Looks count. In fact our society is obsessed with beauty and keeping ourselves looking young. During the Renaissance, women plucked their hair so their hairline would be much higher. During the 18th century, it was all about powdered wigs and big black moles. During the 60’s we went braless and makeup free in lieu of a much wilder look. Where’s the common theme? There is none.
So what the heck makes a beautiful woman? This is very difficult to pinpoint since beauty is subjective. If the earth was one big episode of The Simpsons, we’d all think the best life had to offer was lipless, chinless women with exactly four eyelashes!
While researching my newest release, The Wind Whisperer, a young adult novel about Native Americans, I wanted to know what made an 18th century Native American woman beautiful. The answer to this question was as varying as the tribes I ran across. For one U.S. tribe, I discovered that young woman were not allowed to grow their hair long—this luxury was reserved for men only. This custom was so fascinating I adopted it into my novel.
I also learned that most Native American women were tattooed with geometric designs, birds, and flowers. It was a practice that usually began at the onset of womanhood. Most of us have heard the saying that the cost of beauty is pain. Times were no different 400 years ago. A tattoo started with first a painful cutting and then a smearing of black ash. As custom dictates, you’ll find my fifteen-year-old heroine, Anaii, tattooed in several places.
Native American women also loved to decorate their bodies with paint. Think of it as body make-up and applied as faithfully as one applies make-up today. One particular fashion during the 18th century in western U.S. tribes was painting one’s hair part red. Paint was made from egg yolk, clay, blood, crushed sea shell, berries, ect…These ancient women were as innovative with their beauty as we are today.
Just as we adorn with jewelry today to “doll up”, the ancient natives were equally as adorning—but not always in the ways that you think. Of course they used beads and feathers to beautify themselves, but sometimes they also used dead birds, beetles, bones, and strings of human hair. I wonder what beauty treatment we do today will be considered barbaric in 400 years—injecting our faces with paralytics? No judging. Looks count and we’re all obsessing together.