The Double Standards of “Beauty”

“You’re getting a lot of sun there, you should protect yourself!” the man said and looked at my bare arm. “I lived on the beach my whole life, refused to wear a t-shirt or sunscreen, and I paid for it with cancer now” he continued, pointing to a spot on his arm and then went on to tell me about the twelve hour surgery he’d had as a consequence.

“Right, yes, thank you, that’s important for sure” I replied, thinking that, yes, I guess that’s kind of him to care about my health…and also, it’s not like I live on the beach…I’m just out walking…but yeah good point, still.🚶🏽

We chit-chatted a bit more, and he came back to the topic: “You pay for it all when you get older, you know. And as a woman especially, you’d want to stay away from wrinkles, right!?”. Big smile on his face, wink-wink.

And I half-smiled back: “OK, yeah…thanks, have a nice day now” and started walking again. Because I just didn’t have any spoons left for smalltalk like that. But as I moved away, in my head I went back and continued the conversation.

“How do you mean?” I’d ask.

“What do you mean?” he’d reply.

“That as a woman especially, I wouldn’t want to get wrinkles?”

“Oh. Well, you know. As a woman…you wouldn’t want to get wrinkly.”

“How do you mean?” I’d ask, again.

“What do you mean?” he’d reply, again.

“If wrinkles were really a problem, why would that problem be bigger for me, as a woman, than for you, as a man?”

(Of course I know where this all comes from but I’d want to hear his process around it)

“Because…it’s more important for a woman to…look beautiful? I guess?”

He would start to get bored now.

“How do you mean…?”



It’s just so boring, all. That as a woman the prospect of wrinkles should worry me – essentially (I assume) because I should avoid at all times to…become “unattractive”? And specifically, of course, unattractive to the men around me. 😴

Anyway. This all had me think about my relationship to wrinkles and aging and how I surely have more wrinkles now than before coming here – if it’s the Californian sun or just the years passed or both I don’t know…and it DOES take some getting used to but…the heck. If we talk about “feeling attractive”, to ourselves or others, the times I feel the most happy in my own body and skin are when I’m in the forest, or in the ocean, or as I’ve learnt over the last few months, in the desert. It has then so little to do with how anyone else sees me and everything to do with feeling truly alive. The beauty industry and all that comes with it just such crap.* Basically.

*Not dismissing anyone’s ‘wanting to feel beautiful’ here, just thinking about all these assumptions and conclusions…and the big business-industry which benefits from it all.

Me, happily minding my own business in the desert. Photo: J. Holmberg, 2021
Also me, walking in LA, thinking about beauty standards and unsolicited advice about my skin (fresh out from shot #2 of covid vaccine!). Photo: J. Holmberg, 2021

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s