Another follower and I were discussing the futility of make-up at the milonga. These days I can manage to keep mascara and eyeliner on - everything else is gone in about half an hour. So I don't bother with much else. Plus, when dancing close embrace, I can't imagine leaders would be all that thrilled to share my make-up. Every once in awhile I catch a glimpse of my reflection and I ready myself to flinch. But then I realize there's rarely anything to flinch at. I look how I'm supposed to look. I'm happy with the flushed face and freckles. Why shouldn't I be, right?
It's only a surprise to me because I have more than a dozen years of training tell me that I should be unhappy. I'm a refugee from the beauty industry. Almost two decades as a makeup artist, more than ten years in the skin care field, and a year as a trainer. When I started in the industry, the most fundamental sales technique was instilling a constant and pervasive sense of dissatisfaction in clients. You're never young enough, smooth enough, toned enough, soft enough, radiant enough. The core "take away" from this (and so many other consumer industries) - You Are Never Enough - not as you are. You will always need something more to attain beauty. In fact, beauty is external to you - not something you are, but something you might be able "to get." (And right now we have a gift with purchase!)
When I was in the business, I was what's only half-jokingly referred to as a beauty junkie. A lemming. Whatever was new and hot, I had to have it. At the same time my own satisfaction with my looks, my worth, plummeted. So I worked harder. I blew away my sales goals. I ran up debt to fill the ever widening chasm between who I thought I was and who I thought I should be.
At my worst, there was very little of "me" that anyone could actually see from the outside. My hair was blond (or sometimes very red), I wore acrylic nails, false eye lashes.. you name it. Even when I left the industry and started working in the healthcare field, my picture of myself didn't heal. Now I'm a smart cookie. I "knew" better than that - I just didn't "feel" better. Intellectually I knew my worth wasn't wrapped up in my looks or my possessions - but it still felt like it was. My "self" was in retreat.
What I never expected was that my "self" just needed to dance. Dancing tango didn't just give me a way to "get beautiful" - by losing weight (though it did), improving my poise (also did) - but dancing tango made me feel like I was already beautiful when I arrived. That it wasn't external to me - but part of me and everyone else. Sounds saccharine I know. This should be on Oprah, shouldn't it?
I still have the ongoing battle in my closet over what to wear - what doesn't fit anymore, what doesn't look quite right on me. That's human. I fuss. I still fret over my looks. Then I go to the milonga and let it go. I'm too busy dancing to give it the energy. The gap between who I think I am, and who I want to be, is narrowing, and I'm dancing over the gap.