Powerlessness and Physical Beauty

Well folks... sometimes things don't go the way you want them to. You can try and try, but sometimes, sh*t just don't line up, and you have to make a choice: do I keep trying to change this? Or do I let it go and go on with my life? Sometimes, you gotta take the second one.

Have you ever had to watch a friend self-destruct, or stood by while a parent married someone awful and then let them destroy him or her, or watched a relative drink themselves past the point of salvation? Yeah. It's a nightmare, and it's one we all, at one time or another, have to live through. I'm sure you know what I'm talking about, and maybe you know what it's like, during the weeks or months or years leading up to that realization that you'll never be able to save someone from themselves, or be able to contain the damage a mistake you made wrought, or change someone so that relating to them is easier for you. During that time, when stuff is falling apart but you can't stop it, sometimes you feel helpless and guilty, and that's a terrible combination. Think Atreyu trying to pull Artax out of the Swamp of Eternal Sadness: "Don't give up!" And the damn horse gives up, and you're left to grieve your loss, the one you both are and are not responsible for. You led Artax into the Swamp, but once Artax had given up there was nothing you could do or say to save him. You're forced to watch as something you love dearly sinks slowly out of sight while you cry and plead and haul on the reins until it's gone.

Where's a luck dragon when you need one?

I noticed, as I've said before, a correlation between feeling angry and wanting to break the experiment. But in the tumult of the last few weeks, I noticed something else: the more helpless I felt, the stronger the urge to go buy stuff became.


As I've gotten older, I've become more and more comfortable with claiming my power in the world. I apologize less, put up with less b.s. in the name of keeping the peace, and feel far less inclined to buy clothes that I feel are trendy but uncomfortable. Basically, I feel more comfortable in my skin, more capable, as the years go by. But I felt small and powerless as Artax sank into the mud, and I reeeaaaally wanted to go out and buy a bunch of new clothes and makeup. I even found myself looking for makeup to buy at CVS, just to feel better. I gave myself permission to break the experiment, because this, I reasoned, was an emergency.

But then, while looking at shelves and shelves of reds, mauves, greens, browns and whatever else, the darndest thing happened. I suddenly thought to myself: "I only want to buy this because I feel bad. But if I spend this money, all I'm doing is changing my physical appearance in a way that no one will notice in order to make me feel more in-control of my life-- and I'll be out $12."

Suddenly, I had absolutely no desire to buy anything. Once I'd named the monster, all its power was gone. I walked out of CVS with not a damn thing I didn't need.

Is there a correlation between women being in an inferior position in Western culture, and our desire to be "beautiful?" I may not be able to make that guy quit creeping me out, or avoid the sense that I need to overcompensate in the board room because men just don't take me seriously (don't fight me on this, I know because I worked at a corporate law company in NYC), but by golly I can do my makeup really well, and I can dress so that I'm using my beauty to get what I want anyway.

Is this true for you? I think it might be for me.

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