“Suffer for beauty” my mother used to tell me after baths. She shut the lid on the toilet, and I’d sit, facing the wall as she knelt behind me, combing tangles from my long curly hair. “Hold still,” she’d say, yanking.
“But, it hurts!” I’d whine when she tried to rake through a angry knot.
“Get used to it, honey.” Everything has a price. Everything’s a trade off. That’s what mothers do, in their own ways. They set us up for life… in a powder room.
We’re reminded that we always have choices. I could keep my long mane, choosing to grin and bear the knots, or I could chop it off and look like Fozzie Bear. Since there’s always an out, the question becomes for what are we willing to suffer? For what are we willing to stay in, even if it hurts?
We learn to tolerate certain things because in the end we hope they’re worth it, or at least good for us. There’s the gynecologist, of course. The dentist for the promise of a whiter smile, longass religious ceremonies with the promise of a whiter afterlife. Beyond health, there’s beauty to consider: an eyebrow threader, your Russian waxer, the heels that give you blisters but make your calves look as if they’d been designed for admiration; we’re not even going to discuss the cinching/smoothing/suffocating factor of an aggressive pair of Spanx. There’s dieting.
Early on, we’re taught that we shouldn’t avoid our fears. We should be brave and face them, even if it means we’ll suffer a bit. “The longer you wait, the worse it’ll get.” This sing-song advice applies to deadlines, confrontation, and rashes. It serves as motivation to pick up the phone and admit “I was wrong, and I’m sorry” before things go too long and get too weird for repair. You can’t avoid and bury your problems because they’ll fester. It’s true for our problems, yes, but why doesn’t anyone ever tell us it’s the same for our dreams?
To pursue our dreams we need to accept that we’re going to suffer.
We need to take chances and realize there’s likely to be rejection and disappointments along the way, but the longer we sit one out and avoid the suffering, keeping close to comfort and familiarity without risks, the more our time is running out.
What I’m trying to say is something I’ve said before. It’s understandable, wanting to play it safe, keep things status quo. Normal. Safe. What you know. But there always comes a time when you’ll have to ask, is this worth it? If this is something I really want, I have to face the shit out of it. “The only way out is through.” You have to walk right up to what you’re so scared of and at least put your pinky toe in the waters. Begin to entertain more than the possibility of it coming true. Map out a plan, then realize pain will follow. When you’re ready for it, expecting it, knowing it’s going to suck, it’s never as bad as you’d imagined. Our mothers are right. We do have to suffer for beauty.
2 YEARS AGO: The Devil, the Lover, and My Friends