A recent Zoom meeting with a longtime gal pal.

Friend: How are you?

Me: Practicing “Back up, you’re too close!” Preparing to shop.

Friend: Hey, I want to practice “Back up!”

Me: OK. With me… 1, 2, 3, “Back up!”

Friend: Otherwise?

Me: I’m watching COVI D-19 reshape gender behaviors we once thought were intractable.

Friend: Like what?

Me: No outside pressure to wear makeup, pantyhose, or foot-maiming heels. Oh, and just try to grope someone on ZOOM!

Friend: Tough to be handsy on a Zoom meeting.

Me: To prep for a business meeting all we have to do now is a quick comb, brush our teeth, check for boogers, and we’re ready. Just like the “boys” … or whoever identifies that way.

Friend: I am seeing women on Zoom who pre-COVID wouldn’t be caught dead without their “face” on…

Me: I got the memo regarding the consumer makeup con in high school, and learned to go “natural” and like it, early.

Friend: I didn’t get that memo. I feel embarrassed if I don’t at least have eyeliner and lipstick on. Don’t judge me. Wait. I’ve seen you with makeup on.

Me: Sure, and I don’t judge women who wear makeup. It’s not a personal flaw to be embarrassed about how we look, or more accurately, how we don’t look. American commerce depends on our insecurities. I relate to makeup like “drag.” Like a lot of women, I was also raised to be passive, decorative, and inconsequential.

Friend: Hmm. Inconsequential…

Me: I know, right? And my parents didn’t intentionally “effeminate” me… they didn’t want me to be ostracized or be deemed too masculine.

Friend: What? “Effeminate?” A verb?

Me: You know how we learn to not “emasculate” men? (Poor guys have impossible gender roles, too.) Girls get “effiminated.”

Friend: OK, yes, and…?

Me: If a guy displays “feminine” he’s insulted as “effeminate.” Women and girls are “effeminated.” Not girly enough? Sorry! Forget it if we aren’t white, young, straight, petite, submissive… I shaved, plucked and starved myself, and yet, I was not quite perfect, ever, although I worked quite a bit on-camera. Then boom! We become even more invisible if we’re past 40.

Friend: It’s hard to let gender customs go.

Me: Over the years we’ve been warned to never “let yourself go.”

Friend: Sure… Isn’t it odd how “letting yourself go” can have a positive spin, like not being so uptight? Then there’s the appearance side of “letting yourself go.” As in no makeup, and not dealing with hair! I do not miss shaving my legs. But I don’t think I’ll ever like those foot-long chin hairs.

Unison: EWW!!

Friend: And no nostril or ear hair either!

Unison: EWWWW!!!

Me: I think some new lyrics to “Let it Go” from “Frozen” are perfect now: Snow white hair, snow glows on my head tonight,

Not a hair dye to be seen. An order of isolation, and it looks like I’m the queen! Let it go, let it go. Dah, dah, dah… it’s not done.

Friend: Not so much.

Me: I’m Norwegian, like Elsa. I’m built to last and store fat like a whale, so I can get our people across the Atlantic to the New World without starving.

Friend: It’s sick that we think all women should be skinny. It used to be that plump women were a sign of wealth. (sighs)

Me: Yup. I stopped entering small-ass contests a long time ago… I meant to ask you if you noticed one of my favorite parts in “Beauty Bites Beast,” the documentary not the book.

Friend: And that would be… ?

Me: Yudit Sidikman demonstrates some “no touch” self-defense in one of her classes in Israel, teaching Orthodox women who are not allowed to touch men.

Friend: How do you do that?

Me: She spits in her hands, then fakes going after their faces with her saliva-loaded hands!

Unison: EWWWWWW!

Me: Who wouldn’t back off? Then, she demonstrates blowing forcefully into the predator’s eyes!

Friend: More tools!

Me: And with masks, we don’t even need to smile when we say, “Back up, you’re too close.”

Friend: “Back up, you’re too close.” Wow. That felt good.

Me: Too bad it took the fear of death by a virus to have a socially sanctioned right and responsibility to have a personal and safe space as females. 


Ellen Snortland has written Consider This… for the Pasadena Weekly for decades. Write her at beautybitesbeast.com.