I sometimes forget.

You know what my very favorite thing about being an adult is?  You really don’t have to do anything.  Sure, some things have consequences if you choose not to do them (I strongly suggest you continue to pay your taxes), but for the most part, you don’t have to do anything you don’t want to do.

I sometimes forget this.

I’ve been working myself up lately over all these expectations that get (unfairly) placed on women about our appearances.  There are so many rules and so many ridiculous media messages, and it just gets exhausting.  

But….I don’t actually have to listen to any of it.  I don’t have to live by those rules.

Hell, I don’t even have to live by my own rules, not if they’ve stopped working for me (such as my rule that says I don’t wear dangly earrings – random and stupid, exactly the kind of rule one should ignore).

I can instead craft my appearance to reflect who I am.  I can wear makeup or not.  I can wear my hair how I want.  I can wear whatever clothes I like.  And if others look at me and don’t like something about my appearance, that doesn’t actually hurt me.

It’s okay to care about my appearance – it’s okay to want to feel good about how I look (I sometimes have to remind myself of this – I worry that those desires can’t live in tandem with my feminism, but I truly believe they can).  But I’d forgotten that feeling good about how I look is about meeting my own expectations, not the expectations of others.

But I remember now.

Being an adult is awesome.

On facing my face.

For the last week, I’ve been trying to convince myself to go makeup-free for a week.  But I keep making all these excuses.  Like, this week my son has a dentist appointment.  See, I can handle going to the grocery store or the library without makeup, usually because I’m in deep casual mode then: the hat, the hoodie, the Chucks.  But something out of our routine makes me nervous.  I feel extra pressure to be “presentable,” and in my head that means “wearing makeup.”

But y’all, I really kind of hate makeup.

I know there are women out there who love to wear makeup, love experimenting with different products and looks, but I am not one of those women.  I wear makeup for three reasons: to even out my uneven skin, to give myself eyebrows because my actual ones seem to be disappearing, and to brighten up my fair complexion.  I don’t experiment; there’s not a lot of fun to be found in my makeup bag, just endless shades of beige and brown.  I wear it only to correct, not to enhance.  And so at heart putting on makeup is a self-critical act; I do it because I am uncomfortable with my actual face.

And because I have very sensitive and vaguely hysterical skin, the more I wear makeup, the more blemishes I get, and it becomes this annoying cycle.

I think the only way to overcome this fear of my face is by getting used to seeing it as it is, and not just at home in the bathroom mirror when I’m also sporting bedhead and a sweatshirt from 1996.  I need to see it out in the world: in store windows when I’m shopping and dressed in a favorite outfit, or in the rear view mirror in the car when I’m rocking good hair and my Top Gun sunglasses.  I need to see my face, out there living life, enjoying life, makeup free.  I need to see it’s really okay, and really not scary.

So maybe I just do it. Maybe I just choose a day and commit to 7 days makeup-free, fear be damned.  The only way to change how I feel is by changing what I do, right?

What I Love This Week – 3/14/14

 

I like it when the universe gives me a little high-five, and reading this post by Nina over at The Art of Simple this week made me feel like coming back to blogging was the right thing for right now.

My new favorite thing is Shameless Self Promotion Sunday at Feministe.  I discover great new reads and am blown away by all the passionate, articulate people out there in the world.

An example of one of those great reads? This blog: I Was A High School Feminist.  And it may be bad form to link to a list of links, but this is some awesome reading here!

In unrelated news, I’ve got warmer weather on the brain, and I think I need a closetful of comfy, swishy maxi dresses.  The first one I plan to make is the Jenny dress from Sis Boom.

Camping + Bike Ride + My Little Family?  Count me in!

Want V. Don’t Want

What I Want To Do:

  • Never again use the word “saddlebags” unless I’m referring to a horse.
  • Wear shorts when it’s hot, damn it.  I have both cellulite and spider veins, but those  things don’t also make me immune to 100º+ temps and therefore able to wear long pants in July.
  • Only make eating/exercise changes in order to make my inner self feel good, not my outer self look different.
  • Put on sandals without having to consider the state of my toenails.  Feet are just kind of ugly; let’s accept that and move forward.
  • Smile at myself in the mirror.  I smile at other people when I see them – why not myself?
  • Wear comfortable undergarments.  Life is too short for squeezy underwear or pokey bras.

What I Don’t Want To Do:

  • Own concealer.  Concealer is such a trap door, y’all.  You start out covering that giant pimple that appeared out of nowhere, but instead you just start seeing flaws everywhere – every little bump or dark circle becomes a problem.  Just don’t start.
  • Dye my hair to cover the gray.  The gray is showing up big time these days, and I’m embracing it.  I’m aging and it’s okay.
  • Judge other women’s appearances.  It’s so damn easy to cast a critical eye toward a woman who is wearing something too tight, or a woman who is unfashionable, or a woman who has “bad hair.”  But that critical eye shows up when you next face yourself mirror, too.  Judging other women is about comparing yourself to them – it just is.  And whether you win or lose in the moment’s comparison, we all ultimately lose.  I’m guilty of comparing, and I’m going to stop.
  • Shave my legs for anyone other than me.  Sometimes I really like the feeling of freshly-shaved legs against clean sheets.  Other times I do not have a single damn to give.  If I want to shave my legs, I will.  But I don’t want to do it because it’s just something women are supposed to do.

What I love today:  “If you retain noting else, always remember the most important rule of beauty, which is: who cares?” – Tiny Fey

Somewhere to start.

I’ve been self-conscious my whole life.  I don’t think that’s particularly unusual; our culture trains women to view themselves as objects to be seen. Beauty is, after all, the only power granted to women without question, the only power we can claim more easily than men can.    For me, it means I rarely look in a mirror and feel like I’m looking with my own eyes; I’m always considering how I’ll look to someone else.

“Does this outfit make me look like I’m trying too hard?”

or, “Is my hair veering into ‘middle-aged mom’ territory too aggressively (never mind I am, in fact, a middle-aged mom)?”

or, “Does my makeup disguise my flaws without looking like I’m trying to be pretty?”

I don’t know when it began exactly.  My mom was never confident of her appearance (despite, to my eyes, being lovely above all others) and so raising two girls had to be fraught with challenges.  A feminist at heart, she didn’t emphasize appearances and treated us like kids, not like little princesses, but I don’t ever remember not being aware that my mother didn’t see herself as beautiful.  And so I came to believe that beauty was this thing that some women were born with and some weren’t, like blond hair or long legs.  You just had it or you didn’t.

There were other things, of course: the grandmother who referred to my sister as “the pretty one” and me  as “the smart one,” which my child-logic deduced to mean my sister was dumb and I was ugly.  There were the glasses in 3rd grade.  The chubbiness.  The unfashionable clothes (see: chubbiness).  The acne (dear heavens, the acne).  The unfortunate and matronly hairstyles.    By the time I was in high school, I was certain of three things: I was smart, I wasn’t pretty, and being pretty was better than being smart.

As an adult, most of my efforts have been directed not at making myself more beautiful, but at making myself less objectionable.  I dieted through my twenties because if I couldn’t be pretty, I could at least be thinner.  Being good at dieting, which I was, garners you a lot of seemingly-positive attention.  I say “seemingly,” because it’s exciting until you realize it confirms that you were, as you suspected, unacceptable before.  My diet almost destroyed me and I’ve recovered from it, but the motivations that inspired it linger in different ways.

After all, here I am, 37 years old and weary of seeing myself through others’ eyes.  I’m tired of spending precious minutes putting on makeup just to cover “flaws” so the world thinks I’m at least trying not to be gross.  It’s annoying beauty-work that men don’t have to do and no one should begin her day by angrily applying eye liner and muttering about patriarchy.  I wear my hair short, which might make me look all “short hair don’t care!” but I sometimes wonder if I keep going back to it because the first time I cut it off at 17, a boy who had otherwise never really talked to me told me I looked better with short hair  (Ah, “better”, that most non-complimentary of non-compliments).  I spend too much money on clothes, trying to feel good about how I am perceived in the world.  It’s all external, all the time; yet none of it relieves the self-consciousness, the fear, the shame.

It has to start inside.  I mean, there has to be a way to live free of the judgment of self and others.  I know it’s possible because I see women who do it, who are somehow comfortable in their skin.  And I can only imagine how that must radiate outward.  If you are at home in yourself, you’re not competing.  If you’re not competing, you’re not judging.  If you’re not judging, well….there must be such peace.

I’m not sure how to begin this shift for myself.  But I’m hoping that by writing this, by offering this request to a great and generous universe, my eyes will recognize the next step when I see it.