Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Good enough

Yesterday, a friend of mine asked if I would take her out shopping. She has a wedding in June and she wants me to help her get an outfit and make-up. Of course, I will help her, but I had to laugh. This isn't the first time a friend of mine has asked me for beauty advice. It shocks me as much today as it does every other time it happens.

I am not a beauty or fashion icon. I was in middle school by the time I knew for certain that I was never going to blend in. I could not immulate the make-up, fashion ideas and clothing of my peers no matter how hard I tried. I had two choices. I could grow really thick skin and seek out what *I* liked, or I could continue to look funny and be made fun of for it. I was a walking target for bullies either way, but option number one meant not letting the bullies control me. It was a brave, albeit foolish, decision. The bullies still hurt, but I continued to grow thick skin and to teach myself to seek out what was ME and not what was fashionable.

I have always looked outside of normal. However, until I started having kids and my body started changing, I was very comfortable in my skin and at peace with being quirky. The changes in my body threw me for a tailspin, as did the thyroid condition that made my shape and size fluctuate wildly for years on end. I abandoned caring about myself until after I caught II. I've worked hard to reclaim that part of me since that point. I think I've done a good job, but I still would not consider me fashion forward.

I was the presenter at a Sociological Conference in February being severely reminded of how little I blend in. In a sea of black suits (rather pretentious for an undergraduate conference in my opinion honestly), I was wearing a plum gypsy skirt, a brown bamboo blouse I made myself, gorgeous grey kid boots and a homemade shawl with a kaliedescope of colors that blended all of the elements of the outfit into one showcase piece. I still maintain there was absolutely nothing wrong with my outfit, but I was very glaringly different at the conference. I nearly got self-concious and then I told myself to stop that. Everyone of us were there based upon our BRAINS. Our academic accomplishments got us there. Who darn well cares if I don't look the part well. Sociologists should work harder for an anti-hegemonic presona anyway, in my opinion.

Yeah, not the person to talk to if you want to make an impression of doing it better than others. I think I must be the friend you seek out if you want to make an impression against the flow, though.

My roommate/nanny has asked me for help with jewelry, clothing, make-up, even picking sandals. My teenage daughter has requested I teach her how to put on her eye make-up. Last fall, I was preparing a friend for court and another friend in the group declared that I was JUST the person to help prepare the friend's clothing, jewelry and make-up, since I could do it better than anyone else in the group. I had to check to see if there was something else there with my name, honestly. They were talking about the girl whose sister yanked her back when she was nearly ready to walk down the isle to completely re-do her make-up, declaring it not sufficient for a bride.

My sister pays $500 for a cut and color and never leaves her house without looking drop-dead gorgeous and totally put together. She buys her make-up at the expenseive make-up counter. I roll my eyes and stick with Walmart. I refuse to pay that much money for paint on my face! Yet, when I started to lose weight this year, my panic had everything to do with the fact that I love my clothing wardrobe for the first time since college. I may be large, but I'm growing comfortable in my skin again, and the thought of having to re-create my wardrobe in a smaller aize is heartbreaking after working so hard to build it over the last three years.

I cannot reconcile the person my friends keep coming to for advice, commenting that that I know so well how to be feminine and beautiful with the self image I carry of myself. I compare myself to my sister, the eptiome of perfection. I compare myself to what my LMB always said about me (fat, ugly, ackward and wasting my time to try and change it). I cannot see what these friends see. Even though I've made a series of self discoveries in the last 2.5 years about myself and my self image, I still feel like the ackward swan that will never fit in with the Duck family. I'm taller than average. I'm gangly. There's something about my hair that I don't understand. My eyes look gorgeous but my weight literally bounces 40 pounds depending on what my thyroid does at any given time. Until I was 24, I was a natural blond. I don't know that I liked being blond, but it was who I was. Then, while pregnant with my first son, my hair turned a mousy brown. Now that I knew I hated. By 30, I decided if I could not be the hair color I always was, then I would at least be something I of my choosing and liking. These days, I dye my hair with henna and I think I make a good auburn redhead. I buy my henna in a year supply so I don't fall into my old habits of not caring for myself and ending up between mousey brown and auburn red. My eyes are olive. They aren't actually hazel, which is the color our society explains them with. From a distance, they appear green or brown based upon my mood. Up close, it is obvious they are olive green with golden flecks around the rims. The changes you see at a distance are merely dependent on how prominent those gold flecks are, not that my eyes actually change colors.

That something about my hair? I'm not even sure what it is. I suspect it's one of those things like my father that I wasn't allowed to have. I was taught to clean it squeaky clean every single day. It was never straight like my mother and sisters. It was frizzy and full of static. Worst of all if it was humid or rained, or my hair got wet, my hair curled. Sometimes it was only a wave, but often it was craziness. I'm still not sure what is up with my hair. Some days it wavaes, sometimes it really curls up. I'm only partially educated on caring for curly hair, and I'm less certain of what my hair will actually do over time as I let my hair discover what is supposed to do. My father has tight kinky curls. I have a daughter with frizz because she won't care for her curls that are almost as kinky as her grandfathers. I've seen enough pictures of me in the past when I was fighting to make my hair conform to what I was told it was supposed to be that I have to wonder what mine will do as I let it be what it wants to be now. It's another new discovery about myself that I'm now two weeks into and curious as to what will happen with it.

What is it about women that we can never accept ourselves and call it well enough? I know my sister looks drop dead gorgeous when she opens her door because she is too insecure to let the world see anything else. I often don't dress up at all because I feel so gangly that I wonder what the point of even trying is. My friend who wants my help is tiny, gorgeous...and hasn't dressed up and felt pretty in years. She feels as insecure as every other woman I know. She feels frumpy and ugly, yet she could turn every head in a room if she stood up and insisted someone take notice of her. My roommate/nanny was taught her entire life she was ugly....and she's gorgeous, stunning actually. My sister is drop dead gorgeous, but she's beautiful when she skips the requisite Southern Make-up Mask too, something she refuses to brave and attempt.

What are we so hard on ourselves? I know it's not a new question. Society, fashion, even women have been asking this for a long time and not finding answers. Yet, we continue to put ourselves down. If my friends look to me for fashion advice, it's not because I am somehow fashionable. It's because I've worked hard in the last 2.5 years to tap back into what was ME and I'm back to ocnfident in my appearance again. I don't want to be fashionable. I was to be confident and comfortable. I guess if I'm being sought out for advice, I'm getting back to that trait. I'm still going to laugh when someone looks to me for fashion assistance. Gypsy skirt in a sea of suits people....but at least I stood out.

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