The chair spins and I am once again face to face with myself in the mirror. Except this time, I don’t recognize the person staring back at me. I gawk in wonder at the creature in front of me. She has a face as smooth as glass, big lashes, high cheekbones accentuated with highlighting blush, and lips painted a rusty pink that would match my teal dress that I had bought months before. My hand reached up from my lap to touch my face, as if I needed the physical proof to know that this human exists; that this is me.
Just as I ran my fingertips over my skin, my hairdresser’s hands knock them away while adjusting my hair. “Don’t you look beautiful?” She asked. I nodded in agreement. I’m sure I did look very beautiful. I looked as done up as every other girl would be later that day. This was graduation after all. I was supposed to look like a princess, celebrating my success of four years of hard work and overcoming obstacles with… makeup? A trip to the salon? A dress worth hundreds of dollars right before I go on to spend thousands of dollars in post-secondary?
I had allowed myself to become swept away in the beauty of the ritual. Every year the senior class celebrates their new graduate status. Every year the senior girls will throw special parties themed pink to signify our femininity. As if people had forgotten that the upcoming generation of girls is breaking the glass ceiling of inequality, but don’t forget, we’re pretty too. Every year the girls wore dresses and put on makeup because we are not truly graduates unless our success can be measured in beauty.
“You should wear makeup more often, you look so much more beautiful.” My hairdresser spoke again. Her comment numbed me. She wasn’t the first person to say this to me, and she certainly wouldn’t be the last. In the moments later that day, walking across the stage to receive my diploma, I felt I had performed my gendered expectations perfectly. I was still left feeling that I had done myself a disservice.