Outdated Beauty Advice: Hate Yourself Pretty

by Bonnie Downing

Are you afraid, ashamed, or even allergic to parts of your own body? We are! If, like us, you’re too sarcastic by nature to do self-love affirmations and finally accept who you are, that’s OK. Let’s channel our violent self-hatred into a simple daily beauty routine.

You’ve already responsibly shielded your nipples and crotch with high-tech foams. Surely you weren’t thinking of going out with only underwear, an outfit, and a winter coat, were you?

Nature has endowed no one with a special skin-and-muscle flap to prevent that posterior appearance of a valley between two hills. So long as we conform to our present mode of dress, the very shape and fit of any skirt demand that the wearer do something to prevent that jelly-like quiver and shake, reminiscent of a burlesque performer in action, that travel the abdomen and hips, (also breasts), when their owner is in motion. Clothes cost us much thought, time, and money and even a pleated or full gathered skirt reacts to sitting and wind pressures, so why give the appearance of walking out in one’s Birthday Clothes and an outer garment, when a ‘backing’ garment’ is so very comfortable and can be had for such little money.?

If one’s uncontrolled figure would never encourage approving glances, for pride’s sake alone, she should keep it ‘under cover,’ and if it is attractive enough to attract applause, its owner should have a sense of security that would make ‘advertising’ unnecessary.

A panty girdle under slacks will not restrict freedom of motion. If statistics were available to show the percentage of our gruesome sex crimes attributable to the uncontrolled female form on parade, doubtless it would prove most startling.
 — Mary Jane Moore, R.N., You Can Too! (1950)

Oh yes, she did. And true enough. If anyone so much as hears a rumor that you’re smuggling a human body under your clothes, they will inevitably and gruesomely sex-crime you.

Speaking of gruesome sex, were you all as inspired as I was by the sensible program of self-care outlined in Black Swan? Let’s start where Natalie Portman’s character began: the bathroom. Haven’t you ever stood in front of the mirror and grabbed, oh, say a fat roll or a thigh, wishing you could just yank it right off? You were on the right track.

Any stubborn lump of flesh can be squeezed off…It works perfectly well on all parts of the body, hips, thighs, waist, anywhere in fact except breasts.

First, cover your hands with massaging cream. Take up handfuls of flesh, squeeze hard, then let it slip through your fingers like mashed potatoes. You can squeeze off fat cells in this manner.
 — Sylvia of Hollywood, No More Alibis (1934)

Mmmm, mashed potatoes. So much tastier than salad. Anyway, I bet your hands are tired from all that grabbing and squeezing, so just let go. Ease on down to the ground.

Hips may be reduced by hitting them smartly on the floor. As you lie back with your knees bent, roll from side to side thumping the hips each time against the floor.
 — Mildred Graves Ryan and Velma Phillips, Clothes For You (1947)

Don’t let those disturbing bruises stop you from showing off your new slim hips! Certain types are into just this look (wink!), provided the rest of you is adequately ladylike.

Nothing is more unfeminine that the straight line of the shoulder which properly belongs to an athlete. Some mothers make their young folks walk the floor with a pail of water in each hand, to give their shoulders a graceful droop. A substitute may be worn in one’s own room while at work, in the shape of an outside brace of triple gray linen, having two extra straps buckling round the tip of each shoulder, one long end reaching the belt, with a wedge-shaped lead or iron weight hooked on it. This is a heroic practice, but effectual; and its pains are amply compensated by lie of figure which are the surest exponents of high breeding.
 — Mrs. Susan C.D. Powers, The Ugly-Girl Papers (1874)

Why are you grimacing? That simply isn’t what the well-bred do. Don’t say I didn’t warn you about moving your face. Now you’re a shriveled mess.

Wrinkles? Oil ’em and freeze ’em. At night apply a heavy emollient, slap the face briskly, hammer it with your fingertips. Sponge on an astringent, skate over the celestial countenance with a piece of ice. In the morning, use more ice.
 — Helen Follett Jameson, The Beauty Box (1931)

That’s better. Just stick to it and ignore “friends” who criticize your new-year/new-you plan. I swear, if one more person pleads with me to stop beating the crap out of myself, I’m gonna give them a reason to ice down their own celestial countenance.

Previously: The Devil Is Making Me Fat.

Sinister beauty expert Bonnie Downing collected tips like these in her first book, Peculiar Beauty: Three Centuries of Charmingly Absurd Advice. Now she’s writing a book about animals and needs a new agent. You can find her at peculiarbeauty.com and in Brooklyn.