Friday, November 16, 2007

Letting Yourself Go

So I was reading a thread on the message board formerly known as CAM regarding women who, upon becoming stay-at-home moms, becoming fat, or just plain getting older, stop taking care of themselves. Everyone on the post agreed that mothers (and just people in general) feel better when we take the time to take care of ourselves. That was the easy part. No so easy was the definition of "take care of yourself." Even more not so easy was what our husbands, co-workers, friends, and neighbors think of us when we start slipping. Well, the start of "slipping" depends on your definition of "take care of yourself." So if your definition is different than mine, then your downhill slope is higher and steeper than mine. And what right do you or anyone around me have to judge me? And why should my husband get a say in how I look? And just how far do I have to go before "taking care of myself" is synonymous for "pleasing others"? You can see how this went on and on. It became a thread full of snotty, self-righteous posts, with judgements thrown left and right in the guise of "helpful advice." But in between the cattiness and maliciousness, there were some hard questions and for me, some even harder truths.

Many mothers have a tendency to put their kids, husband, chores, bills, shopping, and other routine necessities ahead of themselves. Yes, that is a generalization, but one that I believe is pretty darn true. It's what we've been programmed to do ... take care of your family, be the rock, the glue that holds everything together. That's fine, but unfortunately, for a lot of woman, m-o-t-h-e-r spells martyr. Personally, I think it's stupid to believe you can continue putting yourself last and still be a happy person. If you haven't had time to take a bubble bath, read a book, see a movie, get a pedicure, or just enjoy a couple hours to yourself, then (in my very humble opinion) you have priority issues. I'm not saying you should lock your kids in a closet on a daily basis so you can lounge around eating bon bons (mmmm, bon bons). I'm saying that you will be a better mother, a better wife, a better person (and more fun to be around!) if you take the occasional break. To me, that is just common sense, and in all honesty wasn't the topic of the CAM thread. I got distracted when starting this post and had to go off on that little rant. Hopefully I have enlightened someone's life. Back on subject now!

The focus of the thread was that apparently, to be happy with one's self, attractive to one's husband, and pleasing to those in one's presence, one must take the time for basic hygiene, dressing nicely, styling hair, and applying makeup. Without those four items, according to some of these ladies, a woman just won't feel good about herself, her husband's eyes will start to roam, and the other moms who see her will think she's a lazy slob.

Being clean is something I think everyone is on board with (or should be, for Pete's sake). I don't know many people who disdain things like soap, toothpaste, and/or deodorant (with the exception of Matthew McConaughey, who is hot enough to get away with it). Dressing nicely, well, I'm more in favor of dressing appropriately. You work in an office, feel free to torture yourself with fashionable-but-excruciating heels and deal with runs in your nylons. You stay at home with your kids, then clean, decent-fitting clothes is about all I think anyone has the right to expect. Are jeans nicer than sweat pants? Yes, of course, but if you're having a true, we're-staying-home-today day, or a I'm-pmsing-and-none-of-my-jeans-fit day, or an I-haven't-done-that-particular-load-of-laundry-yet day, then by all means, wear your (clean) sweats or yoga pants or whatever. Even if you have to (gasp!) run out to the store, it's not the end of the world.

Stylish hair, eh, anyone who knows me is aware that hair's not my thing. If it's clean, brushed, and not hanging in my face, I'm good to go. I'm not gonna judge a woman who throws her hair up in a ponytail or clippy every day. (In all honesty, I'm going to envy them for having hair long enough to pull back. Damn butchering crazy person disguised as a hairstylist.) If hair is your thing, and you pay lots of money to have it cut and highlighted and styled to a T, then more power to you. I'm sure your hair looks better than mine, and I'm okay with that. Just don't bitch about how expensive your salon/colorist/stylist is, and no punches will be thrown.

Now, on to makeup, which, even though you don't know it yet, is the entire point of this post. I have always been a makeup-free person. I have lots of makeup, expensive, high-end makeup, but I rarely use it. I have fun with it when I'm going somewhere that requires me to look nice, and I'm good at doing full-face, out-on-the-town makeup, if I do say so myself (hey, my mom told me so!). But I don't wear makeup on a daily basis. Never have, even when I worked in an office. In all honesty, it's mainly because I'm lazy. I don't want to have to get up 30 minutes early so I can put gunk on my face without being interrupted forty two million times by my (darling) children. I don't want to have to spend 15 minutes at night washing it off, then applying three kinds of facial lotion to my extremely dry skin, made drier by the very makeup I'm wiping off. I don't want to have to haul out and then put away my makeup case every day, which, because I only know how to do full-face, is pretty damn big. If you haven't gotten the picture yet, I'M LAZY. I fully admit it!

It doesn't help that I'm married to a man who prefers me to be bare-faced (and bare-a--never mind, not going there). He is not into what he calls the "fakeness" of a made-up face. It also doesn't help that I've never really liked my looks and have always thought of myself as a tomboy, both of which have led me to a "why bother" attitude. So, for thirty years I've been facially au natural. Thirty years, people! By now, it's more than a habit, it's a lifestyle.

But this CAM thread got me to thinking. I've been trying to feel better about myself lately. I've had some issues with self-esteem, depression, weight gain ... in general I've not been real happy with myself. I'm taking steps to fixing that, and so far I'm happy with the results (except in the weight area, which appears will be the bane of my existence for life). So I'm open to new ways of doing things, suggestions toward Becoming A Better Me. (Is that a book? It sounds like a book. Hmmm.) I am a dry sponge, and the CAM thread was a downpour of non-filtered water. I soaked up the bad along with the good, which was a bit damaging to my psyche. Luckily, good sense (aka my husband) came along and wrung me out, helping to get rid of the excess bad and leaving me slightly damp with mostly good. Ooookay, enough of that metaphor. End result is I was willing and ready to try wearing makeup on a daily basis to see if it would help in my Improve Jenn campaign.

Enthusiastic as I was, spending a ton of time messing with my face was still a flat-out no go. Not happening, sister! But I've watched What Not To Wear enough times to (somewhat) remember Carmindy's 5 Minute Face technique. She rarely uses it; she seems to prefer the full-face method that I have (ahem) mastered. But occasionally there will be a busy mom on this show who bluntly informs Carmindy that makeup time simply does not exist in her life, and out comes the whole 5 minute thing. Light foundation, a bit of eyeshadow, a swoop of mascara, puff puff of blush, and some lip gloss. Voila! A glamorous whole new subtly improved you in just 5 itty-bitty minutes. I figure I'll give it a shot.

I'm into Day 3 of the Makeup for Jenn strategy. To my surprise, the 5 minute thing really is pretty easy, although it takes me about 10. To my delight, I look much better while still appearing natural. To my dismay, no one has noticed. Not. One. Single. Person. I had to point it out to my husband on Day 1 (although I will allow that it was the end of the day, he was tired, and some of makeup had rubbed off. But please, that does not get you off the hook. The foundation and mascara were still there, dammit!). My co-workers have said nothing. The moms at gymnastics class, nope. Not even a "Mommy, you're so beautiful" from my kiddos (yes, I have gotten that in the past, thankyouverymuch). So what now? Do I go on? Is it just a big fat waste of time to put on makeup which is apparently so light and natural looking that no one notices? Is it worth the effort I'm putting into this if the only person who likes it is me?

See, this whole thing is about me. Me me me. Being happy with myself. Being confident and secure in my skin. But sadly, when it comes to looks, I need the reassurance of those around me to be convinced that I'm good to go in that department. Maybe at some point in the distant future, I will be so full of self-esteem that I will be able to look in the mirror, blow myself a kiss and tell me, "You look HOT baby," and believe it, then walk out the door and maintain that confidence, even if not a single soul compliments me. That would be a good place, indeed. Well, it would be a good place if it were true, not if I had William Hung syndrome and was just really, really good at fooling myself. But I digress. I am not in that place, and do not know if I will ever get there. And in the face of what I think of as such a huge change, the silence of those around me is a bit depressing.

For now, I am going to continue along the Path of Makeup. It's only been a few days, after all. Maybe my friends have noticed, but they just can't come up with a nice way to say, "Wow, you look great! It's a nice change from the old you." :-) Maybe they just aren't the noticing type, or maybe they aren't the commenting type. Who knows. I figure I'll start with improving my own impression of myself, and worry about everyone else a ways down the road. Whether that improvement will continue to include makeup, I can't tell you. I do know that I bought an eyelash curler last night, which was such a girly-girl, beauty queen thing to do that I cringed while using it even as I rejoiced at my lovely, up-turned (!!) lashes.

Non-makeup vs. make-up, slightly amused

Non-makeup vs. makeup, cheesy grin


Julie said...

I can kinda see the make-up, but it's definately subtle... which is how it's supposed to be! I wear foundation and mascara everyday (well, like 99.9% of days), and I didn't one day. When I told Olvin, he was like, "Really? You look the same as you always do." Hmmm..... So maybe I am the only one who notices, but you know what? That's good enough for me!

Julie said...

This reminds me of nice underwear. For some reason I love wearing pretty, matching underwear even though (unfortunately) I'm the only one who ever sees it!