Burning The Ugly Pants: Join a 2010 personal style makeover (Part Seven)

November 2, 2010

This Halloween's 'Canadian Girl' costume also included: knee-high lumberjack socks, two mini hockey sticks, one snow shovel, and one cute schoolgirl!

As 21st century women, we have the freedom to adjust our attractiveness across a broad spectrum through our choices of hairstyle, makeup, clothing, and even surgery. Our physical selves can be adapted according to our moods, purposes, funds, and expertise. There is power at both ends of the spectrum. At one end, we find a natural dominance and conspicuous, immediate, validation; at the other, we find the power of the observer, an invisibility through which knowledge and experience can filter unchallenged. Our internal attributes can exercise themselves more freely on the ‘less glam’ end, but our egos can’t help but delight in the easy gratification of turning heads and opinions at the opposite pole.

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The danger of setting one’s baseline appearance too high on the spectrum is that as looks slowly (but surely) trade off for wisdom (we hope), many women find themselves lost, having never developed confidence in their other sources of power and identity. The resulting desperation can be as paralyzing as botox, and equally toxic. Ideally, one should settle comfortably somewhere around the middle, and travel to both poles for exciting expeditions in anthropological experimentation. For example: Halloween glamazoning and other pantless adventures.

Equally Canadian... but a little less 'glam'

Our Canadian winters encourage experimentation on the other end of the spectrum. Just yesterday, I was all bundled up (scarf, baseball cap, hair covered by hood) by the river when a pickup truck pulled up beside me.

“Hey you,” the burly driver called out, “you need a partner?”

I, still mentally dressed in my Halloween fishnets from two nights before, gave him the ol’ ‘dude, as if’ look of polite disdain.

“Hey YOU” he shouted, his enunciation brutally clear this time, “YOU THE GARDENER??”

Turning around, I saw a tall scruffy man standing directly behind me. He was nodding at the man in the truck.

I know I was just rhapsodizing about the joys of invisibility a few sentences ago, but darn it, there’s nothing rhapsodic about getting caught in between!

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Burning The Ugly Pants: Join a 2010 personal style makeover (Part Five)

April 20, 2010

How would you define your personal style? Stop what you’re doing and take a peek in your closet… 

My wardrobe... "Self Imposed Utilitarianism"

 

“Self Imposed Utilitarianism,” was how I described my current style status to a ‘Funky Eclectic’ friend recently. “Why?” she asked, with obvious concern. I mooned on about the after-effects of high school uniforms and about never understanding why Goths and Emos are always so eager for public abuse. 

Truly, I’ve never been able to muster much sympathy for people who expect humanity to throw eons of intrinsic human nature to the wind just because little Gregory wants to ‘express’ himself. If you look different – you get treated different… not rocket science here people. Why fight a basic survival principle? Of course, running screaming from it hasn’t gotten me very far either. 

I’ve always lived my rebellion on the inside, keeping its gestation safe from outside assault. Before my adult uniform of jeans plus solid-colored top, my plaid kilt and white oxford shirt kept the fashion pressure to a minimum in high school and let me blend into a wide variety of peer groups without ever having to label myself. In an interesting aside: my marks shot up a full 10% when I switched from skirt to navy dress pants in grade twelve. It remains a mystery whether this was because my teachers assumed that I was suddenly, spontaneously, more credible, or simply because I happen to be someone who learns better with warm knees. We’ll never know…  

I did, however, let loose for school dances in wild fringed party dresses of my own (not so Catholic school girl) design. I’m still shocked the chaperones never kicked me out! Ah yes, no one ever suspects the band geek in gold lamé… but really, as everyone knows, we’ve got the glass slipper market cornered! And so, pour moi, up to now, fashion has always been about the occasion, about picking the day/night’s character and maxing it out. But what about day to day? Now that I’ve comfortably defined my own character, I’m certainly not about to condemn her to a lifetime of Self Imposed Utilitarianism – the horror! 

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Note: I made this sketch as a handy, albeit excessively nerdy, shopping aid – Stay tuned.


Burning The Ugly Pants: Join a 2010 personal style makeover (Part Four)

March 30, 2010

This new beauty diet could use a little salt...

‘Stumbling’ upon a rerun of VH1’s Celebrity Rehab, I was shocked to hear Kerri Ann Peniche describe how, even as a child, she was forced to primp for every public appearance – middle school to grocery store. Her mother’s mantra, “because you never know where you’ll run into Mr. Right,” had an insidious effect on her daughter’s psyche. Lipstick in the produce aisle? Poor girl never stood a chance.

My parents, an artist and a poet, lived by very a different set of rules – none of them involving a hairbrush! Needless to say, we had a whole lot of fun, but advanced personal grooming was part of some other world, right along with daily dish washing and remembering other people’s birthdays. Personally, I’ve never been afraid of glamming it up, but only on occasion. The idea of daily maintenance, aiming for some rudimentary baseline, has never made it past the “wouldn’t that be nice” phase – until now. Part of my hesitation has come from knowing that for any perfectionist, the word baseline is such a tease. Where do you stop? Lipgloss? Eyeliner? Flat-iron? Where do you draw the line?

When you’re used to jumping between your own 1 and 10, how do you settle at 5? There’s a risk in projecting an honest, albeit lightly highlighted, self. Suddenly, there’s nothing to hide behind, no more comforting “he’d have noticed me if only I wasn’t wearing this sweater” delusions. And what if they do start noticing? I’ve been married to my own Mr. Right for almost 7 years, why would I want random strangers judging/soliciting me? Doesn’t ‘being on display’ just add more pressure to a person’s day?

The way I see it, the only way this can work is if our projections are 100% authentic, which is only possible once we’ve fully explored (and come to terms with!) the who/why/how’s of our most private selves. And, since time creates a dynamic system, and no system, even if static, can be fully justified within themselves (good ol’ Gödel), we come to an impasse. Or do we? For me, this is where faith comes in. It takes the edge off, so to speak. When your confidence is rooted in the infallible, that confidence (though not necessarily you) becomes impervious to smudged eyeliner or moments like these.

But enough talk… on to the action. In the pics below – because what’s a makeover without hard evidence – I’m glamming it up with my new highlights and Covergirl Lipstain in Berry Smooch. Because, like I always say (at least since this past Saturday), why snag your hair with gloss when you can set it free with tint!

Having a Winston Churchill moment with Covergirl Lipstain - Air kisses (in Berry Smooch) for all!

I have two confessions before I sign off. First: like all self portraits of quality, these come directly from my bathroom mirror. Second: I had just come back from the grocery store – sorry Kerri Ann. But in my defence, it was lipstain, not lipstick!

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Burning The Ugly Pants: Join a 2010 personal style makeover (Part Three)

March 26, 2010

The early 20th century factory workers who painted phosphorescent numbers on clocks were a creative bunch. They used to paint their teeth with their radioactive pigments, then take turns in the broom closet scaring each other with glowing Cheshire grins. This was all good times until their teeth honeycombed, rotted, and fell out. Why does a glowing smile always have to cost so much? 

Price-wise, I started ahead of the game, buying my Crest Whitestrips on sale at 1/2 price. I didn’t even get charged for the emergency trip to the orthodontist after running into “complications” on day two. But what, I ask, is the flat rate exchange for a person’s dignity? 

I can handle ‘slucking’ back my saliva every 15 seconds – not a big deal. Answering the phone, “Good morning, Matrix Geoservices,” without being able to pronounce the letter M, is workable. A lisp never got anyone fired – at least not legally. However, when the owner of the company you work for gives you an important plot to fold for an important client, and you go and drool all over it, well, then we might have a bit of a problem. 

There I was, a perfectly competent, mature 27 year old, staring in horror at the silver-dollar sized dollop of drool centered smack dab in the middle of the front page. I watched, paralyzed, as the ever-expanding circumference of saliva spread across data worth millions of dollars. Luckily, you don’t need an M to swear. I took evasive action with my sleeve and dabbed and blew and pressed and blew and flattened and blew until I’d done all I could do. I left the folded plot in my boss’s office and hoped for the best. 

Miracle of miracles, he didn’t notice. Or maybe he did, but found other blame for the defect. Really – unless one of my dear readers rats me out – who would suspect an employee of such monumental regression? I kept my secret, as I’m sure you would too. There are some things that are just too hard to explain to middle-aged, male geophysicist – whether you have a working M or not!  

And so the makeover continues. All I’ve lost is my dignity and a small slice of flesh that’s been acid-burned off the front of my gums. Small price to pay for beauty? Let’s find out…

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(image source)


Burning The Ugly Pants: Join a 2010 personal style makeover (update II)

March 11, 2010

Despite the dust in one eye, the redness and squinting. Despite my lifeless ponytail and lack of concealer. Despite the scotchtape holding my glasses together. Despite the cyclist who bawled me out on the bikepath this morning, when I was only trying to give him MORE room. Despite everything, I went ahead and waved my wand in front of the office bathroom mirror.

For the first time, I understand why lipstick sales spiked during World War II. My lipgloss isn’t about conformity,  it’s a rebellion. I’m taking a stand against entropy. Beauty doesn’t have to be the final touch. It can be the beginning – a tough revelation for any perfectionist. 

Every “Despite” up there can be changed to a “Because.” This simple switch in semantics gives us back our power. Rather than victims of circumstance, just trying to catch up, we move up to the offensive line. Besides, who wouldn’t want to start off the day with a little taste of ‘rasberry sorbet’.

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