The Beauty Blunder
By Amal Ghazali
One fine day, I received a DM (that’s ‘Direct Message’ for you folks who might not be aware of social media slangs) from someone in response to a picture of myself that was posted online. “Hey Amal, do you want to get rid of your eye bags? #seriousquestion”
I was taken aback. My eye bags? I quickly grabbed a mirror to check my own face. Yes, I had eye bags. And yes, I have had eye bags for many, many years of my life. Also yes, sometimes I do think of them, a natural reaction like any other normal woman out there. But no, I don’t obsess over them because there are many other more important things in life that needs my attention.
I wanted to tell that guy “yes, I would prefer to get rid of them if I can”, but I’ve found out that this same guy sells beauty products that swear to make you lose weight and have skin shinier than your white bone china plates. He had also asked me if there were physical aspects of me that I didn’t like and would like to change. I immediately sensed that this was just some trap to sell me some products, so I said I was happy with my face.
Was I happy with my face? Let’s just say I am 'okay-ish' with my face. I do what I can with mine. I don’t obsess over why my eyes aren’t blue or when that small brown spot appeared. But that day, my eye bags bothered me. It seemed that the guy’s question over them has made me feel a bit more insecure than usual about how I looked.
You’re Enough – But Not Really?
Don’t get me wrong. I love makeup and beauty products just as much as the next girl. I too buy serums that are supposedly able to give me translucent skin a la Cate Blanchett in those SK2 commercials. I love mascara that makes my eyes look like I slept for 10 hours last night. I enjoy these things and how they make me feel and look.
However, the direct intervention from Eyebags Guy made me think about how there are some beauty capitalists out there that would resort in leveraging on women’s insecurities in order to sell their products. How many times have you seen this around? Drink this, look fairer and your husband will love you more. A picture of someone with a bigger frame and zero style, and the next picture shows the same person with a smaller waistline while dressed in haute couture, suggesting that somehow, being skinnier makes you more stylish (by the way, style is about having good taste, and less to do with your body shape).
The beauty industry is a force to be reckoned with. My office is located just above a large shopping mall, and one sweeping look around makes it rather clear that physical care plays a big role in our society. It certainly plays a big role in my life as well, from the clothes I wear to the creams I put on and the membership cards I hold from my favourite apothecaries and makeup outlets. But in the midst of all these various choices, it is important to seek the values of these brands as well.
Be Conscious Consumers
Ultimately, what is the purpose of beauty to you? If I am reflecting that thought upon myself, I would say that beauty is the tool that helps me feel empowered. By having or wearing the stuff I need to make me feel like I am at my best in terms of appearance, it makes me feel good about myself. When I feel good about myself, my self-esteem is enhanced, and this takes on about how I carry myself on a day-to-day basis in my career and my social interactions with people.
That being said, there is a lot to think about when contemplating brands that seem to leverage on a woman’s sense of self-worth. In cases where the campaign begins with instilling the idea that you are not enough, or that there are parts of you that needs to be changed in order for others to like you better, it provokes the observation that it is not about celebrating women at all.
So what can you do? You can begin by being a conscious consumer. What’s the morale of the products that you are purchasing? Does it cater to the diversity of women? Does it encourage you to celebrate what you are and focus on enhancing your personal qualities instead of coaxing you to try and look like something you’re not? Does it impact your health? Remember that brands rely on consumers in order to flourish, so you are responsible for determining what kinds of ethics would dominate your beauty industry.
It’s something that I am certainly going to pay more attention to in the future. Hopefully, I would be doing my part in encouraging empowering ideas of beauty before I buy a product and put it in my eyebags. Oops. Sorry. My bags. I meant my bags.
The Clam Condition
By Amal Ghazali
It’s funny how something could start off so wonderfully, and within an instant it could immediately turn around into a full blown nightmare.
This was exactly my thought as I hauled my heavy backpack in the freezing night in Kyoto, trying to not miss my flight to Manila while also struggling to refrain myself from throwing up for the nth time that day. It was my last day in Japan after what seemed like an amazing travel for a couple of weeks, and as luck would have it, I had managed to get food poisoning as the grand finale.
I could still recall the night before. My friends and I were exhausted from a day of hiking, and on our last night in Kyoto we wanted to have a quick fix, cheap sushi dinner (this was the last day after all, and we were short of cash). A quick Google research pointed out a nearby place with a good price range, and soon we found ourselves enjoying generic, amazing sushi on an upstairs floor of the building. For good measure, I decided to order a clam miso soup, and remarked that my friends were not as adventurous, as I complimented how delicious the soup was.
Clams and I have a pretty dark history. I absolutely adore seafood, but there were times where I would experience the rare occasion of indigestion due to their consumption, specifically speaking the shellfish kind. But of course I was not reminded of this as I slurped away that night, thinking that this was Japan, after all, where food is superior and there couldn’t be anything possibly wrong with indulging in some clammy goodness.
I woke up the next morning hurling in the toilet, and the rest of the day was just a blur of projectile vomit, headaches and heady waves of nausea. To make matters worse, I had no choice but to be functional that day, as we had to take the train back to Osaka and board a flight to Manila, my last leg of this particular travel adventure.
Getting Sick While Traveling
If you travel often, it’s probably only a matter of time before you experience at least an episode of getting sick abroad. It’s all the case of probability, folks. Feeling unwell is bad enough at home, but imagine nursing a fever, coping with diarrhoea or being down with flu while you need to be constantly moving and are far away from the familiar comforts of your bed, food or even weather. It’s not an ideal situation, but these things really do happen more often than we think. With that in mind, here are some tips that I’ve learned along the way that may help you manage the situation if it should ever occur to you in the future.
First of all, preparation is key. Regardless of the kind of health state you are in, no one is completely exempted from suddenly catching something – virus, bacteria or even just the change of weather. That being said, pack with you the essentials for the ‘common’ travel illnesses, such as the medications for colds, headaches and digestion issues. Even if I’m backpacking with limited luggage space, I consider these remedies as necessary and I don’t travel without them. Furthermore, I have found that in some countries these basic medications can be expensive, or worse, not exactly compatible with your body (some painkillers can irritate your stomach if you’re not used to them, for example).
The next important point to remember is that prevention is always better than cure. In my case, I should’ve probably reminded myself that although I was feeling adventurous, my digestion system might not share a mutual sentiment. Research is helpful, and reviewing restaurants in new places will identify possible risks you might not know of. If you know yourself to be allergic or sensitive to certain things, consuming them while traveling is perhaps a bad idea. The same could be said of other circumstances as well, such as not staying out too late if your body is not used to it back home, or reducing the exposure to certain weather conditions (rain, too much sun etc.) if you are prone to get ill from these situations.
And of course, if by some unfortunate chance you still get sick, there is no other choice but to plough through them. If it’s serious then of course you’d have to seek proper medical assistance, but if it’s the common illness that is personally bearable or manageable, take these few recommended steps to reduce the torture and promote faster recovery. Drink lots of water, and although this is pretty much common sense, most of us tend to forget this especially while traveling. Stick to only ‘safe’ foods, and this means neutral, non-irritating menus. Food that are too spicy or raw may encourage the situation, for example. Even consider taking the day off from visiting public places or being too adventurous – perhaps your body could benefit from the extra rest and chill at the hotel for the day. This is especially true if you’ve been out and about for days on end, and your body is lacking the proper rest it needs.
Unfortunate Episodes Do Happen
The bad news is, travel, like life, doesn’t always go as perfectly as we’d plan. Sickness isn’t exactly considerate of our vacation dreams, and as much as we hope it doesn’t happen, it still does, sometimes in the worst of places. I had a friend who caught a bad case of scabies while on a month-long Trans-Siberian train adventure, and she described it as an itchy nightmare while being confined in a train’s coach for days. Just when you thought that traveling can be as picture perfect as the documentaries you see on the Discovery Channel.
But hopefully the next time you go for an adventure across the globe you’d be better prepared for any health possibilities. Then maybe you’d be able to avoid another episode of barfing your guts out around the beautiful city of Kyoto like I did.