I freely admit that my hormones are changing. I’m not in my 20s anymore – haven’t been for a while, ahem. I’ve gone from being a woman who wouldn’t cry if you pulled hair from my eyebrows forcefully one strand at a time to being someone who can cry watching a Febreze commercial. (Maybe it’s the trickery of it all; you know, the whole notion that spraying an area with the smell of a dewy meadow to cover up the stench of dirty underwear and disgusting trash is cleaning.) I’ve always been rather feisty, what with my Irish and German heritage, but lately I think my tolerance for what I deem as rude or absurd behavior is totally basement level. So when I was shopping recently for a child’s birthday present at Kohl’s and saw the offensive t-shirt, I nearly knocked myself out with the force of my eye roll.
Since I got into running six years ago, I am much more interested in t-shirts, shorts, and sneakers than I am necklaces, boots, and handbags. Although I do still like them, I just get less excited. I enjoy browsing through workout wear much more than I used to. Call it motivation to get moving because I feel like if I look good then I’ll feel like going out in public to exercise, more or less. I picked up a folded pink t-shirt that had the word “Run” on it and considered buying it but changed my mind because my drawer is already obese with running t-shirts. Then I picked up the cotton item that was an affront to my senses. This purple t-shirt read, “I don’t sweat, I sparkle.” I grunted aloud, along with a number of other sounds to express my disdain, rolled my eyes, and threw it down. I mumbled under my breath and started to walk away, but my Catholic guilt brought me back to fold the t-shirt properly and put it back on the right pile of shirts… with a disapproving look.
“I don’t sweat, I sparkle.” Who is this t-shirt designed for… Tinker Bell? Polly Pocket? A Kardashian?
Maybe I’ve become more militant over the years or maybe this is what comes from years spent as a tomboy pretending to be a WWF wrestler with my brother, but this shirt perturbed me. As someone who just completed her first marathon this past October, I can tell you firsthand that I sweat during my run of 26.2 miles; I did NOT sparkle. And I don’t mind telling you that I was proud of every bead of sweat that dripped off my brow and down through my nether regions. Sparkling happens when you wear a sequined top on New Year’s Eve and when you apply glittery shadow to your eyes. When a woman is engaged in a physical activity such as running, CrossFit, or vigorous sex (we’ve all seen those scenes in movies), she sweats. And that does not need to be made pretty, or as I like to say, “prettified.” We’re women. We’re not little girls. We don’t need everything to be sugar and spice and everything nice, yet everywhere I turn, I see signs that we apparently do like it, or someone does, because it’s marketed to us wrapped neatly in a pretty sparkly pink bow.
I’ve heard it said that when you start to drive a certain make and model of car, you start to see them everywhere. Maybe it was along those lines that my senses were heightened for offenders of what I’ll call prettification after reading the sparkle shirt at Kohl’s that Saturday morning. I was reading e-mails on my iPad with Bravo playing one of the many junk reality shows that I am addicted to in the background (please don’t judge) when the hair on the back of my neck raised, hearing a commercial for a flat iron called the InStyler. The male voice announced that the flat iron was available in the following colors: Pretty in Pink and Sugar Plum Purple. “Really? Pretty in Pink? Sugar Plum Purple? Are you kidding me?” I shouted at the TV with not so much as a dog or cat in my home with whom to share my outrage. (Later that evening, when I replayed my aggression for my boyfriend and male gay friend, neither seemed to understand the reason for my ire – not even my gay bestie.) I understand cutesy names for kids’ vitamins – so they’ll swallow something that’s good for them – but adult women need cutesy names for everything?
I understand the desire to make life seem prettier than it is. Reality can be a real bitch at times, so there’s nothing wrong with taking life a bit more lightly with some fun and whimsy. I’m a laughter yoga leader, so I understand the idea of spreading the levity and putting a pin in our worries for a while, but I just wonder where we draw the line before it becomes silly or delusional. I know that every woman is different, but I think that this “prettification” is built into the system and impacts how women are viewed overall. I might be taking this too seriously – and it would not be the first time – but I think that projecting this image that women’s’ lives are all candy coated and pink weakens what we do.
When I run, I sweat just as hard as my male counterparts because I’m working just as hard (maybe even harder because I have shorter legs). When I crossed the finish line of the Steamtown Marathon in Scranton last fall, I threw my hands up, gave a “hell yeah” scream of victory, and smiled with pride. Maybe my smile sparkled, but my body sure as hell was covered with sweat – and I could not have felt happier.
-For more laughs, follow Jeannine on Twitter, @laughinglu, visit laughtolive.net, and find “He’s Not Prince Charming When…” on Facebook.