Published in the Martinsburg Journal, May 6, 2018

Sounding the Alarm

I wake up every morning knowing that today I will need to prove that I am

not stupid just because I’m a woman. Being female in America, no matter

what your qualifications are, any respect you get has to be re-affirmed

every single day, sometimes with the same people you had to prove it to

yesterday and the day before.

Rather than demanding, at the least, to be revered for incubating and

birthing our “products of conception,” I see women of all ages reverse 

mortgage their value by using billions of dollars’ worth of “products of

perfection” to make them look better. These items never go on sale and

never diminish in demand. They also never enhance our leverage. In

fact, they contribute to the subliminal assumption that women are artful

delicate creatures who just want to dress up like Mommy while only

pretending to be smart, capable, and strong like Daddy.

But it’s a dead giveaway. Rather than creating beauty, the image that gets

transmitted is that of a person who stared herself down in a bathroom

mirror, didn’t like what she saw, and tried to change her contours, colors,

and complexion with paints, wands, glue and brushes. She has become a

mirage, a façade with no real voice, muscle, or backbone. Any potential

power goes uncaptured, much like an array of solar panels amid a dense

forest of tall trees. The irony is that, in the entire history of human

relationships, not one woman has ever been rejected because her cuticles

were untrimmed, her stilettos were not high enough, or her eyelashes were

too short to successfully bat out a proper come-hither-look.

The last time I wore makeup, it was to get a professional head-shot. I

relented “because otherwise the lighting will make you look washed-out.”

The wax, the fragrance, the dusty but oily layers, all combined, made the

photo shoot feel more like a circus clown audition. Afterward, I went to my

neighborhood coffee shop, wondering if any of the familiar staff would

comment on my improved face. No one noticed. I made a quick stop into

their unisex restroom before I left. The flush was not successful, evidently

from a previous more substantial user. With the water quickly rising, I

grabbed the plunger and began to give the bowl enough CPR to keep the

floor dry. As I felt the now-murky liquid splashing onto my feet, I glimpsed

my painstakingly-painted face in the mirror, grimacing while vigorously

unclogging someone else’s business from a grungy public toilet.

My reflection told our story; looking great, but then being rudely surprised

by plumbing problems that we may not even be responsible for, but have to

fix just to save our own shoes. The real story is that when it’s a plumbing

system of another kind that we should be able to fix—our own bodies—we

are first ordered to obey the laws of men. Those are the same people we

have to convince, every day, that we’re smart enough to make our own

decisions. To accomplish that, looking great will get you nowhere.

So it might be better to replace those glue-on plastic fingernails with some

talons sharpened into claws. That’s the kind of power tool you’ll need if

you want to climb the ladder that leads to respect and equality, or just hang

on to what you’ve already got. Those false eyelashes will only cloud the

laser-sharp vision you’ll need to escape the long arm of the law, once the

government takes away your Pills.

As mothers, aunts, sisters or simply your friends, we can only sound the

alarm. It won’t make us popular with you, but here’s the reality you need to

see; don’t waste your time perfecting yourselves in the mirror. What you

should be doing is figuring out how to save yourselves from a flood of

legislation you can’t outrun, especially when you’re wearing those cute

high-heeled shoes.