear makeup and thus again managed to make myself look entirely unlike the me I knew, with really bad pink eye shadow to match my really bad pink dress. All the other girls were glowing brown from weeks on tanning beds, and my pale, practically translucent skin stood out more than usual.

I hated everything and felt truly truly ugly in the moment I thought I had to feel most beautiful. If this was only a matric farewell, I daren’t imagine the horrors a wedding could bring.

After being at the dance itself for a while, I relaxed a bit and chucked off my uncomfy shoes, went to the bathroom, ran my hands under some water, put them through my hair and re-activated my natural kink, and wiped off some of the make-up (couldn’t take the dress off unforts)… I looked at myself and made a promise that never again would I feel that to be beautiful I had to conform to others’ standards of style and beauty, and try and be something I’m not.

Today I like myself, my pale skin, unkempt curly hair, make-up-less freckled face and down to earth style. When I try the least and feel most comfortable, its when I feel the best about myself, and get the most compliments. If I ever attend a formal function these days I go with exactly what I want to go with… no more being hood-winked into pink chiffon. Counter-hegemonic beauty is totally the rage 😉

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