Saturday, November 11, 2006

I feel pretty

“She’s really pretty.” Quinn commented, and I quickly agreed. “If she’d just wear some makeup. Stop pulling her hair back. Wore clothes that fit.” He continued, staring at a classmate of ours in grad school.

“She’s really pretty right now.” I said, frowning at him.

Quinn was an ass. One of the more competitive of my classmates, I felt he was always assessing my performance so he could feel superior. So while he was correct in noticing a friend’s appearance – she was a lovely woman – I thought he was an idiot for thinking that she needed to improve upon her daily routine.

When I think of my own friends – from Mandy while growing up to my recent trip with Carrie – I’ve always tended to be the more lax in terms of appearance. I’ll wear something comfortable, do minimal makeup (I don’t really know how to wear eyeliner to this day, and I give away any mascara I have because I’m always rubbing at my eyes. So I get all smeary if there’s anything there to mess up.) and wear a ponytail quite a bit. So even as I’ve drifted toward being prettier – falling in love with Bare Minerals, curling my hair and parting it away from the center (it supposedly compliments my round little face if my part is off to one side), and delighting in matching pretty sweaters or blouses with dressy pants and heels, I’ve been much more moderate than any friendly counterpart. In fact, I’ve learned from those women – picked up eyebrow grooming from Rachel in college, did pedicures with Carrie in grad school, massages and manicures with M while visiting there. Elle never fails to mention how pretty I am when we’re together. Mandy taught me to curl my hair (then Mom corrected my mistakes – I went with her technique). We played with makeup (and looked like cheap hookers, but learning is a process). She called boys while I looked on with a mixture of awe and embarrassment.

So I’ve picked up pieces that I like and incorporated them into my routine. And the truth is that I feel better when I’m put together. I’d rather have everything match. I like looking down at my outfit and thinking “pretty.” I notice the dark circles under my eyes and smile when they’re neatly concealed with powder. I use Modern Friction twice weekly and A Perfect World nearly every day (to prevent premature aging, of course) and I cooed over a new shade of lip gloss just yesterday. When I take a pair of flip flops to more easily walk from my car, I choose some that match what I’m wearing. I bought iPod socks so I could coordinate that too. I change purses depending on my outfit sometimes (though not always – that’s still a lot of work for me). But I’m still moderate in comparison. Or I was.

In a post she never published, Friend wrote something like “She’s more ‘my purse matches my flip flops!’ while I'm ‘jeans and Birkenstocks match everything.’” And I smiled because it’s true and rather charming. But while curling my hair and moving about the house in strappy sandals to pick up everything I needed yesterday morning – checking my makeup along the way and changing shirts 3 times – I realized that for the first time in memory, I’m the one more focused on outward appearance. Which is a bit disconcerting.

Part of it is likely that I spend so much time in pajamas – sleepy pants and t-shirts – while at home. So when I’m at work, I like to be professional. To fit in with the rest of the department with my heels and clothes and dark, curling hair. Part of it is that I would like to attract a man and be involved with someone. So forming a habit of caring about how I look – at least to some degree – makes sense to me. Plus, once I started, it’s hard to stop. I just notice when my eyebrows are in need of attention. I have the appropriate products, so why not battle that blemish on my chin? I’m tired of wearing ponytails, and it doesn’t take that long to curl my hair.

So I went off this morning in search of gray pants. My old ones – my favorite pants – got too big and started to hang unpleasantly in the rear. So I gave them to Mom because I would have continued to wear them, even knowing they looked terrible, because I like gray and they were my favorite pants. So now I miss them terribly and Kohls was having a sale, so Friend and I went off – with different goals but needing the same shops – to spend some money. We were largely successful – I believe she found what was on her list and I – after a moderately rocky start where I would have had to institute a rule noting ‘You can eat or you can wear the gray pants that are slightly too small. Pick one because you can’t have both.’ – found a perfect pair of pants in the suit separates section (on sale for $17.99), a brown pair I liked a lot (but won’t be my favorite), and two lovely sweaters (in peacoat - can't find the first one online). Then there were a couple of Christmas gifts with which I was pleased.

I was worried because trying on clothes can be demoralizing. And I’m the awful sort of woman who goes in a dressing room and if something is too small (and for some reason I believe it should have been right), I quickly think that I’m a cow and don’t deserve any clothes at all. And having my current pants fit a bit loosely makes me feel good. So if I’m choosing between too tight and too big, the latter wins out. But I didn’t feel like a giant walrus today! Instead, I nodded happily at the fit of my new pants and kept touching my sweaters because they were so soft.

I later advised strongly in favor of the best princess dress for Friend’s niece. As I think about it more and more, I’m strangely content with our new dynamic. I can be more concerned with outward appearance. Because apparently I always have been when it comes to our specific personalities.

On our way into Target, I was telling her I wanted to get Little One one of those weird Barbie heads that had hair you could style and perhaps some makeup to apply.

“I saw one of those once,” she said, “but I didn’t play with it. Instead, I had the Barbie doll play surgeon for the GI Joes who were hurt at war.”

“Oh.” I said, thinking back to the blonde hair I’d style and makeup pallet I’d consider carefully. “I was probably deciding between blue eye shadow and green.”

But some things do change. I would now offer my own color to the weird Barbie head. Oh, and Little One got Belle instead.


TitleTroubles said...

And I now have a remarkably frightening fluffy, frilly, pink princess dress in my closet, for which I will likely grumble at you when it freaks me out early every morning as I go in search of jeans (and possibly Birkenstocks, if it's not too cold). And for which my mother thanks you, as she thinks it's exactly the one niece would have chosen.

And, hey, if Barbie didn't patch all those broken GI Joes back up, who else was going to do it? Ken?? I mean, really.

Anonymous said...

those pants you got, and the suit jackets that go along with them, are SO cute!

Repressed Librarian said...

I like shopping at Kohl's and buy a lot of my clothes there. Looks like you found some nice ones :-)

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