At the end of January, I turn the big 3-0. And as a natural byproduct of aging into another decade (and reaching a big milestone), I’m reflecting on where I am in my life and how I present myself to the world. But when I think about the version of me that existed when I was first entering womanhood, she feels so far away.
My teens and 20s were spent worrying about whether or not people liked me, and my focus is now finding a way to make sure I like me—and a big part of that is ridding myself of all the things that aren’t quintessentially who I am. While I wish I’d come to this conclusion sooner, entering this new phase seems as good a time as any to figure out my truest form. And so far, I think stereotypical “femininity” has way less of a place in my world. Let me explain…
I never wanted to be seen as unattractive, and at that time, I equated being attractive with wearing makeup and appearing femme.
The first step was cutting my hair last year. On the surface, it wasn’t a huge transition, but to me, it felt like I was cutting off a vestige of my former self. What also played into this decision was a further unpacking of my sexuality and the realization that I wasn’t the straight girl I’d always thought I was. Understanding this new aspect of myself allowed me to reimagine the woman I was and stop playing into what I thought attractive straight girls looked like. I discovered my sexuality fell somewhere in the middle, so my blind allegiance to a strictly feminine aesthetic lost its grip.
In the same vein, the pretty dresses that I’d wear in an almost pathological attempt to appear attractive had all but lost their appeal. Now, I play a lot more with androgyny when I get dressed, and I often find myself more attractive when the stereotypical gender lines are a bit blurred. I fantasize about shaving part of my head and really embracing the idea of fucking with gender. At the same time, it's so hard to shed the feeling of concern for what people will think.
My goal for the beginning of my 30s is to continue removing the Sarah that wants desperately to be liked and, instead, to always be wholeheartedly me, at whatever cost. Maybe certain people won’t be attracted to me, or maybe strangers will have preconceived notions. But ultimately, if I look in the mirror and see how I feel on the inside, then I can consider that, as the millennials say, living my best life. That’s really all we can strive for anyway, right?
Here at Byrdie, we know that beauty is way more than braid tutorials and mascara reviews. Beauty is identity. Our hair, our facial features, our bodies: They can reflect culture, sexuality, race, even politics. We needed somewhere on Byrdie to talk about this stuff, so... welcome to The Flipside (as in the flipside of beauty, of course!), a dedicated place for unique, personal, and unexpected stories that challenge our society's definition of "beauty." Here, you'll find cool interviews with LGBTQ+ celebrities, vulnerable essays about beauty standards and cultural identity, feminist meditations on everything from thigh brows to eyebrows, and more. The ideas our writers are exploring here are new, so we'd love for you, our savvy readers, to participate in the conversation, too. Be sure to comment your thoughts (and share them on social media with the hashtag #TheFlipsideOfBeauty). Because here, on The Flipside, everybody gets to be heard.
Want more stories from The Flipside? Don't miss this essay about what it's really like to be a curvy ballerina.
Opening image: Imaxtree