Everyone has had that dream. The lights are so bright that they are nearly blinding, and you almost have to squint as you walk into your school. It happens in slow motion. Everyone turns and looks at you, hair falling over their shoulders like waterfalls. Their mouths drop open in shock. They raise their hands and point at you. They begin to laugh. You look down. You’re completely naked. I think I have had that dream almost every year right before the first day of school, and did not leave the habit behind once I started college. The fear of being exposed seems to be something that stays with me like the mole on my neck. I wish I could say that this feeling exists only in this specific dream and does not carry over into reality, but that would be a lie. I get the exact same feeling every time I leave my dorm and realize that I am not wearing any earrings. My stomach drops when I look down at my wrist and see that it is bare of gold bracelets. Even when I am already running late to class, I will turn around and run back up that communal hall to get my earrings and bracelets. Why? It is not that I worry that people will point and laugh at me when they see I didn’t put on any jewelry. But for me, leaving the house bare of jewelry gives me the same unshakable queasiness as leaving the house fully naked (not that I have ever experienced the latter outside of nightmares.) And it is not just bare wrists and ear lobes that give me this feeling of nakedness. I cannot leave the house without makeup on. You may think I am being dramatic or fibbing to make this blog seem more dramatic. But I am serious - even when I went rafting a month ago, I wore waterproof eyeliner and mascara. Even if I am just going to class and am wearing sweats, or going to cheer practice and will be in a hot gym all day, I will always put on eye makeup and some blush. Only recently have I begun to notice that the majority of college girls do not do this. In my 9 AMs, most girls are bare-faced and don’t seem to have any problem with it. I would feel so naked. So exposed. As if I was on display. It’s not like I have bad skin and need to cover up loads of pimples. But I simply feel naked when there isn’t mascara on my eyelashes. I wonder where this stemmed from. Has it been passed down through generations of Southern women who never left the house looking undignified? At her funeral, I lost count of the amount of people who bragged on my grandma by saying “She always looked so classy.” I’m not saying people did not also brag about her intelligence or cooking or sweet nature, but my grandma never left the house not looking her best. My mom is the exact same way. She always has her hair curled beautifully (the higher the hair, the closer to God) and makeup done perfectly. She always dresses in the cutest outfits. I am not bringing this up to make it sound like I resent the two of them for valuing their outward appearances. Just like them, I feel my most confident when I know that I look pretty. Is there a link to failing quizzes and wearing leggings everyday to class? I’m not sure, but for me, I always feel like I am putting my best foot forward by looking my best. Does this make me self-centered? Vain? Insecure? I’m not sure. In the South, there are certain expectations for how women should look and behave. Women exist to be admired, to be judged. Going to the grocery store is a beauty contest. If you don’t look put together, then you must be a mess. I can’t help but wonder if these expectations have become so burrowed down inside me that I am not even aware that I fall victim to them. If that is the case, will I ever be able to leave the house feeling naked? For now, today, I will try. Even if it is just to class and back, my eyelashes will go untouched. And maybe I will not be so afraid of what that might expose.
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