Anger and Self-Image

This week, MF and I have been fighting, and it's effected the experiment in very unexpected ways.

It's been the kind of fighting where you're so upset that you just keep making it worse every time you talk, so we've been talking less. No fun. I started sleeping alternately fifteen hours at a time, and then not at all for three days. I couldn't focus on anything that didn't involve distracting sounds and images, and I craved human contact but found myself on the edge of rage and tears alternately every time someone asked me how I was doing. In short, I was so angry and sad that I couldn't do anything but be sad and angry.

I wanted to put on something that made me feel sexy, make myself up, and do my hair so badly that I thought about it almost as much as I thought about throttling MF. I mean, I felt like I needed to get all hottified and be looked at (or feel like I was being looked at). It was during this period that I finally caved. I used concealer and lip/ cheek stain when I went to class, and no one noticed but I felt so much better. I also did my nails, which was comforting too. I alternately dreamed about miscarrying a child, and having hair down to my elbows. I bought a dieting journal for the first time in my life, and have pretty consistently used it.

I think this is interesting. Does it mean that spending a bunch of time on how I look is a valid coping mechanism, or that I bury my anger in hotness? And the dieting thing-- I've never done that before, but I felt a powerful urge to exercise (no pun intended) my anger somewhere, and I channelled that into control over my body. Are anger and the self-punishment of adhering to impossibly high standards of beauty related? I ended up coping by working out really hard and drowning my pain in dancing as well as bending the experiment (and there may have been some alcohol in there... bad, I know), but I got through it without reverting to other, less healthy coping mechanisms which I continually felt the desire to engage in. I won't tell you what that coping mechanism is, but some people stop eating, some overeat. Some get totally wasted and get hurt, and some sleep around. Some get high on whatever, others hit people and get arrested. These are all ways of dealing with the kind of rage that it physically hurts you to contain it, and they're all ways of hurting oneself. I wanted to self-destruct... and every time I had that urge I went back to the gym.

Was this a healthy way of dealing with my anger? I felt great about what I'd accomplished, but is it ever a good idea to "punish" yourself?

I haven't been updating lately because my resolve, in the midst of all this conflict, is faltering and I didn't want anyone to see it. In New York, I caved when I was going out to a bar to see a friend who is pretty into image, and I couldn't stomach seeing him again for the first time in two years looking all washed-out and stuff. (See, in NYC you don't "not wear makeup" when you go out at night. You just don't, and I didn't know any of these people except my friend and one other guy.) So I used concealer, blush, eyeshadow and mascara. I felt a million times better, and I think I was trying to make myself more comfortable, not impress anyone. Once again, I don't think it's possible to separate out my motives exactly.

So I'm struggling, and I want to deal by concentrating more on my physical appearance than my emotional pain. It is what it is, I guess. At least MF and I are edging towards peace, and I suddenly feel like taking off the nail polish again.


  1. Camille at the Center for Women at Emory here... I have so much respect for what you are doing. Self-exploration around beauty practices is so important, and the way you are going about it seems really thoughtful. I'm excited to see what you discover.

    Do you mind if we cover your experiment on our blog? We would of course link to this blog.

  2. Hi CFW,

    Thanks so much for your support, and for your kind comment. I would LOVE to be mentioned on your blog! Would you post its address here, too, so I can take a look at it and others can link to you?