when i think about beauty, i think about a few things.
i think about this quote by professor elaine scarry: “if people become cut off from the love of beauty, that sabotages their love of the world and increases their willingness to compromise it.”
i think about all the women i find beautiful, how beauty is subjective and not entirely physical, how a personality is really what gives someone that glow that catches your eye and keeps it. i think, too, about how beauty is used to value and devalue women, to build them up and tear them down, to say, “you’re beautiful … but that’s all you are” because beauty is made to be something desirable until it becomes a weapon with which to undercut women and their accomplishments. if a woman succeeds, if she stands out, especially in undeniably male-dominated fields, it must have been because of her beauty.
in that vein, i think about that asinine but telling comment by that food critic to put down dominique crenn, a two-michelin-starred chef, to say that, yes, she might have talent, but she’s also a beautiful woman, which, it is implied, is obviously a factor in her success. i think about what kristen kish said about how much had been written about her, her looks, her sexuality, but nothing about her food when she was chef du cuisine at menton. i think about that ridiculous ruckus raised over stephanie danler being blonde and pretty when her debut novel, sweetbitter, was published by an acclaimed literary house (knopf) last year.
and i think, god damn, it’s 2017. this is so fucking boring.
sometimes, i look in the mirror and wonder what people might make of me, my face, my body.
for much of my life, i felt hyper-visible, even while i tried to disappear myself, because, for much of my life, i was overweight. it was something that was made a Thing of because to be fat was to commit the worst offense. i was called names, mocked for my love of food, told that no one would hire me because of my size, that no one would date me, that, essentially, my life wouldn’t begin until i was thin enough to be accepted by the world. i couldn’t wear dresses or bright colors, anything that would bring attention to me and show off or accentuate my body in any way — the point was to hide, to mask, to cover.
the point was to disappear.
when you spend so much of your life, your entire adolescence and young adulthood, attaching value to your body, hating your body and detaching yourself from it, that kind of thing seeps into every aspect of your life. i see that consequent insecurity, that complete lack of self-esteem, in everything — how i conduct myself in the workplace, how i approach relationships with people, how i regard myself. it’s in the way i regard food, in the decisions i’ve made throughout my life, in the lack of confidence to pursue the things i love and want to do. it’s in the fact that i didn’t start dating until last year, haven’t had sex, haven’t pursued any kind of intimacy because i’m afraid of touch, of being considered repulsive, of not being attractive enough to be wanted or desired. it’s been easier to retreat and pretend to be indifferent than put myself out there to be rejected because of my size.
my history of being body shamed is what makes my recent diagnosis of type 2 diabetes so agonizing. on a cognitive level, i acknowledge that this is not the end of the world; there are worse things with which to be ill. i can manage it by managing what i eat, taking my meds, and exercising. i can bring down my sugar levels and reintroduce foods into my diet, and these limitations don’t have to destroy my life.
however, i have spent much of my life obsessively controlling what i eat (or trying) because i was always on one diet or another, always trying to lose weight, always reading labels and counting calories and logging gym time. i would hate myself when all that effort came to nothing because i would inevitably dive off that diet wagon and binge and gain weight instead, caught in a vicious cycle that just reinforced all my self-loathing and self-hatred and reminded me that i was worth nothing — i couldn’t even maintain the discipline or find the willpower to lose weight; what could i do with my life? if i couldn’t even have the perseverance to maintain my body, then how would i ever accomplish anything professionally? personally? relationally?
and this is what has made this type 2 diagnosis so fucking painful — that i have spent the last four years letting go of all that, of healing, finally learning to love myself, at least to respect and appreciate my body if i couldn’t love it, to be generous and kind to myself. it’s been a process to unload all that self-hatred, to stop conflating my ability (or lack thereof) to lose weight with everything else in life, and i’d finally reached a point where i was fairly comfortable in my body and didn’t hate myself for everything i put in my mouth and was finally able to wear what i wanted, be who i wanted, and be okay with me as i was in the present moment, flaws and all.
to have to come back to a place, then, where i need to read labels and obsess over what i eat, where i feel so guilty when i miss a single workout or eat a bite of something i shouldn’t — i don’t think words can fully express how devastating that has been. no matter how much i try to remind myself that this is okay, this is necessary for my health, this feels like disordered eating.
of course, this restrictive diet means that i’ve been continuing to lose weight (hilariously, the weight started coming off once i stopped giving a shit last year), and, of course, that brings with it the expected chorus of delight around me — omg, you’re getting so pretty! you’ve lost so much weight! — and i hate it all. i wince every time someone compliments me for how i look; it makes me twist and rage inside; and, even now, as clothes fit better and i feel lighter, still, i hate my body.
i didn’t start wearing makeup until last year, when glossier released their skin tint and stretch concealer.
i’d been reading into the gloss for a few years, but i hadn’t paid muchattention to glossier until last january when they launched their milky jelly cleanser. i loved milky jelly, which is still one of my top two favorite glossier products (the other being boy brow), so, when they started launching their makeup products, i was paying attention — and intrigued.
two things about me, i suppose: (01) i hate having things on my face, and (02) i’m lazy. i can’t be bothered with brushes, and i can’t be bothered with makeup routines that take more than ten minutes. i’m also lucky enough to have clear skin and, thus, not require heavy foundation or concealer, which sticks me right in that glossier niche — their products really do work freakishly well on my skin.
i’m a skin girl, in that i’m obsessed with skincare (i do actually do the korean 10-step routine) — and, then, i’m a lipstick and mascara girl. i don’t wear makeup everyday, not even to work, but i’ll usually always apply a lip color because, otherwise, i look pretty damn tired and kind of dead. when it comes to lip colors, i’m obsessed with oranges and reds, maybe some corals thrown in there, and, as much as i try to get into more wine or vampier shades, i just can’t get away from those bright oranges and reds. i love a bright lip; there’s just something so fun and sassy about it.
when it comes to skin, i’m a huge proponent of the double-cleanse — i use an oil (currently, using laneige; previously, used banila co; love/loved both) to remove all my makeup, and then i use milky jelly to wash it all off. then i’ll splash some son & park beauty water on a cotton swab and run that over my face and neck to get any last oil/makeup/residue off, and, then, it’s emulsion, serums, lotion, maybe a pack. every other night, i use the bite lip scrub because all that lipstick makes my lips peel, and i slather on a thick layer of balm dotcom in mint. (i carry all the other flavors around with me for day use.)
in the morning, i use a cleanser from the face shop in the shower, and, in the evening, if i’ve put on my face, i’ll wipe the day off my face with neogen’s cleansing water in rose (on a cotton swab).
and that is pretty much it. simple, no? simple is good. i mean, 75% of the reason i wear makeup is to make sure i wash my face at night.
i’m aware that there is a fair amount of privilege involved in my being able to write this. i don’t think i’m some great beauty, but i know i’m not ugly. i don’t feel super self-conscious posting the occasional selca on social media — or, well, i do, but not because of the way i look, per se. i might be bigger than some, but i can run into any big box retailer and find clothes that fit (the ethics of big box retailers is another topic).
it might, thus, appear a little nonsensical that i might be writing any of this at all, but body shaming is something very real with very real, deep consequences that i have dealt with for much of my life. it didn’t stop until i fought for it to stop a year ago, until i finally found the confidence in me to give voice to all that pent-up rage, to say, no, this wasn’t right, this had to come to an end. that’s not something i developed over night, either; i was well into my late-twenties before that even happened.
even now, i still see the shaming peeking out at me, except now it’s cloaked in praise and glee — oh, you lost so much weight; oh, you look so pretty; oh, do you have a boyfriend? (heteronormativity is also another topic — and, no, there is no boyfriend. there will never be a boyfriend.) some might say that compliments are good, and i wouldn’t disagree, but there is the opposite to everything and that glee is an expression of something far more insidious — this pervasive mentality that prettiness is to be desired, to be praised, that thinness is the baseline for a woman’s, a girl’s value.
and part of me sometimes feels weird for celebrating beauty and beauty products, for getting excited over shit like this because i don’t want to be complicit in a system or a cultural mentality that metes out so much harm upon young girls, upon women. it makes me uncomfortable, sometimes, to celebrate a woman’s looks, to notice her thinness because a part of me still gets jealous, still believes (irrational and untrue though it may be) that life would have been so much easier had i been thin.
like many (most) people, though, i respond to beauty, not only in people but also in the world around me, and i think it’s worth noticing, celebrating, remembering. and i think there’s nothing wrong with makeup or with beauty products either, that we all (most of us) want to be attractive and have that confidence going into the world. i know that, sometimes, oftentimes, putting our faces on is akin to putting our armor on, and i think that is worth celebrating, too.
and, so, here are some products i like, some things i enjoy and wear on a regular basis, and here are the books i’m currently reading and/or will be reading soon — because, idk, i’m really into these or excited for them, and this space is all about geeking out over shit that gets me going.
- milky jelly cleanser
- priming moisturizer
- stretch concealer (medium)
- skin tint (medium)
- boy brow (black)
- cloud paint (dusk)
- haloscope (topaz)
- balm dotcom (all of them)
- generation g (zip and cake)
other face things:
- neogen cleansing water (rose)
- son & park highlighter cube
- lancome mascara
- bite lip scrub
- clinique chubby stick (heftiest hibiscus)
- mac lipstick (vegas volt)
- fresh sugar lip balm (coral)
- sephora cream lip stain (always red)
- dior fluidstick (639 artifice)
- dior addict lipstick (756 my love)