On Tuesday Australia celebrates the festival of the spray tan, also known as Melbourne Cup Day. The entire country will be on a high over-bronzed alert as women walk around looking like they have been spattered with wooden deck stain from Bunnings. Our foreign minister has travelled far to be there, but cannot intervene when it comes to refugees suffering on Manus Island.
I won’t be baring my pale body on Tuesday, I’m not up for the scrutiny. As I watch my face age every morning in the mirror, I’ve been thinking about how my fellow middle-aged women are coping with wrinkles. And how they are so distracted by their ‘beauty’ regime that they don’t have time to call out human rights abusers.
Recently, I stumbled upon the Instagram page of a mother I used to know. Her face was stuck in a wind tunnel and her lips resembled a boxer who had been punched in the mouth, but she still looked like a female in her late 40s. They weren’t Halloween pictures. She reminded me of Nicole Kidman, the selfies showed me a featureless face, every emotion and expression the same. And I thought about a generation of little girls growing up with mothers whose faces cannot express empathy nor frown, and who all have trout pouts. They are being taught that this is the acceptable female beauty standard. Like foot binding and removing ribs in generations past. Mothers who spend more time and money in salons than on teaching their daughters to change the world. What do these girls think of the disconnect between their mothers’ words and the emotion their faces can’t convey? Do they worry when they see kids locked up in refugee camps and their mothers are too busy inhaling nail polish in salons that employ uneducated women from poor countries to care? Why do females show their sons and daughters that a wrinkle free face that doesn’t move is how women must age? Why are our looks are more important than the plight of our fellow humans?
And more and more women in their 20s have immovable faces and puffer fish lips. On my vast single mother budget I have lots of money for day spas, so occasionally I get my nails done or a facial at a student beauty clinic. Last week a woman doing my nails must have been in her early 20s but I couldn’t really tell. She could have been shocked by my visible wrinkles, as her face only showed that she was startled.
Am I jealous because I can’t afford to do this?
When I told my 15 year old that I was writing this she said,
“Mum, don’t be mean about this woman, even if she does have a frozen fish face. She already feels bad about herself, that’s why she’s done that to her body.”
On a sunshiney day at an outdoor gig in a park by the beach in Cronulla, I met a Palestinian man who had come to Australia last year for a better life for his family. His wife and four beautiful children said hello but it was he who needed to talk. To a clown. There is something about wearing a red nose that makes people open up and share their stories.
I told him I thought he was very brave to leave everything and everyone he knew behind to create a life in a new country. He told me in Australia he had hope for his children’s future. He believed that they would have a better life here. He said,
“In eight months we have achieved a lot.”
I told him I thought that it took a lot of courage to start life in a new country, but as I said it, I felt a dread that I’ve never experienced before. I hoped to God that dumb rednecks would not ruin his view that Australia was a peaceful place to be. I hoped that no one made nasty remarks or commented on his accent. I couldn’t bear to mention to him that racism is rife, as I could see a few metres behind him a woman pushing her child on a swing with a southern cross tattoo on her neck
I want an Australia that doesn’t lock people up and torture them because they dare to seek asylum
I want to vote for politicians who consider people in their policies before posturing politicking bullshit
I want uneducated rednecks out of parliament
I want a beautiful Australia where real estate speculators haven’t bought up and ugly-fied every building that happens to overlook a beach.
I want to live in a country that recognises that love is love.
I want aboriginal people recognised in our constitution.
I want $300 lunches to be abolished while people are homeless and kids are going to school hungry.
An end to reality renovation shows
I want to meet this lovely man’s children in 20 years and say, “Your mum and dad wanted you to live in safety so they gave up their friends and family for you to have a chance.” I hope they have a wonderful life, I hope they don’t get teased for their accents. I hope their mum and dad find great jobs and they grow old together, free of war.
And I hope his kids don’t end up voting for idiots