Two items, one advertisement

I like to watch commercials and try to pick out what they say they're selling (which is "unnecessary in the hunter-gatherer sense of the word," like a Swiffer) vs. what they're really trying to sell (things that can't be sold, bought or otherwise possessed, like a happy home). For example, I got this in my inbox today:

I tried to get a screen shot of the ad because it's so striking that you almost ignore the lunacy of the claim they're making, but I don't have the copyright. 

But... meaningful... beauty? 

It's a little ludicrous, isn't it? Equate something trivial with something truly vital and, POOF! Something trivial now seems vital! It makes watching commercials really funny, like, Hershey's chocolate can give you a better relationship with your daughter! These random lumps of chicken flesh will make your kid like you more! This vodka makes you more tolerable to look at (or makes beautiful women want you)! 

Try it, and I guarantee you'll have more fun tonight when you have to sit through commercial breaks.


Catch-Up Post 2: The Beauty Myth

I just went out to do errands in my most modest outfit ever-- a long skirt, long-sleeved top, and headscarf. And I have to say: it is so liberating to have an excuse not to try and look trendy. I had suspected that this would be the case, but the strength of the relief I feel is surprising. I have no image, and I can't be critiqued for not wearing those stupid not-pants and a loose shirt, nor can I feel weird at a bar because I don't have the requisite long, wavy hair because hey-- I just don't dress like that. It's wonderful to have the "excuse" not to compare my trendiness with other women's, and to my shock I caught myself wondering if, when I turn thirty and TME is over, I'll even want to go back to the way I used to look. This feeling may also be a product of carefully putting my outfit together today, which I did-- the skirt and blouse are comfy and adorable and the headscarf is cute too. I feel beautiful, but like a princess, not like a twenty-something, middle class white woman. It's a wonderful feeling, peeps. Seriously. I highly recommend it. I'm also pretty sure that no one stared at me, though I felt a little silly.

I picked up Naomi Wolf's The Beauty Myth (1991) at a library on campus to see what Ms. Wolf had to say about how we as a society got to where we are in terms of attractiveness standards in this country. Now, this book was written in '91 so it's not as relevant as, say, Female Chauvinist Pigs (Ariel Levy, 2004-- AMAZING BOOK), but if the beauty industry was generating x billion dollars back then, I think we can safely assume that it generates more now.

Wolf's contention is that the Beauty Myth is what rushed in to fill the vacuum left behind when women realized that they weren't just wives and mothers thanks to The Feminine Mystique (Betty Friedan, 1963-- I promise I'm not doing all these citations on purpose, these are just books that changed me and made me feel so much less alone). She says that the standards of beauty imposed on American women after we started competing with men professionally are a social control mechanism designed to keep things running smoothly, a way to continually keep women worrying about stuff that doesn't matter so that we won't have time to worry about what does matter. After WWII we were defined by our households, the gadgets and furniture which filled them supplied mostly by companies who needed to stay afloat after the war; now, we're defined by our youth, weight and beauty. Same mechanism and same effect-- different medium. Wolf also acknowledges that some biologists say that "beauty" is a marker of reproductive desirability, but she says that that isn't actually true, that beauty isn't universal. If you think about it, beauty standards do change. Quickly. I need to do more research on this, but I know that there's a popular theory that a preference for beauty is natural and biologically built-in. But what if it's not? Then why does it feel like life and death for some of us?

Of course, she doesn't imply that "men" are meeting in back rooms somewhere and going, "Those little women, they're getting too big for their britches! We gotta take them down a notch. Let's make them think they're... ugly! YEAH!!" But you gotta admit, the world is male-dominated, and American culture, which is decidedly misogynistic, enjoys its position as an international trendsetter. The thing is, this isn't coming just from men-- we as women assent to it, we use its standards to judge ourselves and other women, we voluntarily wax and buy and fret and make catty comments about one another. But could you imagine what would happen if suddenly women stopped buying cosmetics, unnecessary hair products, diet products and expensive clothes? What if women just consumed as much as men do to keep up their appearance, but no more? Could you imagine how drastically the world economy would shift if there were no more cosmetics ads to sell, no more mani/ pedi stores in the mall-- not to mention the companies that would crumble if women stopped buying most of their products (L'Oreal, Estee Lauder, Proctor & Gamble)? And for the love of all things holy, What would happen to Nordstrom's? They'd be reduced to setting up shop in refurbished Walgreens(es)!

I'm not sure if there's some sinister reason for the pressure that's put on me to look a certain way, but I have been observing just how many times a day I'm assailed with images of beautiful women. It's inescapable: characters on TV shows and movies, commercials, posters, internet ads... it's unending, and nowadays you see pictures of Bedouin tribeswomen with copies of Cosmopolitan (this is true-- I saw a picture like that just recently). Next time you watch TV, compare the male characters to the female ones in terms of attractiveness. Try a one-to-one comparison, and see how you feel. Just be aware of how hard the women must work as opposed to the men, and look for unattractive women, see what roles they play and how often they appear. Whether it's a matter of social control or not, women are constantly bombarded with the message: "You need to look like someone else."

And then there's the "requirement" of makeup being part of the uniform of a professional woman. In The Beauty Myth lawsuits were brought because bosses fired women for not wearing makeup-- and the women LOST. Well, I thought to myself, That was "back then." That doesn't happen now. But then I ran into someone who told me that her friend was taken aside and told to "look more feminine" by her female boss; now the friend wears makeup so thick that you can't see her real skin. Her demeanor has changed, too: she's self-conscious and nervous, always wearing revealing clothing, where before she was confident and happy according to the woman I spoke to. Ministers, professors, executives, saleswomen, doctors... all are expected, generally speaking, to wear makeup to work. So... in order to be taken seriously, I literally have to look like someone else? I have to wear a mask at work? WHAT? And of course, the most upsetting part of this idea that to look "professional" one must wear makeup: I accepted it myself, unconditionally, without thinking about it. Then... I thought about it.

Still other women feel a deficit because their mothers never taught them how to apply makeup. I've heard this more than once, and it's interesting to me because I wasn't taught either-- I just do it. But a few women I've spoken with have said that they feel as though a piece of their identity as a woman is missing because they were never "initiated" into the world of grown-up makeup and stuff.

It's a creepy thought, that modern beauty standards are a culturally sanctioned way to keep women constantly distracted and competing. Nowadays it's not cool to insinuate that women are still oppressed but in more subtle ways than ever (people will call you a... gulp... feminist), but I do know one thing: TME has made me happier. It's that simple.

These are my pre-TME clothes.

I have no idea just how much they've all cost me, but I'm still in the process of clearing out the clothes I won't be wearing. I'll post pics again once I'm done with the clearing. (Turns out that when one is in grad school, one's time and energy are perpetually depleted. ?!?!) Every time I do laundry I think, "Where the hell am I going to put all this crap? I have got to give away some of this." But then I try, and I can't seem to force myself to. And so, I wear a third of what I have, and the rest is stuffed into someplace to take up space and fill one more box when I have to move. 
My closet #1

Same closet, different angle

All these drawers are packed. Note the willy-nilly stuff on top.


More jammies. (I love jammies.)

Laundry, not included in previous shots. 


Catch-Up Post 1: Self-Esteem

Well, it's been two weeks since I posted, because not only did school start again but I got the news that my grandmother has been put in hospice and went to visit her last weekend. It was a really good visit, but stressful, and I've spent all week doing triage academically: I've only read and written what was absolutely necessary, and I got through the week thanks to some understanding professors. This weekend, along with updating TME, will be spent getting caught up. There's too much material to cover in one post, so I'm breaking it up into two. This first one will be about the changes I've felt and seen in myself; the second is about the things I've noticed externally as a result of the Experiment.

I've had two dreams, since starting TME, that while I was covering my hair it grew back (I'm gonna let it grow out and I've stopped dyeing it), all the way down to my shoulders. It also reverted to how it used to look in the summer: bright gold-blonde. In both dreams I was styling it like I used to, and in both I was looking for a way for someone else to "accidentally" see it, as TME wasn't over yet.

I miss my hair.

But other than that, a good number of the positive things I had thought might happen as a result of taking this on have come to pass. MF predicted that for the most part other people wouldn't be able to tell that I wasn't wearing makeup, and that's been true. In fact, a female friend said something to me that totally made my day. We were sitting close together (so, she could see all the crap I used to hide) before class, and she said, "Are you doing that experiment thing?" I replied that I was, and she said, "Wow! Cause I was looking at you the other day and I was like, 'She's totally wearing makeup.' I can't tell that you're not made-up." Then she looked me in the eye and said earnestly, "You're very naturally pretty. You really are." Mostly, that's what people are saying, that I look great. (Of course, no one is going to walk up to me and go, "Holy crap, what happened to YOU??") So I've been getting lots of positive reinforcement.

The second thing-- and this is pretty awesome-- is that gradually, I've begun to believe that I am naturally pretty. Before I did TME, when I wore makeup I was constantly making sure I had enough lip stuff on so my lips didn't look purple, and I saw every single blemish on my skin as evidence that I wasn't pretty enough. I was always worrying about shine and whether or not my mascara was blurring under my eyes, and everywhere I went, I wanted people to look at me and approve of me. Then I started TME, and I'd look at myself in the mirror and go, "Oh my GOD, I look like I'm dead. This is awful."

But now when I look in the mirror, I've noticed that I'm looking for the positive aspects of how I look. I notice my eyes more, and I'm super-proud of my cheekbones. A month ago, I only looked for what was wrong with my face or my hair and I was never pretty enough; but I seem to be slowly getting into the habit of looking for what's right because I need to feel like I'm beautiful. I'm looking for the good, not the bad, and that feels really amazing.

The "bad" that I was truly nervous about, as many of you know, was my skin. I am going to put something on the internet now that I've always been irrationally ashamed of, but TME has changed it: every night, since I was twelve, I have squeezed whatever I could find on my face. Like, EVERY night. It was a ritual, relaxing and satisfying (come on, you can't tell me that the ones that go, "Pop!" aren't awesome), and until about a year ago the scars would heal in under a week. In the meantime, I could cover them up. No big deal. But I hid it, and I knew I was doing permanent damage to my face despite the fact that I didn't really feel the pain any more. Then about a year ago, the red spots started taking longer and longer to clear. Now, they can take up to three weeks (a few have formed what look like permanent red patches), and this new development is one of the things that scared me into TME: I didn't used to scar up. Now I do, and so I have to stop messing up my face.

I've been trying for years to quit, but now that I can't cover up my blemishes I squeeze less and less. In the beginning it was really hard-- I had to force myself to think about something else when the urge hit, reminding myself that there was no covering up whatever damage I did. Now, I only have two red spots (I slipped and squeezed a little)-- but the wonderful thing is, I feel like I respect my skin more now. If I want to look good I have to treat it well. Simple as that. And when I do treat it well, I'm more beautiful than I ever realized. I take good care of it with Proactiv and keep my hands off, and lo and behold... my skin is FINE just the way it is! How about that?

So I've gone from thinking that I needed to wear makeup to be pretty, to honestly believing that I'm beautiful without it. And it took less than a month! I'm really surprised by how fast it happened.

Overall, though, I think about how I look muuuuuch less than I used to. I look how I look today, and that's it. I used to feel like my physical appearance was constantly on display and I always wanted to be ready to be looked at, 24/7; I was also very vain, as I've said, believing that my appearance was a large part of what made me likeable. But now, not only do I not care as much whether people look at me, but I value my beauty (natural or otherwise) less. Yep, that's right-- I congratulate myself on how pretty I am far less often, because I was born with whatever genes, and then I took care of myself. So? That doesn't make me superior to other people, as I thought it did. It's just me, and I've got a ton of other stuff to do than spend an hour making myself up just so I can look at myself in the mirror and go, "Yep-- I'm pretty."

Finally, the last unintended consequence of TME: I want to lose weight. Not much, but now that I'm not always sucking in my tummy or making myself look thinner with any number of Magical Wardrobe Tricks, I need to start taking better care of myself. Not that I'm fat-- I'm not. It's more that I can't fool myself any more about how I feel about my body. Also, I am aging, and even though I haven't gained any weight I think I look different than I used to. I don't need to look like I'm 20, but I don't think it's a bad thing that I'm finally admitting to myself that it's time to be more diligent about my health. Can't hurt, right?

So far, TME has saved me money on cosmetics and hair, made me spend money on head coverings and crafties, made me believe that I'm genuinely beautiful, made me care less about however beautiful I am, and made me want to take better care of my skin and my body. So far, I'd say... so good!


Sorry for the delay...

There was a family emergency, and my life as a whole is running behind. I'll catch up ASAP.


There's so much to write about!

This blog is becoming a bit of a beast, because there's SO much going on in terms of how I feel about things as they relate to the Experiment. There's certainly enough material to write daily, but I don't want to commit to that because once school starts I'll never have the time. I think the best I can promise is weekly updates for now, and if I can write more often then I will.

I spent this whole past week cooped up because of the snow on Sunday, which turned into, as people called it, "Snowpacalypse" because the city of Atlanta a) doesn't have the equipment to clear snow so it turns into infinite planes of ice for a whole week and b) does not have drivers who are willing to slow the **** down when driving in the snow. Also, ATL is really hilly and when those hills are slick, unless you have winter tires and a whole lot of finesse you can't get up or down them safely if at all. There was little to no social contact this week, so there was less opportunity for me to feel self-conscious.

When I finally did go out, it was to get crafty things with which to decorate my hats! It was fun, and I feel more put-together now when I wear them. I think it also satisfied my urge to make pretty things, the one I used to take care of with makeup. However, the money I saved on not worrying about my hair ($65) was spent on said crafty things. So. Then I went to get groceries, and a remarkable thing happened. As I carried my plunder out to the car I saw my reflection in the window of an SUV, and without realizing it I thought to myself, "I have good bone structure."


Later this week, after the ice had melted a bit, I went to start my class readings at a coffee shop. (I could have stayed home, but even the cats were starting to look at me like, "You should get out of here. You're starting to look... insane.") It was an excuse to go do something. Anyway, I curled up in a flannel shirt and newly-decorated hat and read Job for two hours, noticing how much more relaxed I felt than usual. I didn't want people to look at me, but I was OK if they did, so I wasn't nearly as self-conscious as I am even when I'm dolled up. I was just dozing off...

"Excuse me," said a voice above me.

I looked up to see a rather large, well-built youngish man looking down at me. He asked me about the Kindle I was reading on (the second person to do so lately, which makes me wonder whether I should learn more about it since I have one). I told him what I could, and he offered to buy me a coffee in exchange for the "help" I gave him. I was starting to think maybe this wasn't about the Kindle at all, so I politely refused. He chatted with the staff, then walked out and said goodbye to me.

About 45 seconds later he walked back in. "Hey Lauren," he said, "Can I get your number in case I have any more questions?" I gave him a card for this blog since I'm not single, and in mid-sentence he muttered, "Your eyes are amazing." I almost uttered my stock response, which is, "Thank you. A lot of it's the makeup I accent them with," but of course... it wasn't true this time. So I just said, "Thank you."

I got a very well-thought-out message about my last post and my assumption that wearing makeup is required to look polished in all professions; she also challenged my equation of not wearing makeup to self-hatred. I think I should acknowledge that she's right, and that my experience of times in my life where I didn't wear makeup are different than other women's. When I was in high school before I moved to Florida, I did hate myself (as many of us did) but I also wasn't allowed anything trendy on principle (my dad and stepmom were militantly counter-culture).

Teaching a teenager that what's popular isn't the most important thing in the world is one thing; forcing a female adolescent to wear bizarre clothes that don't fit are a different animal. I suffered a lot for standing out and "looking like I hated myself"-- kids know pain when they see it, and people in pain (as I'm sure you remember from high school) are persecuted first.

Well, that's interesting. I think somewhere in my subconscious I see not looking "polished" as making me a target for exclusion and humiliation. Explains a bit of my "no one will like me if I don't look good" thing. Of course, my being singled out back then was a lot more complicated than that, but you know the human subconscious: it installs emotional "buttons" around things to help you avoid pain, and after awhile the button stays but the reasoning behind it is long gone.

I seem to be getting evidence to the contrary, however, in the form of my thought about my bone structure and that guy who went way out of his way to hit on me. That hasn't happened in awhile.

Next time: other women's experience that I've talked to about makeup. Turns out, the way I think isn't the only way to think. Imagine that...


In Da Club, Wit Da Peeps

OK, in Da Bar. But still.

I've been putting off writing this because a lot happened on my first night out with friends in the wilds of young, well-off, mostly-white Atlanta, and I'm not sure how much of it was imagined. I do know that my good female friend, N., told me that my blog changed her everyday life: she said that she had a big ol' cold sore and was considering skipping out on this bar party thing we were going to, but thought, "Lauren's going out completely without makeup. If she can do it, I can do it too!" That made me immeasurably happy, because N. is one of those women that I've compared myself to. She's really beautiful, and she never looks like she's wearing makeup, so when I was thinking about taking this Experiment on the Evil Voice in my head said, "But you're not as naturally beautiful as she is. Look at that skin!" Turns out, she never goes out without top-of-the-line coverage... who knew? She wears it so well that no one notices. Moreover, even though she's "way more perfect" than I am (again, the Evil Voice), she still dreads going out without makeup.

Because of the Experiment I'm starting to notice just how much pressure I put on myself, and how often I tell myself that I'm not "whatever" enough. It's usually not even words in my head-- it's just that gnawing feeling of less-than-ness. You know what I'm talking about? And then I fill it with some shade of Something that will completely change my appearance and make me "whatever" enough once again, which allows me to then go on doing what I was doing before I decided that there was something about me that needed immediate fixing.

It's creepy, if you think about it... although I can't figure out why that's the word that comes to mind.

Anyway, it made me happy that I inspired her to go out when she might have stayed in. I dressed... meh. I figured, "I shouldn't care anymore, so why try at all?" First we went to a place that, to my horror, I would have been fine in... if I had been in New York Mode. In other words, if I had done my hair so it looked choppy and edgy, wore lots of eye makeup and dark, fashionable clothes; or maybe if I had my long blond hair back with lots of expensive smelling hair product, I would have strode in there and showed all my "never lived in New York" friends how a city girl rocks it. This is ridiculous and insulting to the people around me, not least in view of the fact that I left NYC because I hated it. (Apparently, New York-itis-- "All things New York are inherently better than anything else"-- is a chronic illness.) But in this bar in Atlanta, I would have walked in and strode about like I was on the catwalk, if I had been polished. Instead, I faked confidence in my floppy hat, plain brown pants, practical shoes, and no makeup. I felt.... shame. Pure and simple. I felt like an eighth-grader at a high school seniors' party, and I felt like everyone was staring at me, and I was relieved when we couldn't get in due to an I.D. boo-boo (not mine).

Eventually the group went to a different bar because my peeps didn't like the crowded, money-saturated ambiance at the first place, and at the next stop once again I felt totally out of place. I sorta-flirted with the bartender because I wanted to feel a tiny bit attractive (even though I never would have dated him even if I had been single-- he had a huge beard and wore skinny jeans... eeeew), and when I walked up to a tableful of women I had no grace at all because I felt stupid. They turned down my request to use the table they weren't using, and I imagined that it was because they didn't respect a woman who wasn't polished, like they were. During dinner, the waiter flirted with N., and I never got up the courage to look him in the face. I didn't resent her-- I just felt so ugly I didn't want to look at him because I'd risk seeing him look right through me.

I learned something important that night: I can look modest, but I can't give up looking stylish. I don't see this as a betrayal of the Experiment, since its purpose is to reduce my dependence on cosmetics and revealing clothing; but when I look put-together (even modestly), I move through the world differently. Another part of the Experiment is to get a more solid sense of self-esteem, and if I spend nine months thinking, "Don't look at me, I'm hideous," I can't imagine that that would be good for me. Finally, human beings judge based on appearance-- it's just part of how we roll. I don't think I want to see what happens in nine months of people not taking me seriously because I look like I hate myself. Also, see this blog about women in ministry and professionalism.

In any case, I have certainly decided that when I preach a sermon in front of a bunch of people on 2/3, I will be wearing minimal makeup because I'll be in "professional" mode. It wouldn't do not to look polished, and in the West that means makeup on a woman. I feel guilty for making this choice, which is interesting.

At the end of the night, N. graciously agreed to store my makeup for me, which was awesome. She's so encouraging, and I'm glad to have that stuff out of the house because I was REALLY REALLY tempted, every single day, to make myself up. Just ONCE. I've also decided not to cut or dye my hair during the Experiment, which will save me $65 every six weeks. So... $65! Saved! BAM!

I still can't wait until this is over.


Dinner FAIL

I thought today was Thursday. Darn vacation... you get all turned-around. Oh well. I'll still post after First Contact With Friends.

First Contact With Friends...

OK, so I'm going to dinner and will encounter a bunch of friends who have been super-supportive of the Experiment, but have never seen me without makeup and whose opinions I care about.

I have to find a place to store all my makeup, because every five minutes (literally) I think about cheating and covering up my acne scars. "Just a little," says the little voice in my head. "Just so you look... pretty."

GAAAAAH. I hate this. For serious reals. I'll let you know how it goes.


God and Mammon

When I was first struggling to forgive the church for what it's been turned into by greed and humanity's lust for power, I was looking for ways to prove to the faceless "they" that I felt had taken it over that they were, with their exclusivity, love of money, and general self-satisfied certainty that they had all the answers, the very opposite of Christians. I discovered this passage in Matthew while reading through the New Testament (for the very first time, but hey, have YOU ever read it?) in a laundromat on a winter afternoon in Queens:

"No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You can not serve both God and Money [Mammon]." (Matthew 6:24 NIV)

"AHA!" I said aloud, thinking that I, in my infinite wisdom, had unearthed yet another snippet I could point to when doing battle against the Evil Right-Wing Christian Republican Fundamentalists (like, if I ever ran into Sarah Palin at the grocery store. Which may be why I'm so big on wearing makeup there: can't fight evil with a shiny t-zone.). Because think about it-- when you picture "Fundamentalist Christians," or even just "Jesus Is the Only Way" types, are they ever poor? A minority? Uneducated? Or are they white, well-off, pro-Bush, educated suburbanites? Are they spiritual, compassionate people with unflinching integrity, or are they wealthy, self-absorbed materialists who are overly concerned with their image and the way... they... look...?


"Mammon" is usually translated as the love of money (so, greed) or the love of power, and here in the NIV it's taken to mean "money" itself. I love that, because the writer is essentially saying that you can't love both God and stuff. I think that for me and maybe others who live in any image-driven Westernized culture, "Mammon" means something more amorphous. I think that in my case, Mammon is the need to be envied. It's the thirst to be approved of based on external markers, like possessions and success, and most of all, youthful beauty-- the kind I can buy, with good teeth and a flat tummy and really well-applied eyeshadow.

What made me think of this connection between the Experiment and my relationship with God was that yesterday, I needed to pray, and after that, I needed to read the Bible. Now, like most people I go through phases with my prayer, and I'm still struggling mightily even with calling myself a "Christian" because of what that has been allowed to mean. So sometimes I pray a lot (especially when I'm sad or angry), and then when things are going well I just sort of chat to God in my head during the day. I read the Bible, oh, maybe once a week (don't tell the people in seminary who think this makes me a heathen). But what made yesterday so remarkable was that I felt a need to be replenished by the Spirit, and I'm not going through a rough patch. In fact, I couldn't be happier: I love school, I have a car, my family adores me, I have a man whose love makes my life better daily... I'm absolutely joyous, and still, at the end of the day I needed to sit with God. And so that's what I did.

I'm not saying that, when I force myself to give up my attachment to how I look, I can finally accept that Jesus is the only way. This isn't about "accepting" any particular faith-- it's about needing to connect with God, and yesterday I experienced a powerful thirst to be in the presence of the sacred, not to ask for anything but just to spend time there. It felt centering, peaceful, and most of all, fulfilling.

I wonder if there's a connection between the hole I was filling with making myself up every day and the need I experienced to spend time in God's presence, just kind of sitting there and being a receiver. It wouldn't be surprising, since the choice to dress modestly is most often connected to faith (from the Church of Latter Day Saints to Orthodox Jews to Muslims to Buddhist monks). I can't think of a single situation where a woman would choose to cover her hair, arms and legs that wouldn't have something to do with having a deeper relationship with the divine. 

The Bible tells me that the love of God and the love of approval are mutually exclusive. Wouldn't it be a cool discovery if yesterday is just what happens when I spend less time on "Mammon?"


Officially: Day 3. Unofficially: Day 1.

I say "unofficially" for a few reasons. First, because 1/1 and 1/2 were both spent either traveling or hanging out with peeps who have seen me without makeup (i.e., MF and the friend who stayed in our room with us the night of the 1st); second, because today I went out of the house in Atlanta all covered up and had to deal with the prospect of seeing someone I knew, without makeup a bad breakout; and finally, because today was the first day that I had a very powerful urge to make myself look fabulous... and couldn't.

Ordinarily, a day like today-- with nothing on a timetable but with a lot of chores and things to accomplish-- would be spent at least partially (read: about an hour) reassuring myself that I'm an OK-looking woman by pulling out all the Beauty Stops. I spent the last week at Lindy Focus, where there was no shortage of gorgeous women to compare myself to (like these lovely ladies), most of whom were dressed to the nines and looked polished and certainly not "au naturale." Don't get me wrong: what I'm saying is, these women were both gorgeous AND dolled-up, as I'm sure you can see by the pictures. I didn't feel exactly insecure in comparison, but with today being the first day I've had the time to spend that's necessary to look like, say, this, I wanted very badly to remind myself that I can look like a 1940s pinup too, thankyouverymuch, and therefore am doing OK in life.

The reason I needed to do this has to do with two things: a sense of accomplishment, and my self-esteem. My looking in the mirror and thinking, "I'm beautiful" is something I can accomplish: first I shower, then I shave, then I find something flattering and put on makeup and style my hair in a way that lets me look in the mirror and say to myself, "There. I'm still pretty. Nothing to worry about, cause I'm still OK in that department." It's a fast, reliable way to shoo away insecurity about my place in the world, because as we all know, a woman must first be beautiful to be "good." (I know that link and the attendant idea seem cliche, but think about it: when was the last time you saw anything where the heroine wasn't beautiful?) Also, there's a kind of creative impulse that's satisfied: I decide to take some materials and craft something new and beautiful, something I've seen and want to emulate (my personal "I wish I were her" this past week), so in a sense I've "made" something. There! Results. I've proven once again that I have the power to change my environment, create beauty, satisfy The Beauty Requirements I set for myself.

And then ordinarily, having made myself up on a day like today, I would have headed off to the grocery store looking fabulous and ready to see some Hottie McHotterson and meet his eye, enjoying the pleasure of seeing the flash of attraction in his face, or to round the corner and run into a female friend whose high regard I deeply value and know that her image of me was untarnished because, as usual, I looked beautiful.

Today, I went to a grocery store that no one I know ever goes to, slinking through the aisles and praying that no one whose opinion I cared about would see me like this, at eleven o'clock at night.

As you may be able to sense, I'm a little sad. I feel off-balance and upset. However, in my desire to accomplish something external I've really managed to make myself proud with all I've gotten done today. Usually all the dolling-up would take care of that impulse. Tonight, I'm tired because I've done so much, and it'll still be done when I wake up tomorrow: I cleaned my room in record time, washed my yoga mat (which I've been meaning to do for over a year), brushed the cats and gave them their monthly butt-fur cut, paid my rent, sorted my mail, cleaned the carpet, unpacked, did the laundry, and sorted out most of the clothes I won't be wearing until this whole damn thing is over. I've surprised myself with the volume of what I've gotten done in a mere eight hours.

Will this continue? What will I learn about a woman's immediate sense of accomplishment (which for me means making myself up) vs. a man's (writing a paper, fixing something, learning to play the banjo)? Is this one possible explanation for why men are thought to get more done in general? Will I really get more done with all the time and energy I find myself with? The first thing I want to FINALLY learn to do is make my own clothes. I've never had time before, but it sure would be sweet if at the end of every day, instead of washing the fruits of my labors down the drain, I could hang them up to be ready for more work tomorrow.


I cry. A little.

So, the day has arrived. My last hurrah, last night at the New Year's Eve dance at Lindy Focus (http://www.lindyfocus.com/) with MF:

Forties makeup (red lipstick, heavy eyeliner, eyeshadow, heavy powder, blush), swing dress, complicated stockings and underpants, "done" hair: one hour. Also, things were shaved. It was epic.

The next day (now):
Sigh. When I looked in the mirror at the chocolate place my amazing boyf took me to, I thought, "I don't look so bad." Still, I'm not counting on feeling very attractive for the next few weeks, at least until I get used to this. Fortunately, Pizza Hut breadsticks are on the way. And that makes me feel a little better.