Society is obsessed with the beauty industry and its ideals, like makeup, hair, nails, nice clothes, and thinness. In St. Lucia, this obsession is no less than in the rest of the world, and it is most evident when you come home from being abroad. It is not uncommon that the first comment someone will make to you is about your weight. If you’ve put on weight, people will comment that you must have been eating fast food daily. Or if you’ve come back “too thin,” in their opinion you weren’t fed at all. Too big or too skinny in their eyes it’s a catch–22 that cannot be escaped disguised behind words of concern for your health and appearance.
When I first went away to college, I was tall and slim. People thought I could be a model, but what they didn’t know was that I suffered from severe depression. As a result, like most people fighting depression, I gained weight; I wasn’t the same slender girl that had left for college. Still, despite gaining weight, I found myself physically and emotionally at my healthiest as I completed my second master’s degree.
When I returned home, everyone was shocked. My neighbours knew me as a skinny young woman who had left for university. They couldn’t comprehend that while living in the U.S. I didn’t sit around eating fast food but fought for my mental and physical well-being. It was hard for them to imagine that I was healthier in my last two years living in California than in St. Lucia. People were so consumed by my weight gain that it dominated the conversations. I am not alone in my experience. I have friends who lost and gained weight subjected to these invasive comments. As a society, I wonder why someone’s weight gain or lack thereof is anyone’s business?
There’s this assumption that they’re only asking because they care, but I believe they’re asking because they are superficial. People want you to conform to societal expectations to have that hourglass figure, meat on your bones but a tiny waist. Cover yourself in makeup, plump up your lips, draw on your eyebrows, straighten your hair, and wear fashionable clothes. But after all that time spent creating yourself in their image, they call you superficial instead. Remove it all, and they think you don’t care. Except this is all because of my health, right? What do my nails, hairstyle, makeup, or even my choice of dress have to do with my health if it’s not my choice? I choose to run down for a quick stop at the shops or petrol station in my house clothes. As much as I love makeup, I won’t put it on just to grab some milk. Some St. Lucians need to comment on everything, and nobody is unique. Still, they remind me that as a society, we need to stop being concerned about what other people think. Everyone should find their own style in peace and wear it with confidence. Normalize not dressing up for the shops or petrol station to buy milk and butter only to return home rather than assume that person doesn’t care for themselves.
This obsession with weight affecting our beauty needs to be questioned. If you aren’t intimate with family or friends, why are they so concerned with another’s weight? Truth is, the beauty industry has filled our heads with a narrow set of beauty standards that we don’t all conform to. While I believe that our nature as human beings is to conform, that doesn’t mean we should prevent people from growing beyond the box. Shouldn’t we all be able to enjoy our own beauty without scrutiny?
Written by Princess O'Nika Nicky Auguste