As Pink Ladies WI President, one of my main roles is to inspire women. It's clearly written in my handbook and it's a responsibility that is a delight. Whilst studying for my literacy specialism, I remember being appauled that my lecturer felt it appropriate to share that his wife wasn't bothered about her appearance. I have forgotten the context of this glibness, but such an outrageous comment, from a dishelved University lecturer, has stuck in my mind.
I challenge anyone to deny that at some point they have not been concerned about their appearance. As humans with have an innate desire to be accepted by others and the way we look is important part of that.
When my daughter was small, wherever we went she always wanted to go and make a friend. I said her once how she decided who to be friends with. " You look for someone pretty and try and talk to them." Although simplified through the words of a child who was three years old at the time, she had in essence nailed it; prettiness or beauty is aspirational because of its relationship with acceptance.
As our first Pink Ladies WI speaker, we choose Anna Astin and her talk about how important it was for women to maintain their beauty routines during the Second World War. I could have spent all day with her as she was quite simply a brilliant speaker. There were so many questions I wanted to ask once I was finally tucked up in my bed, my mind a whirl with thoughts. It's hard for me to imagine a time where my children were sent away so I could focus on doing some dirty job crawling inside a steam engine to decoke it whilst day dreaming about my Turtle oil face cream.
I laughed at the image of my grandmother's generation applying fake tan in the form of Bovril stockings and taking bile beans to maintain their figures. However there was something deeply moving about how permenant waves and excavating the last scraps of your lipstick to melt with Vaseline were considered a valiant effort in keeping up moral.
As women today we are exposed to a barage of advertising and images which influence our perception of ourselves but I don't think that it is shallow and frivolous to be concerned with appearance. It is our duty to be beautiful, not necessarily for our country or our best boy but for ourselves and for the generations of women before and after us. When my children tried out some of the homemade, organical, ethically sourced and downright thoughtful lip balm that I brought from one of our a Pink Ladies last night, they were moments of beautiful stories to come.