Torturing Ourselves in the Name of Pretty
Torturing Ourselves in the Name of Pretty
woman shaving

“Pain is beauty.” It’s a common answer to many of the things that women do to themselves in the name of looking pretty. From corsets and bustles in days of yore to the five inch Louboutins of today, it seems that women will put themselves through anything, including enduring hours of pain, to look beautiful. Are there benefits to these rituals, and is there any way to make them hurt less? How can you be a sexy vixen and be *gasp* comfortable at the same time?

While I could write a dissertation on torturous rituals of the past (hello, organ squishing anyone?), I would rather focus on the here and now. After all, there are still plenty of painful and ludicrous things that we as women do in the name of being hot and sexy. Maybe 100 years from now our current rituals will seem barbaric.


Sky high stilettos: Any fashionable lady knows that a good pair of heels makes your legs look longer and lifts up your butt, creating the illusion of perkiness. In reality, it only takes about three inches to achieve this effect. For a long time, this was a perfectly acceptable heel height. These days, many women walk around in shoes that could double as weapons if you ever needed to stake a vampire. When celebrities like the Kardashian sisters walk around in five inch stilettos, people follow suit. Who will forget Victoria Beckham’s custom made Loubis that she wore to the Royal Wedding last year? (Okay, I’m sure most of you were probably paying attention to Kate or even Pippa, but as a fashion fanatic, it’s my job to evaluate the shoes of one of Britain’s most fashionable people.) While pregnant, Posh sported 8 inch platform stilettos and looked like she could topple over any second.

Much like the corsets of Victorian times, sky high stilettos run the risk of permanently damaging your body. By putting undue pressure on the balls of your feet, these shoes can damage your hips, back, tendons and knees. What’s more, a lot of the celebrity copycats can’t walk in them, and instead teeter back and forth. I fear that they may fall down. There are things that can be done to minimize damage such as alternating heel heights, adding orthotic in-soles to shoes and stretching before and after you wear your shoes. After all, there is no need to suffer for beauty.


Waxing: I am not sure exactly when the norm in the United States became that everyone needed to be completely free of hair everywhere but on their head. But it is. So for those of us who were unfortunate enough to have been born brunette, the preferred method of de-hairing is waxing. The results are cleaner and last longer than shaving, so you don’t end up with a permanent 5-o-clock shadow under your arms. Whomever decided that it would be a great idea to put scalding hot wax on your skin and then use it to rip all of the hair out by the roots was a sick individual indeed. However, they should be praised for creating such a long lasting method of hair removal.

Fortunately, waxing isn’t as painful when done by a professional, unless you consider public nudity to be painful (although the only one looking at you is your waxer, and she sees cellulite all the time. Relax). Make sure that you exfoliate really well before and after and pop an ibuprofen before your appointment. Oh, and do not schedule your appointment the week before Aunt Flo is due to pop in. Hormone fluctuations in the body can make for an extra painful waxing session. Also, properly exfoliate and moisturize post waxing to minimize the risk of ingrown hairs. And stick it out. The more often you wax, the easier it is to endure.


Shape-wear: Spanx are the blessing/curse of modern day fashion. These lovely undies can camouflage any perceived imperfection and can smooth away lumps in a hurry. If you are a bridesmaid and you don’t want your little beer bulge to make cameos in your best bud’s wedding pics, slap on a pair of Spanx under your dress and you’re good to go! Beware though. Shapewear is uncomfortable, binding and can be a pain to get into and out of. On a recent trip to a shall remain un-named lingerie store, I was trying on a shaping slip with a built in bra. Much to my chagrin, it was near impossible to get out of. Not wanting to endure a walk of shame to the cash register and pay for the garment while I was stuck in it, I called the fitting room assistant to come help me take it off. Talk about complicated.

Like corsets and girdles, shape-wear can cause health problems if not worn correctly. If you are wearing the wrong size, it can constrict your breathing, making it harder to get enough oxygen. To make the most of shape-wear, go to a reputable lingerie store and get measured. Ask questions, and by all means, try it on before you buy it. Wearing the wrong size will make you extremely uncomfortable and ruin your good time. Also, there is so much variety, that it is possible to get less complicated pieces and achieve the same results.


We as women don’t have to endure so much suffering in the name of beauty. While I am not planning on giving up any of my painful beauty rituals anytime soon, being smart about them will help prevent permanent injury or possible infections. Like most things in life, I think that painful beauty rituals should be done to improve confidence and self-esteem and not to attract a date. If you can’t walk in stilettos, don’t wear them! Be happy and confident in a pair of flats! In the end, it’s your decision. Do what you want. But remember that beauty doesn’t always have to be painful.


Alaina Brandenburger is a Colorado native and a pretty well rounded person. She enjoys people watching, sports, fashion and all things pop culture. A lifelong writer, Alaina likes to share her opinions with others and hopes that they are entertained. She is currently drifting through life observing, musing and enjoying the ride. You can read more of her work here, and follow her on Twitter.

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  1. marlie graves
    Posted June 14, 2012 at 9:47 pm | Permalink

    Congrats, mama. I’m 66 now, and I let mine go gray about 17 years ago. When it grows out a little more, why not think about cutting it short. Even if you like to wear it longer, the change could be fun. I wore mine real short for years, but since I retired, one of my goals is to grow it long like the way it was in the 70’s. And it looks fabulous, too. P.S. You don’t have to act your age.

  2. Lois A. McNulty
    Posted June 14, 2012 at 3:52 pm | Permalink

    How about hair coloring?

    Here’s a little essay I just wrote yesterday- to myself. I share it with you!

    I love the color of my hair. It took me years to find it. It’s a combination of two colors, actually- Warm Brown and Medium Auburn, from a company I found online. They send me little vials of powder, ammonia and peroxide-free, which I mix with warm water and shake to form a mousse. I get a lot of compliments on the color, at least I do in the week or so just after I apply it, before my gray roots start peeking through again. “It’s so natural,” people say.

    Natural. Is it really? Is it natural for a 62-year-old woman to have “warm brown/medium auburn” hair? It occurred to me recently that I am not fooling anyone with my hair color. It’s not as if people look at my vibrant head of hair and think. “She must be 37!” I may not act my age, but the rest of me looks 62.

    So I have decided to stop using the hair color that took me years to perfect, and which brings such compliments, and which, I might add, doesn’t even cost much. I want my hair to be its own natural color which, by now, is actually 100% white.
    Freedom is my biggest motivation for going without hair color from now on. Freedom from the chore of doing it, for sure, and from the worry about how “bad” my roots might be at any point in time. But a deeper freedom, I hope, will come of this.
    That freedom, though, will not be an instant reward. It’s easier said than done to “go gray.” There’s the growing-out phase I will have to get through. Right now I have an inch or so of white roots. The rest of my hair, about a foot of it, is still permanently colored. I’m not willing to chop off the auburn-colored parts to leave only the short natural roots. So I will have to live with white roots and auburn ends for many months- maybe a few seasons. During that time, I will risk looking a bit unkempt. I know that people might think I have lost it. Lost my vanity- lost my mind? I hope they won’t notice, or care, but I will have to dredge up all the humility I have in case they do.
    Every day, my natural color asserts itself a bit more boldly, and I am excited about the color my hair is becoming. In a while, I will look as I am supposed to look, and that will be freeing. Now I suppose I will have to work on acting my age.

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