Wednesday, October 10, 2012

In Celebration of Girliness, Of a Sort

As I mentioned yesterday, Mike, HR and I have been on an old photograph binge which won't let up until we get through the whole archive. The boy has loved looking at pictures for as long as I can remember, and it's fun to play "who's this?" with him. He's quite good at identifying people even when they were much younger, not that I'm saying he's some kind of genius or anything, I just wonder how he even has a concept of the past and how people age. For Mike and me the appeal is entirely different, looking on people we loved and lost, or reliving wonderful times. Nostalgia-a-go-go. One thing that has been hammered home to me after seeing my own mug ad nauseum, from childhood up until now is that I cannot believe how I let myself leave the house on a regular basis.

From, oh, the college years or so, I began to really embrace a persona that prided itself on being low maintenance. I did nothing to my hair beyond putting it in a ponytail. I never wore make up (not that I do much now, but the idea was absolutely abhorrent then). And I bought cheap, simple, unflattering clothes because I didn't care. Tee shirts, sweaters, jeans and sneakers were my staples, and I rarely tried things on. I wanted to be attractive, but I didn't have the patience to put any effort in. That's where youth was on my side - that's when you can get away with being a slob. And I was comfortable and happy. I only cringe in retrospect.

What surprises me really is that the attitude extended to my wedding day. I didn't have my hair or makeup done, my aunt practically had to wrestle me to the ground to get some foundation on me so I wouldn't be too shiny in photographs, and all I can see when I look back at myself is, would it have killed me to buy a new bra for the occasion that actually provided some support? And this is when I had good, young boobs. I just did not make it a priority. I think I got a manicure for the occasion, but I had never even entertained the reality of a pedicure. Feet were feet, right? Yes I was a relative child when we were married, and that helped me look cute despite it all, but I wonder deep down if I really didn't care, or if I was just overly attached to my anti-bridezilla image. It was my wedding day, the single most photographed occasion of my life, and I was like, eh. But I think it's telling that the one little meltdown I had in regards to the wedding was a couple of nights before, when I saw a photograph of me in my gown at my last fitting (in the days before digital, there were no instant results back then) and I decided I looked awful. I pushed the remorse aside and soldiered on, but even then, I think I wished I had put just a little more care into my appearance. I think I wanted to be someone who didn't care, but deep down I did care and I couldn't reconcile my reputation for being easygoing with wanting to look pretty on my wedding day.

Somehow, over the years, I started caring, and started being OK with caring. I slowly came to accept that putting in the extra effort of being thoughtful in clothing choices, being willing to pay lot for a haircut or a decent pair of jeans, was fine if it was within my means and it made a difference in my outlook. I've discovered the joy of the occasional pedicure, which is something I couldn't even fathom in olden times-- I wasn't one of "those" girls, you know? But it turns out I am one of those, and it doesn't make me a difficult or annoying person. I mean, I may be difficult or annoying for other reasons, but I'm not defined by what I do to make me feel good about presenting myself to the world every day. I know I'm the only one this means anything to, but it's just that, I do it for myself. It's frivolous in the scheme of things, but it's not for nothing. It took me way longer than it should have to realize that it doesn't make me less smart or kind or less of a feminist to want to look nice. If my appearance started to be my top priority, or if I started on the slippery slope of equating my worth with my looks, we'd have problems. I'm just saying it took me a long time to make peace with myself as an anti-girly-girl who has some traditional girly-girl tendencies. It's a shame it takes so long to get to these realizations sometimes, but I can't say I have regrets about time I didn't spend fixating on my appearance, only the time that I inverted the fixation, suppressing parts of my real personality because of how I might have been perceived. One of the great things about getting older is that shame goes out the window. You become hyper-aware that life is too short for not owning yourself. And for bad bras. And not listening to the Sex Pistols.


  1. Coming from a very girly-girl, I think you looked absolutely beautiful on your wedding day. I have been going the opposite direction lately and going out without makeup and becoming comfortable with who I am without. Surely there is a balance somewhere? Much love.

  2. Thank you pretty lady! I've always admired your unapologetic, joyful girliness. We'll find the balance someday. The journey is fun. XO, D