Teenage girls, huddle up. I was just about to take a nap and watch some Netflix but now I have to drop everything and launch this Public Service Announcement because you’re about to come under the influence of an insidious force (two of them actually). They might appear innocent, perky even, but their true purpose is to mess with your mind. It’s not drugs, it’s not boys, it’s not wine coolers.
I’m talking about Kendall Jenner’s nipples.
According to those in the know, a cosmetic procedure known as “nipple filling” is on the rise, thanks in large part (pun intended) to Kendall’s if you’ve got it, flaunt it philosophy on beauty.
Now before you rush off in search of the same, I want to tell you a little story. It’s the story of a girl who always felt like she wasn’t pretty enough. She could be you, she could be me, she’s probably all of us at one time. When she got to a certain age, this girl spent every cent of her meager allowance and babysitting money on beauty products including Love’s BabySoft (so she’d smell great after gym class, despite not having perspired an ounce), French Formula hairspray (so her strands would stay shellacked in place all day), and Sea Breeze astringent (to prevent unsightly blackheads, and so she could hang out with cute boys on boats, like the girls in the commercial).
Someone told this girl that steaming her pores (!?) would make her skin glow, so she spent hours hunched over giant bowls of boiling water, filling and refilling the kettle. Someone else told her she was getting chubby so she started consuming less than 1,000 calories a day and quickly lost more than ten pounds and seven per cent body fat. Then someone else told her stubby, chewed fingernails were gross so she started spending all her money on gel nails and fillers. Then she decided she wanted to look like the actresses on Baywatch and Miami Vice, so she slathered herself in baby oil and baked in the sun.
There were lots of “someone told hers” but the real damage was done by the conclusions she came to by herself, about herself. And yet, all of these beauty rituals, all of the money spent, all of the effort and time dedicated to trying to change / improve / reduce did not make her happy. In fact, the pursuit of what she now knows is an impossible ideal only made her feel worse about herself, and by the time she was out on her own, away from her parents’ protective and positive influence, she had absolutely no idea who to be. She couldn’t project confidence for her new life in the big city because all she felt was less-than.
Feeling less-than wasn’t just about her looks, there were other insecurities too. But now, with the benefit of hindsight, she wonders what might have happened if she’d spent all that time, money and energy on something else: a sport, a hobby, a friendship. Would her life be richer? Would she have gained something instead of feeling something was lost, though she didn’t know what?
At this point in your life there’s no shortage of annoying, clueless adults all up in your business telling you what you should and shouldn’t do. Whether it’s about drugs, sex, parties, friends, social media or your future, everyone has an opinion on your life.
I get it, it’s rough. As a mother of two not-quite teenagers myself, I see glimpses of a future spent arguing over crop tops and attitudes. Like you, my daughters haven’t figured out how wonderful they are exactly as they are. Like you, they are vulnerable to outside influences, especially when it comes to assimilating and fitting in with their tribe.
Most of us have to discover our worth on our own. We aren’t born with this knowledge. We find out the hard way that our appearance will never make us truly happy, no matter what we do to change it, because there’s always something else we could be doing. Eyebrow threading, eyelash extensions, Botox, lip fillers, reductions, fake nails, highlights, pedicures, facials … it never ends.
To be clear, wanting to look your best is not a crime. When we look good, we feel good. I’m forty-four years old and still chasing the elusive ideal of firm breasts and unwrinkled skin. I go to the gym, I buy the creams, I examine myself in the mirror and I beat myself up when I don’t like what I see. But it’s no longer an obsession and I now know my breasts and my skin don’t determine my worth. I haven’t “given up,” I’ve just decided to focus my energy on other things.
I also believe there are limits. I’m all for personal choice but there’s something inherently cruel and misogynistic about encouraging painful, questionably effective, often dangerous procedures to alter and “improve” one’s lady bits. If you want to get a bee-sting facial or a fish pedicure, be my guest. But for the love of God do not inject your nipples (or dye your eyeballs, or steam your vagina.) And yes I know it’s primarily other women who are promoting these procedures but what can I say? The world is a weird place, the sisterhood works in mysterious ways. The beauty industry was built and continues to thrive on the backs of women trying to outdo one another. You can accept it without buying in.
Kendall Jenner’s nipples ruined my day, but they don’t have to ruin yours.