Late last week I spent a night sitting at a bar sipping equal parts water and wine chatting up a couple girlfriends and our favorite local bartender. If you’re a woman, you probably already know where this is going. It’s probably happened to you before, and probably more than once. I was able to enjoy around forty minutes of comfort before viola, a man decided to hit on me. Getting hit on is not a bad thing, but all women have our limits on exactly how we like to be hit on. This is probably very tricky for men to navigate, and I can appreciate that without apologizing for it. I can appreciate it probably takes some courage and a little whiskey to be able to tell a girl you find her “really attractive”. But it doesn’t take any effort at all to notice dimples, freckles, a gapped smile, or a “nice figure”. It takes eyeballs. I don’t really care about your vision, and I’m trying to not care about being pretty. I am more than pretty.
To prove this point to myself, I decided to model a MOMNI shoot sans my normal foundation, bronzer, mascara make up routine. In front of the camera I felt a brighter spotlight than ever before. I anticipated my disappointment in the photos to come, and straightened my shoulders to the back drop anyway. Luckily, MOMNI shoots are held in the shop where I already feel comfortable and surrounded by women I know and trust. Everyone told me I didn’t need make up, I always look beautiful, wearing makeup didn’t matter; things that I already knew but didn’t live by every day.
Getting the photos back did not make me feel pretty, like most shoots do. Instead I felt bare, natural, vulnerable, and a little bit brave. It felt like a brand new kind of honesty to put in front of everyone else the person that I see in the mirror every day. I don’t need to go makeup-less everyday to feel more than just “pretty”, but doing so is a satisfying reminder.
So next time you’re a bar blushing under compliments of men that only make you go “ehh”, remember it’s okay to refuse their flattery for being pretty. The part of you that is pretty is so much smaller than the parts that are intelligent, interesting, independent, etc, and it doesn’t make you who you are.
Written by Mara Strobel-Lanka. Photos by Stefanie Keeler.