I’ve forgotten how to apply makeup.

The pandemic hit at an all time low for me. Jake and I had just found out that we were going to have to go through IVF over the summer and I… wasn’t handling it well.

… more than once, I called in late, because I couldn’t pull it together.

Even during the month before Covid-19 hit my state, the only reason I bothered to dress nicely and do my hair and makeup, was that it made me feel more capable and put together, at a time when I desperately needed it. So, when the library closed for an indeterminate amount of time, my sole goal, in regards to appearance, was to maintain my weight and basic hygiene. During those six weeks, my daily uniform consisted of athletic shorts, tank tops, and ponytails… not even cute, perky ponytails, but the Founding Father kind that’s worn at the base of the neck.

Indeed, I did look like a young Mr. Feeny for most of 2020.

When the library reopened, I felt little motivation to achieve more than the bare minimum summer dress code of denim capris and t-shirts… and a mask. Whereas I might have considered applying concealer and mascara before, I saw no point while revealing barely an inch between bangs and mask. Makeup is expensive and we were about to spend tens of thousands of dollars on fertility treatments. Furthermore, customers weren’t even allowed in the building and Jake was just happy that I could get out of bed in the morning. Who was I trying to impress?

I began my first IVF cycle in July and was far more concerned with taking my temperature thirteen times a day than I was with not wearing Crocs to the doctor’s office. Makeup was literally the furthest thing from my mind, at this point in time, and it sort of became habit. Even a year later, no one can see my face, unless it’s during a Zoom call from home, and that usually means a remote program or staff meeting. My teens don’t give two figs how I look, as long as I entertain them with elaborate D&D battles, and my coworkers see me in all my barefaced glory every day, when I’m allowed to remove my mask at my workstation. When customers are allowed in the building, all they can see is eyes.

Humans, circa 2020

Sure, I apply some concealer, when I look especially exhausted… because it has been an exhausting year, but I never see anyone outside of basic grocery shopping and Amazon returns. Jake and I literally entered a restaurant less than five times last year. Date nights consisted of s’mores in the backyard and Netflix. We didn’t even see our families more than once or twice. Halloween came with an ice storm and record-breaking power outages. I didn’t even get to wear a costume, because a) I had an ultrasound and didn’t want to receive bad news while dressed like Darkwing Duck and b) everyone had hunkered down in preparation for the storm, so the library was even more empty than usual, on a pandemic Saturday. Thanksgiving consisted of sweet potato pancakes and turkey sausage with my grandparents on Black Friday, all of us in jammies. New Year’s was just the two of us at home. Christmas was close family only. We were even snowed in on Valentine’s Day and spent the time painting the babies’ room, sewing quilts, and making stuffed waffles.

Now, here I am, fully vaccinated in a state where anyone who wants one can get their Covid-19 vaccine, able to enter the world again and y’all… I’ve forgotten how to apply makeup.

Not having taught myself to use eyeliner until 23, I’ve always been something of a minimalist, when it comes to makeup, only truly investing in decent products in preparation for my wedding at 29. Before that, all of my makeup was from the drugstore and I was fine with it. I’ll never forget marveling over how Jake could choose me, when I met his friends’ wives, who took two hours to get ready for Wal-Mart, when every bit of Maybelline and Revlon I owned was in my purse.

Even now, I only wear Bare Minerals foundation and eyeshadow, buy my mascara and eyeliner in black or brown at Sephora, and almost never wear lipstick. I have clear skin, easy hair, and I’m cheap. I’ve just never felt the desire to spend the time or money on perfecting tips from YouTube tutorials; and although I married a cowboy, who’s used to women with big hair and glitzy jewelry and bright eyeshadow, fortunately for me, he prefers the low maintenance look, along with the attitude and budget that comes with it.

All that being said, I do like to dress in feminine clothing, despite my inability to tell you any trendy brand names or styles. Years after the cancellation of The New Girl, I still tend toward Jessica Day style dresses, long hair, and bangs… though I do cut them myself. Now that I spend my mornings nursing pregnancy headaches, instead of screaming on the bathroom floor, I once again have the energy to dress up in cheap Amazon maternity dresses and accessorize with the jewelry I’ve accumulated over the last 15 years. I even straighten my hair, the one style technique I’ve mastered… before donning my mask.

Now, here we are, able to see our vaccinated friends and family once again, sans masks, according to CDC guidelines. In fact, this weekend, Jake and I are visiting the family ranch for the first time, since we begged for money for fertility treatments last March. I look like a tabloid snapshot of myself! This ranch is located in the land of big hair, turquoise, and people who haven’t been wearing masks for the last year, and I don’t even know how to look human anymore.

I must admit that, after all the ways that Covid-19 has kicked our collective butts, this threw me for a loop. I’ve been alternately praying for normalcy and breaking down because we’ll never see it again, so it never occurred to me how awkward readjusting to it would be, when Earth began to reopen. I have to say, though, it’s a good problem to have and maybe it means there’s an end in sight, if we can start to worry about dressing appropriately and forgetting how to wear makeup.

I’m glad I wasn’t hot as a teenager.

Growing up, I was not only chubby, but also an early bloomer. This meant that I was naturally taller than the other kids my age and grew breasts sooner. In the sixth grade, when the other girls still wore t-shirts with glittery puppies on them, I shopped in the women’s section and experimented with taping down my breasts like Roberta in Now and Then. Spoiler alert: don’t.

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I also happened to have a mother who swung between the extremes of neglectful and overindulgent, letting me go without a bra and put on extra weight in the first place, only to eventually fight the insurance companies to fund my breast reduction at age 15.

It wasn’t until I was 24 years old and 90 pounds lighter than a year before, that I began to consider diet and exercise just a part of life for all people and not just those who struggle with their weight. My high school years were spent watching TV, playing the Sims, and enjoying Elevensies and Fourth Meal, before they were cool. My favorite outfit was pretty much stolen straight from She’s All That, consisting of combat boots with ribbons for laces, overalls, a turtleneck, and thick black framed glasses. I wasn’t morbidly obese at the time, but I wasn’t Rachel Leigh Cook, either. Since I was never great with makeup and still prefer portable drug store options, 15-year-old Belle was pretty strictly a concealer and lip balm gal, on a fancy day. In short, I was never that girl who wore Abercrombie and Fitch.

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It. Was. Awesome.

Y’all, I got to do the high school thing without any of the “I have nothing to wear! I’m not going!” crap that I’m faced with on a daily basis, now. I was a lot of things in high school. I was smart, funny, driven, mouthy, relatively responsible, creative, loyal, and insightful. Being hot, having people appreciate my appearance first, was just never a priority for me. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not entirely consumed with my appearance, today. I often rejoice over the fact that I’m officially old enough to be mistaken as an overworked stay-at-home mom, on the rare occasion that I go out in an oversized t-shirt, Star Trek pants, and flip flops. When I’m at work, however, it’s all A-line Zooey Deschanel dresses, cardigans, and full makeup and jewelry. I have to be a professional, these days, and that takes a lot more work.

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Still, even at my most dolled up, I’m not what an average guy would refer to as “hot.” I have nice legs, hair, and clear skin. I’ve also never seen my own ab muscles and don’t know how to use foundation. I’ve never been comfortable in a bikini, even outside of my own standards of modesty, because I’m still… soft. Extreme weight loss comes with stretch marks, no matter how you do it and honestly, I don’t really mind. Yes, yes, I’d love to be 20 pounds lighter and it’s certainly a goal, but this is good, too. In fact, it was good at 24. It’s awesome now.

Y’all, I am officially at a point in my life where everyone is soft. The girls I envied in high school, who could put away 4,000 calories and still maintain their lithe, athletic figures no longer run five miles a day. The one who wore that prom dress with the slit cut to her waist only gets to exercise when she’s chasing her two kids around the McDonald’s play yard. We’re all wearing mom jeans now and I have fifteen years of experience on the high school hot girls. When I look back at my nerdy girl, awkward years photos, the nostalgia isn’t tainted by envy. There was only one way to go from Carrie White bleeding in the locker room showers and that was up… or you know, to prom with fire. Fortunately, I chose the former and I am in my hot years, now.

Real-Life Photoshop: How Cosmetic Surgery Resonates 10 Years Later

As a kid, I had small moles on my face. By the time I reached middle school, they were prominent and I hated them. I once took Biore pore strips and placed them strategically, only to cry my eyes out when they didn’t remove moles. I took pictures of pretty actresses and drew brown dots on their faces to see if they were still pretty and showed them to my mother. When she wasn’t hitting me, the woman was terrified of being anything other than my best friend, so she caved and throughout seventh and eighth grade, I had five moles removed from my face, in a series of outpatient procedures. I was too young to make this sort of decision, but I don’t regret it.

A half-naked 14-year-old who had never even been kissed, I was mortified by the instructions “bend over like you’re diving” as Polaroids were taken in the plastic surgeon’s office. I asked when I’d get the pictures back and teared up when I learned they’d be kept on file for insurance purposes. In short, I was waaaay too young to be getting a breast reduction.

child surgery

Despite this, my mother was a nurse and used her pull to find someone who would agree to do the surgery. The doctor tried to talk my mother into waiting a few years, or at least until I’d lost a little weight, but I insisted and she agreed. The insurance claim was sent after my fifteenth birthday, in September. By December, I was excited for my first ever surgery, which just happened to be both cosmetic and elective.

I had claimed shoulder pain and the insurance company decided they’d save money in the long-run to just nip (pun only realized during proofreading) this problem in the butt. I did not have shoulder pain. I was humiliated by breasts that nearly sagged to my belly button and was forcing them into a size DDD bra that did not even fit. Those monsters don’t come cute. I’ve never regretted the decision. I have scars and can’t feel the underside of my breasts, causing sores from broken underwires to go unnoticed until looking in the mirror… and I still don’t regret it.

In fact, these procedures changed my whole outlook on plastic surgery. Previously having been one of the many individuals who consider plastic surgery to always be fake and self-indulgent (at age 11?), I soon realized that it’s just about the person undergoing the changes in themselves, and no one else. It’s hard to say someone should be happy with who they are when you were purchasing granny bras at age eleven while tearfully declaring you “look like a chocolate chip cooke!” I had parents who were too busy screaming at each other to make sure I bathed properly or washed my clothes regularly; forget about dressing cute, listening to the right music, or you know being nice to people. Fitting in wasn’t really my thing and the self-consciousness that came with facial moles and Big Mama breasts did not help.

granny bra
For realz. Change into that in the locker room before sixth grade gym.

 All that having been said, my mom made a bad decision on both counts. Ell oh ellsies. My mom made a lot of bad decisions…

  • the time she offered to buy us beer at 15
  • letting me and other people’s children jump off the roof onto the trampoline at age 12
  • kicking me in the stomach when I didn’t clean the litterbox
  • using the knowledge that I was a cutter as leverage to threaten me with therapy when I argued with her
  • giving me the “just be home before I go to work in the morning” curfew at sevenfuckingteen 

memory lane

Today, I’m a relatively confident adult. I’m fairly comfortable with who I am and how I look. I’d like to be about fifteen pounds lighter, but I’d rather have hips and red gummy worms than no hips and no red gummy worms, so… meh. Whatev. I am of perfectly sound mind to make the decision that I’d like to have the mole on my back removed, because I’m generally kidding when I tell Gail I’m going to do so with a cheese grater… or a blowtorch like that scene from Sons of Anarchy. I’m also twenty-five. I cannot fathom letting a child choose elective surgery. Regardless of the fact that the insurance company considered the above procedures to be necessary, I wasn’t afraid of cancer, nor did I actually have any shoulder pain. My issues were all psychological. Rather than destroying my view of therapy for the rest of my life by threatening me with it to get her way, my mother should’ve acknowledged the whopping self-esteem issues I had and arranged for me to speak with someone every couple of weeks, while putting me in social groups that were relatively free of teasing and judgement, like a church youth group. If, by age 16, building my confidence still did not fix my issues with the moles on my face, fine. She could schedule a consult with a dermatologist. If, by age 18, building my confidence did not fix my issues with the nipples at my bellybutton, she could schedule one with a plastic surgeon. Waiting three years seemed like an eternity at 15… which is why my mother should’ve helped me to see the big picture and made certain I could handle the decision I was making. Honestly, that time wouldn’t have changed my mind on either issue, especially the breast reduction (a pound and a half was removed from each), but it would’ve lessened the chances that I’d regret choices I made in utero.

baby-in-utero
“Hey, you up there! This nose seems a bit squished. Schedule a rhinoplasty.”

 This problem, however, is not limited to youth. The “mommy makeover” has taken even the middle-class by storm. One plastic surgeon reports that mothers are his largest customer base. According to the American Society of Plastic Surgery (ASPS), 36% of the 9.9 million surgical and minimally-invasive cosmetic procedures performed in 2006 were on patients between the ages of 30 and 39; 29% of them were aged 20 to 29.*

I’m not knocking a tummy tuck if you just can’t fix it with diet and exercise. I will criticize the people who couple it with liposuction, without first losing the weight and keeping if off, though. What is the point of taking on thousands of dollars worth of surgical bills if you’ve no guarantee of an ability to maintain the results? I never wash my car. Like ever. So, despite the faded doors and banged up front bumper from my recent fender bender, I’m not paying to have it painted. I may as well light that money on fire, because I’m not going to suddenly start washing my car. Getting liposuction and a tummy tuck and then getting fat again is the same.

If you’ve done the sit-ups and counted the calories, joined that Zumba class, and bought the push-up bra, though, I get it. I do. That doesn’t even apply to just the mommy makeover customers, but also the women who hate that bump in their nose, or the skin hanging from their chin, or those paper-thin lips. I understand how they feel. Trust me. I’ve had breasts that swing.

However… ten years later, I’m acknowledging that I may not have been in the best psychological place when I made the decision to surgically alter my appearance foreverPerhaps, rather than flocking to have ourselves physically Photoshopped, we should spend some time trying to come to terms with who we are and consider that our issues may be psychological. Maybe it’s not so much the wrinkles in your forehead that make you uncomfortable, but rather aging itself. Maybe that loose skin at your stomach isn’t the problem, but instead it’s just that your marriage is lacking some romance and you don’t feel attractive. Maybe you’re just insecure and your nose makes you look unique and distinctive and changing that will just make you look bland.

jennifer gray

The constant photo altering and image filters we see on Facebook aren’t helping this body dysmorphia trend, either. Grown women are enhancing their own clavicles, presenting a slimmer vision to the world, only to be disappointed when they don’t see that in the mirror, even if the real thing is perfectly healthy. I fear for the generation of kids who grow up with “corrected” photos hanging on the wall. The real world will never be as colorful or as unblemished as that photo shoot and they will never actually look like that. If it’s fucking with the heads of adults who are doing it themselves, they… are… screwed. 

Also… maybe I’m completely fucking wrong. Maybe the sagging skin at your forehead is far more severe than you should be seeing at 35. Maybe your husband calls you sexy every day, but you just can’t find business suits that look right. Maybe you more resemble Tucan Sam than Jennifer Grey. I certainly know that I don’t miss the feeling of the underside of my breasts sweating on my stomach. I greatly prefer that barely noticeable scar on my face to the Austin-Powers-worthy mole. Isn’t it worth some introspection, though? Because if I’m right, those problems aren’t going away with a little visit to the doctor. I didn’t suddenly become the awesome and fucking hilarious gal I am today after the stitches were pulled, when I was fifteen. That took years of personal growth. If there are deeper issues that aren’t being addressed in addition to/instead of cosmetic surgery, you’re still going to be having trouble facing your own mortality and changing body. Your marriage will still be suffering. You’ll still be insecure and uncomfortable with the idiosyncrasies that make you who you are. Because, regardless of how content that makes you, that last bit is fact. We are exactly who we were in the womb. We, as a society, should take more pride in that and give serious consideration to its alteration. We should stop this constant catering to insecurity and discrimination with invasive procedures, “repairing” the slightest blemish. We should start practicing what we preach when we tell our little girls that they are beautiful just as they are

colin-firth-bridget-jones-diary

… and if, after trying to come to terms with our individuality, we still hate that fat around our midriff that just won’t fucking DIE, then thank goodness for modern psychology and modern medicine.

Sources

http://www.webmd.com/beauty/treatments/mommy-makeover-a-plastic-surgery-trend

Real Women Have Vaginas

… and/or two X chromosomes. I’m protecting myself from any potential off-topic transgender/had my vagina removed due to cervical cancer comments.

x chromosomes
That’s mine. I’ll spare you the picture of my vagina. You’re welcome.

I grew up in the 90’s with a dieting mom. This means I played in more than one Weight Watchers’ daycare, took Snackwell cookies for lunch, and don’t like regular Coke as an adult, because I never had it as a kid. It’s actually pretty unfortunate to order my bacon cheeseburger and bacon cheese fries with a Diet Coke, because I’m pretty certain the server is giggling internally and thinking “You want bacon in that?”… then I feel intensely self-absorbed because no one gives a shit what I order. Despite the Jenny Craig food in the freezer and all of those trips to the natural foods store, however, I grew up a little chubby after age eight. When I broke my wrist that year, the doctor weighed me at 106 pounds and my mother (who was and still is overweight) publicly scolded me and acted mortified. Thanks mom. The broken wrist didn’t hurt enough. Also, who’s been feeding said eight-year-old?!?!? Throughout my childhood, I always thought myself fat, though at 25, I realize I wasn’t more than chubby until my senior year and college. Being the chubby girl, though, I was comforted when I saw this movie:

real women have curves

I don’t remember much about it, but the basic premise of this Lifetime-esque title is that, despite being ridiculed by her mother for her weight, the main character can still be and feel beautiful. It’s a great message and America Ferrera, the lead actress, has become a household name and defense for being beautiful and curvy, along with Christina Hendricks of Mad Men and Gennifer Goodwin of Once Upon a Time (though she was fuller figured in her days on Big Love). It’s wonderful that we’re accepting that a woman doesn’t have to starve herself to be beautiful. That having been said, why does this notion have to be accompanied with the phrase “real women have curves” or “zero is not a size” and pictures like this?

comparing weights

We’ve gone from dubbing the gorgeous Keira Knightly as the standard by which we should compare ourselves to claiming she’s not a woman, because she’s physically fit. Zero is just as much of a size as 16, because there’s nothing actually measuring 16″ either. If you want to call her a size 20, you’d better get comfy going by size 33.* In addition, we’ve become outraged that most plus-sized models are a size 10. Why is that so upsetting? I’m a size 8/10 and okay, I can’t actually wear anything in the plus-sized section, but when I buy something that does fit me, the model wearing it is probably smaller than a size 00, and they don’t sell that in my section either. It’s the same. It’s also just marketing. The designers don’t want back fat in the picture, because they know you don’t want to wear something that gives you back fat. Bitch all you want about airbrushing and using  that size 10 model to advertise your size 22 blouse, but no one’s buying it if it gives the model rolls. They just aren’t.

Today, when a skinny woman turns her nose up at an overweight woman, it’s considered tasteless and superior, but society releases a movie titled Real Women Have Curves and insists that “zero is not a size” and it’s empowering? My. Stretch-marked. Ass. Defending obesity is not empowering and I’m pretty sure Marilyn Monroe would be disgusted that she’s now the spokesperson for extra mayonnaise. Christina Hendricks, Gennifer Goodwin, and America Ferrera all have one thing in common: a healthy weight, which, I might add, America Ferrera did not have in Real Women Have Curves. They’re all gorgeous and so was Marilyn Monroe, but they aren’t obese. I point this out, because more often than not, it’s unhealthy (not curvy) women making these statements. Regardless, said “curves” do not make a real woman any more than they unmake her. At size two or 26, if she has a vagina and/or two X chromosomes, then she is a real fucking woman. You don’t get to take her femininity and gender away from her because you’re insecure, whether you’re sneering at the ladies in Lane Bryant or the gals on the beach in bikinis. These are equal crimes and if you’re unhealthy on either end of the spectrum, you need to plan a fitness and diet program that works for you, rather than focusing on the weight of everyone else.

jennifer love hewitt people
Jennifer Love Hewitt went on record to say “size two is not fat.” She’s right. It’s not. She’s also not a size two here and should own up to it instead of acting ashamed of her likely healthy size 8 figure.

Sadly, weight is only one of the ways in which we gals like to tear each other apart. There’s also our professional lives. Since women started entering the workforce in greater numbers, we’ve been debating which is the best course of action, being a working mom or a stay-at-home mom, because of course you’re throwing your life away if you choose not to have children.

until you've counted fingers and toes

Recently, I was discussing with a coworker whether or not I’d like to be a stay-at-home mom one day. The answer is no. I’ve spent seven years in school to help people in my community better their lives through self-education and I know that if I leave my technology-heavy profession for ten years to raise children, I won’t be able to go back. I also know that I don’t have the patience to stay home with children all day, and therefore wouldn’t be content. Everyone would be happier if I worked. I feel that people miss out on time with their families, because of poor prioritization more than by having a career. For example, the average American household has a television on for 6 hours and 47 minutes daily.* In short, turn off the fucking T.V. and raise your babies, whether you’ve been home all day or not and they’ll be fine. I gave my coworker a work appropriate version of that, to which she essentially responded “to each their own”… then threw in “I just didn’t want someone else raising my children” in a but that’s just me tone. She genuinely didn’t mean anything by it, so I didn’t respond, but that is the equivalent of my saying “well, I’d rather contribute to my family in addition to caring for my kids, but that’s just me.” God bless social networking, because I get to read about this ridiculous cat fight all day long, for in the Midwest most 25-year-olds have a few toddlers.

stay at home moms

working moms

You’re both wasting an awful lot of  time in an e-slap fight for two people who claim to be so busy. A woman who stays home with her children takes on the job of full time teacher, maid, cook, financial adviser, personal shopper, and psychiatrist and she does it all day long. The woman with a career performs her professional duties and then those listed above when she gets home. Neither is less of a mother or woman than the other, just as the childless woman is no less a woman. Being an adult, raising a family, having a career, and being in a marriage are all hard when you do them right, regardless of which of these life choices you make or combine. What works for one may not work for another and that is wonderful, because I don’t want to live in fucking Stepford. We need to be supporting, not shredding, each other. Women complain constantly about men keeping them from success, but you know what? We don’t need men to tear us down as long as we’re so good at it. We want to be taken seriously in the workforce and society but those of us who can’t wear that extra 20 pounds to work proudly and still love our skinny stay-at-home mom friends for their life choices, don’t deserve to be taken seriously.

marilyn monroe on society

perfect mother

There’s some supportive advice I can get behind.

Sources
http://www.marksandspencer.com/General-Womens-Size-Guides-Product-Information-Help/b/47647031

http://www.csun.edu/science/health/docs/tv&health.html