All over the world, everywhere that you travel, there are different definitions of beauty and expectations that surround these definitions. Jordan is no different.
The expectations of beauty in Jordan are something that have taken me by surprise. While, as I have mentioned in a past post, there is no real expectation of skinny or thin, there are many others that may be perceived as just as bad, or worse. Here, women are expected to be cleanly shaven, everywhere, even though they are always covered. The difference between shaving in the States and shaving here is the expectation that women shave their arms here. I have always been insecure about the amount of hair that I have on my body, especially on my arms. Throughout the years, I have wrestled with shaving them and doing many other things, but I have always stopped before I did anything. However, here in Jordan almost all of the women shave their arms and it is expected that I do the same. At this time, I have grown up and I am very comfortable with who I am, but it is these little things that feed back into the insecurities of my teenage years. I know and I say on the outside and in public that 5alas, I will never shave my arms! It is those little voices in my head that sometimes surface and remind me of past insults and names that sent me spiraling as a teenager. Furthermore, along the lines of shaving, while women are supposed to shave everything, men are not. As I previously mentioned, Islam calls for women to be cleanly shaven and men to be hairy. Well, let me tell you, if I am going to be shaving everything, including my arms, the guy that I am with had better be cleanly shaven as well. That is not the case here though. While this does not apply to all men, many men do not shave in a timely fashion and appear very scraggly and unkempt at times.
Another expectation a woman’s make up and hair. Everyday, a woman is expected to wear full make-up and have her hair done. Every single day. I’m sorry, but I am not spending around an hour every single day to do my hair and make up. For what? For the unkempt guys? To make myself feel better? Why? Because I am changing my appearance and covering up who I really am…really?
The conversation that sparked this blog post was with one of my male Jordanian friends. As we were talking about plans for dinner and such he asked me why it is that foreigners here in Jordan try to look ugly by wearing “shitty” clothes and no make up? Initially, I was deeply offended and taken aback when I told him that while I may not wear a brand new outfit every single day or apply a layer of make up to my face everyday, I do not do that in America either. He could not understand why I would not do these things and asked me if I was trying to hide something or push someone/something away. At this point, I was very upset and I explained that I do not need to hide anything with make up and nor do I want to waste my time trying to make myself look different than how I really am. Additionally, I went on to explain that I am very comfortable with who I am and I believe that I do not need or want to change anything about myself or my appearance for anyone else. In fact, if I would attract the type of people who would like me more because I wear make up and such then yes, I am definitely trying to avoid them by not wearing any of it! I am not, as he so eloquently pointed out, trying to send a message that I don’t want anyone to get close, but I am sending the message that I love who I am and am not willing to compromise that for anyone.
There are different expectations and definitions of beauty all around the world. You can choose many different ways of approaching these expectations such as succumbing to them or rebelling against them. I don’t think that what I am doing is necessarily rebelling against the expectation of beauty in Jordan, but, I believe that I am being true to myself. It took me a long time to be okay with the way that I look and be okay with it and I’ll be damned if I am about to go back to that place. It was then that I put my foot down to bullies like these and threw expectations out the window. I defined beauty in my own way and I still believe that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. There is such a range of beauty and every single person is beautiful in one way or another. These expectations can sometimes be suffocating, especially in a nation that is based off of appearance. I refuse to drown beneath these expectations and instead, I will keep being myself and perpetuate my definition of beauty that is do and wear what makes you comfortable! You’re the one who has to live with yourself, you’re the one has to wake up and go to bed with yourself every night and if you cannot face yourself in the mirror without putting on a layer of mascara or cover up, you have other problems that need to be addressed. Be yourself.