opinion

Mia Freedman: "It's 2019 and I now feel bad about my eyelashes."

I feel bad about my eyelashes.

If ever there was a more absurd, embarrassing or privileged sentence written or sentiment felt, I’d like you to tell me about it – because I think I just won the Nobel Prize for Insufferability.

But I’ve been thinking about my eyelashes in bad ways – just in the background – and I’ve had a bit of an ah-ha moment about that, that I thought I should share. Because I’m hoping someone – anyone – will say “Oh! Me too!” and I’ll feel like less of a d*ck.

It started just a couple of months ago when I noticed that my eyelashes seemed thin. Thinner? Thinning? Yes, I think so. They just seem to have… thinned out. And maybe they’re shorter?

Watch: Mamamia road test magnetic eyelashes. Post continues after video.

Video by Mamamia

I dismissed this as just A Thing That Probably Happens As You Get Older like sheet marks staying on your face until lunchtime and hearing the words “I’d like to speak with the manager” coming out of your mouth when faced with unacceptable service. Do you have a feedback form please? I have some thoughts.

But then I kept noticing my thin eyelashes and I kept feeling bad about them. That was until a couple of days ago, when I realised exactly what had happened.

Beauty standards had changed over the past year or two and I missed the memo. Maybe you did too.

Now that eyelash extensions have become mainstream and I’m seeing them on women I know and women on Instagram, on newsreaders and celebrities (and obviously on Kardashians), my eyes have adjusted and what used to look a bit drag-queeny and overdone has become the new baseline in my subconscious for what eyelashes should look like.

Not what they can look like.

Not what they look like when you have extensions.

That’s not what I register when I look at them and then at my own face. My subconscious has tricked me into thinking this is what ‘normal’ eyelashes ‘should’ look like.

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This is what I’m talking about:

This is what I'm talking about. Image: Instagram/@ilashedbyimogen.

That's just one of the images I found when I searched #eyelashextensions on Instagram and got 9.4m results.

Our eyes do that when we see something enough times. They adjust and create a new normal. And it happens without you noticing.

As evidence, please consider Crocs, Birkenstocks, skinny jeans, baggy jeans, high-waisted jeans, socks with slides, slides, and t-shirts under dresses - so many things that looked stupid at first. But after enough exposure, your fashion tastes recalibrate until it looks normal and then desirable and then you're wearing Crocs. With socks.

And now beauty is the same. Inflated lips, frozen foreheads, prominent cheekbones… all things that once looked unusual or even silly are now wallpaper. Utterly unremarkable. Here are the steps.

  1. Oh goodness, look at that, how weird.
  2. That looks good.
  3. It’s so normal I don’t notice it.
  4. I look wrong without it.
  5. I need to do it too.
  6. [insert eyelash extensions here]

I’ve been reading Jia Tolentino’s book of essays called Trick Mirror, and in one chapter she writes about the process of ‘female optimisation’. That’s what she identifies as the historical female desire for self-improvement. The people buying self-help books? Not men. The people paying a fortune to change their face and bodies with needles and scalpels? Not men. The people buying endless skincare and makeup products in search of youth and beauty? Yep. Women.

Tolentino points out that so many of the things that women used to ‘have’ to do to appear attractive or even acceptable for men (hair removal, wearing make-up etc) have now been reframed and remarketed as ‘self-care’ and something we do for ourselves. Neat trick, marketers.

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Because when I’m in Sephora or Mecca, I do feel like I’m indulging myself, taking care of myself, treating myself. I love nothing more than buying beauty products and it is for me.

Listen: Mia Freedman opens up her very glittery beauty bag for our podcast, You Beauty. Post continues after audio. 

My partner certainly gives no sh*ts whatsoever that I have a new serum or lip tint. If I asked him about my eyelashes he would be entirely perplexed. I can confidently say I reckon he’s never noticed that I have eyelashes.

And until recently, neither had I, really. But now that the universal standard for female eyelashes seems to have titled towards expensive and time consuming extensions (because mascara and eyelash curlers apparently weren’t enough), so too has newly fertile ground for our insecurity emerged.

Instead of seeing how surrounded we are by a society that makes us feel less-than, we just feel... less-than. We make the political personal.

Which sucks a little bit, yes? But is good to be aware of.

I think I'm going to go with this look:

 

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puberty isn’t over

A post shared by Sofie Petersen (@sofiepeterseen) on


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