willingness to suffer: no pain, no gain

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(Go Confidently In The Direction Of Your Dreams… And Do So With Absurdly Large Sunglasses)

“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

3 YEARS AGO: Pigs in a Blanket
4 YEARS AGO: Undoing



  1. It seems that most of the blogs in existence these days are merely postings about material things, and basically amount to a recycled image with a few words slapped under it. So I love that your blog always contains- gasp- authentic discourse. This post is outstanding (and so is the picture).

  2. I’ve never gotten caught up in that whole mess. I don’t want to suffer any more than I have and do on a daily basis. I won’t cram my feet into uncomfortable shoes or have body hair removed just because a youth-obsessed society tells me I should. I actually feel sorry for women who put on makeup before hiking or can’t run to the store without Spanx. Life is too short. If I’m not having fun, I ain’t gonna do it.

    And contrary to Cosmo and all the other fashion rags, I was still able to find a man and keep him happy in bed.

    1. Very well said! I wish more mothers imparted this idea to their daughters. Make-up and designer clothes are expensive. Not giving a damn is free, and pretty liberating as well.

  3. Love the post.. and love the picture of Abigail!

    When you have some free time, please post some pictures of all of you in fabulous NYC.. and the food!! ;)

  4. Sounds like you’re describing my bathtime during kindergarten. I have vivid memories of the pain from that brush, and my mom preaching “those who want to be beautiful must feel pain”. And what I really want to know: why the hell didn’t we have conditioner back then? You know, the untangling one?
    Instead both my mom and I got fed up with the whole thing and she had my hair cut back to a bob. I was horrified with the result and it took me years to grow my hair back. I chose pain over ugly hair, even at 8.

    Awesome glasses on miss Abbygail btw, she looks fierce!

  5. Your words are so true…and relevant today. This was a weekend of “pain” as we get ready to send eldest child off to college in two weeks. The pride/pain of helping him pack, watching him separate, feeling the nearly uncontrollable urge to tuck him right back in under my wing…but pushing it away and instead, urge him closer and closer to the edge of the nest. God it hurts. God it is the right thing to do.

    And the pain of buckling down with middle daughter, and force feeding her life choices and college applications. Letting her know that she is every bit as amazing and capable and brilliant as her brother – just different talents and learning styles…and I’ll begin urging her to take the leap out of the nest in just one short year.

    And keeping little one safe and sound as she heads in to 10th grade – one of the hardest times in life. The time when choices you make matter, and can screw up your future forever. Helping her keep her head on straight to continue to make the choices that will get her where she wants to be (running the universe).

    Yep – a painful weekend, full of luscious memory-making moments, bittersweet, super sweet, ridiculous teenager moments. I’m kind of exhausted, and happy to be at work today.

  6. Boy did I need that confirmation today! I just walked out on a man a few days ago who I spend 2 1/2 years with. He actually had the nerve to tell me that he is “better than me”. So I left even though it is a rough time for me in all aspects of life and I love him dearly. Thank you Dahling.

    1. Andrea,
      Please tell yourself that if anyone else every said to you “I’m better than you” that you would drop kick them to the curb. You need someone to love you not judge you.

  7. My mom didn’t know how to deal with my curly hair (not her genes) so I had short hair forever to avoid dealing with it, basically I just looked like a boy my whole childhood. Awful. I wonder if that’s part of why I’m so prone to avoid the tough choices now? Hrm.

  8. PS. I haven’t been there in YEARS but I instantly recognized this spot at the Bronx Zoo — hope you had a great time!

  9. I hope I’m not imparting that kind of advice to my daughter. I want her to know that she is beautiful as she is, no suffering required. If you feel you have to suffer for beauty then you haven’t accepted that which is beautiful about you just the way you are.

    1. Thank you for posting this. I think the idea that we have to suffer for beauty is antiquated and counter-productive.

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