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Tough love is a concept universally understood by anyone with a really good, close unit of friends (or even just one really good, close friend). Tough love is also the cornerstone to every relationship, because there is something about it that says, “Hey, we’re all fucked up. We all do things to each other that (and will) bother us and as your friend, I will always be real with you in times when those traits are destructive to both yourself and the people around you.” That is what being a friend is – loving someone, recognizing their flaws, and along with accepting them, calling them out on their toxicity every now and again. To be with people is to put up with people, and to end a friendship is to decide whether someone’s flaws are conducive to your own in a way you can healthily negotiate.

This type of love is the most beautiful thing people can share with each other in friendship, and is something that reminds me how much I love and appreciate the women of color in my life who have nurtured me with the hard truth. It is true, these friendships are rare, and when you’re able to be real with someone, so many aspects of yourself are given permission to emerge unapologetically. For me, this emergence literally shows on my face.

"That is what being a friend is – loving someone, recognizing their flaws, and along with accepting them, calling them out on their toxicity every now and again."

While it seems shallow to point to the complexities of constructive friendships as changing aesthetics, I become more and more aware of my own pathologies surrounding how I show emotion in my dress, cosmetic practices, and affect. All day, we can say that the ways we dress are both causal and reactionary, but that gives an importance on the self that should never be taken as the holistic truth. In critical theory, we learn to be heavily critical on the self (duh). The self is as much of a construction based on experience as it is choice, where that choice lies in the mobility (socially affected, of course) as well as impetus to look in certain ways. In the times where I am called in on my own behavior by those closest to me, I find I lose my impetus to look like the curation of style that people might both consider and identify as “Maya Kotomori.”

And I want to point out that this isn’t a loss of a sense of self, but a means to examine what I feel is beautiful and what realizations redefine that for me. Tough love from my sisters is what pushes me toward renegotiation that almost always plays out aesthetically, whether it’s my deeper times of sadness where I don’t shower for three days or my more introspective realizations that I solidify with (literally) coloring outside the lines with my makeup. We are all pushed toward change via the stimuli of just living life, and that’s where the personal choice of constructing beauty on our corporeal forms comes from. That very real process can, at times, feel very forced and inauthentic when the change happens in life that we are not prepared for – being forced into change never feels like it comes from within. And that’s why I’m speaking about this very real process – because there are a lot of things out of my control at the moment that the consistent tough love from my friends counteracts.

It doesn’t always feel good, but my small tribe of dear friends snap me back into myself as a means to shake me into taking control of the surrender that must happen in new circumstances. Sometimes we have to do things we really don’t want to do so we can break a harmful cycle of self-sabotage. Sometimes we have to let go of people who make us forget who we are. It’s painful to foster an awareness of how you play yourself through the consistent chess game of looking, and it’s a very hard knock. But, we all need that knock sometimes, and when it happens from people you regard as your sisters - it’s beautiful.

Con todo mi amor,

maya <3

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