There are some things that red-lipstick-wearers know to be true:
The search for that perfect shade is a Grail Quest that will last a lifetime. And as soon as you find it, they’ll discontinue it. In the meantime, you just walk around the drug store like this:
Technique. It’s a killer. Ok, so first foundation, then powder, lip liner, stain, and finally lipstick? But not from the tube. Has to be applied with a brush. Wait, was the powder supposed to come before your first application, or after? And then blott? I don’t even know anymore.
Perfection is the only acceptable paradigm. Nothing has the potential to look messier than red lip color.
Whiten those pearly whites. Red lipstick does not make your teeth look whiter. Every minute stain left from coffee, tea, or your long-gone smoking habit will be heinously highlighted. You have been warned.
Every water bottle you own is gonna look like this: No matter how many times goes through the dishwasher or soaks in the sink.
Contouring. What is this witchcraft?!
One is never enough. I have an entire make-up bag of red lipstick, lip liners, and stains. And I’m not sorry.
Friends, family, and lovers BEWARE. My kiss is deadly! Uh, well, I mean, not deadly, but definitely long-lasting.
And your average make-up remover? HA! Try a sand-blaster, my friend. That shit is never coming all the way off. Doubly true if you touch or wipe your mouth by accident. “Oh this? Yeah, I’m just not responsible enough to wear lipstick without getting it all over myself.”
In the end, it’s all worth it to apply that liquid confidence and strut your stuff. No matter if your battle armor is applied out of a tube — you rock that mutha-f*cka.
I contacted Cherry Girl Hawaii, a local boutique photoshoot company that specializes in the vintage look that I so love to emulate.
I’ll just let the photos speak for themselves.
The modelling process was exhilarating, exciting, and emotionally taxing, but it felt really good. I hate myself in pictures, and I do not consider myself to be very photogenic, but the photographer made me feel at ease and helped me pose my body in such a way as to be as flattering as possible.
When I gifted the photos to Will on the morning of his 30th birthday, he was very pleased with them — but let’s face it, the man is pretty biased. The real moment of truth came when the pictures went public: Facebook.
I got some wonderful responses.
I got some so-so responses.
And then I got this one from my cousin, whom I love dearly:
I was very flattered, both by her compliments and by her praise. But I was also a little recalcitrant — Ooh, no, no, no. You’re giving me too much credit! I’m not the poster girl for body positivity. You can’t put me in that role, you guys, really. I hate myself more than half of the time!
My lovely friends gave me untold congratulations on how confident and beautiful I looked in those photos — and reading their wonderful comments, I felt like a phony. I did this thing, yes. And no, I don’t think I’m bad looking. But I can’t lie and say that I love my body. Even during the photoshoot, I was insecure and anxious, desperate to twist and contrive my flesh into angles and positions that might look halfway decent — at no time in the process did I really feel proud of how I look. Certainly, I felt far from flawless as the photographer (an extremely good sport!) and I squished my baby-belly into that black corset.
I did, however, feel a certain degree of empowerment.
No, I’m not thin. Never have been and never will be. I struggle to like myself, even on the best of days. I have insecurities about my person that will likely persist until the day I die. But, I did the thing anyway because no societal misjudgements, no unfair standards, or even self-put-downs are gonna keep this baby in a corner.
I can’t lie and claim to want to be another Tess Holliday. You’re never going to hear me talk about how I “love my curves”. While I admire the attitude and the message about body positivity and realistic beauty standards, I lack a certain degree of confidence and self-esteem. That being said, I know myself well enough, and I respect myself well enough, to stand up in support of my beliefs, my tastes, and my interests. I’m no less a Witch on any given day or to any given person than I am on tumblr. I’m no less a mother and a wife than I am a hard working professional. And I’m not going to let something as minor as a lifetime of insecurities keep me from showing off my hot bod, even if opinions may vary.
I guess that’s the sentiment I can be the poster girl for — I don’t like myself sometimes, but I’m not going to hide who I am. It’s not exactly “body positivity”, but it’s still pretty good.
Look, I get it, all right? I have cute aggression, too. I can’t resist those chubby thighs, those chunky cheeks, the little Michelin tire rolls ‘round ankles, bellies, and wrists. I mean, let’s just face it: skinny babies just aren’t as cute as the rollie-pollie kind.
But so help me God, if one more person calls my baby a “chunky monkey”, or squeals with joy while pinching her delicious little rolls between their forefinger and thumb, I’m going to lose it. God bless my girl friend who heard this from me recently after telling me she, “loved Moira’s chunk.” “Don’t call her that!” I said, a little snappily. My girl friend was chagrined, but listened kindly as I tried to dismantle my aversion and explain my reaction. Yes, Moira is chubby. She is rounded in all of the delightful ways a healthy young child should be. And unfortunately, I am a product of a society that equates “chubby” with “fat” and tells us that fat is just about the worst thing a person can be, so I’m a little sensitive to comments about my child’s looks. Until “fat” ceases to be synonymous with “lazy”, “unhealthy”, and “frumpy”; until “fat” is no longer antonymic with words like “beautiful”, “healthy”, and “attractive” — don’t call my baby fat. In fact, why not praise her for all other salient reasons for which she ought to be praised, rather than her looks? Her intelligence, her kindness, her joyfullness, her curiosity? Praise her being, not her body! But, that’s another blog post.
Before Moira was born, I made a pact with myself that she was going to grow up different than I did. That promise entailed a great many things, but chief among them were the lessons I learned about food, body image, and self-esteem. After I learned I was having a girl, I began to anticipate what an immense responsibility I would have in addition to being this child’s mother — I was going to be responsible for stewarding this perfect little girl through a world that would gladly strip her down to flesh and bones, both metaphorically and in body, to meet their idealized and unrealistic standards. I was going to have to fight for her right to be and do everything that made her heart feel right, damned what the world thought, because who is going to teach a girl how to be a healthy, happy woman, except her mother? Since she was born over 18 months ago, I’ve been increasingly defensive about my daughter’s body. It began with the acknowledgment of my own insecurities and a solemn promise to never share them with Moira. I can directly trace my own insecurities back to observations of my own mother, who would constantly poke, prod, and abuse herself for her plump physique. I recognize that if I don’t learn to put a cork in it (or, better, actually start loving myself), I’ll be hurting my daughter. As far back as I can remember, I was concerned about body image. I distinctly recall being no more than seven years old (SEVEN!) and sucking my tummy in as I walked past boys in the supermarket because I wanted to seem appealing to them. But why? Where did I learn that behavior, those values? Yes, I was rounder, less lithe, than the other girls in my grade school, but I definitely wasn’t obese by any stretch of the imagination. So tell me how my self-image became so tarnished? My mother, I think, failed to realize how her example would affect me. Every time she talked down to herself, admired another woman’s thin athletic build while simultaneously degrading her own, I listened and incorporated her perspectives into my own world view. Every time she went on a crash diet, eschewing meals for “milkshakes” and killing herself on a Stairmaster for hours into the evening, I watched and I learned. When she would criticize herself in photos and compare her thighs to my grandmother’s while sighing mournfully, every time she took me with her to shop for clothes and berated herself in the dressing room, I logged it away for later use against myself.
There are probably many more reasons for my low self-esteem and my lifetime struggles with weight. I wasn’t raised to be a healthy eater. I wasn’t raised to be especially active. I had a negative self-image from very early on, but as I got a little older and started to fill out in ways that weren’t considered healthy, I was subjected to a lot of criticism, both at home and at school. I don’t recall my pediatrician ever commenting that I was overweight, but I remember my parents scolding me for what I ate, and when, and how much. Our home was emotionally fraught and sometimes violent, and I began eating as a way to self-soothe. I would binge eat and hide it from my parents, and they would become effusively angry when they busted me (Tip: if your child is an emotional-eater, there are way better ways to confront that issue than shaming them about it. See “opposite of intended effect”.) Somehow, it never occurred to them to change their own habits in order to set an example for me to follow. People aren’t born thinking that being fat is a bad thing — we have to be taught to hate ourselves or each other, and I definitely was. I was taught by two adults who didn’t much care for their own bodies how to hate my own. I don’t think they ever considered how their well-intentioned criticism, or their own self-hatred, would influence me. I’m a parent now, and I keep my mother and father’s example close to my heart. Not because I want to follow it, but because I want to avoid it. All of the wrong decisions my parents made, and all of the wrong decisions I later made for myself, I’m using those lessons to concentrate on making the right choices for M. Still, people allow their distorted perceptions of beauty and health standards color their view of our family and even our parenting choices. Yeah, I’m fat — does that mean that my daughter will be, too? No, of course not. I suspect that many people look at me and assume that a.) I’m unhealthy, lazy, irresponsible, etc., and b.) assume that I will graft my flaws on to my daughter. However, nothing could be farther from the truth: my husband and I make very careful, conscientious decisions regarding food and activity choices in order to set her up for life-long health. Note: health, not thinness, because we’ve got our priorities straight. Does she still eat pizza? Sometimes. (“My monkey, my circus”, remember?) You see, I don’t want to take all that I’ve learned about being healthy and run to the other end of the spectrum, counting calories and obsessing over what goes into our bodies. In the end, that attitude would defeat the purpose of what I’m trying to achieve: raising a healthy, intelligent girl who is able to appreciate all things are best in moderation. Regardless of the size of her dress or the number on the scale, she will know that she is beautiful, valuable, and important, even if she does keep her chunky-monkey rolls all the way into adulthood. Eff your beauty standards — those thunder thighs are a family legacy. And we are gorgeous.
Tips for completing an at-home, do-it-yourself, dye job.
You will need: A box of Blue Light Special, discount hair dye in Red #44, a comb, rubber gloves, and a towel that you don’t mind staining.
Upon successful completion of this project you will:
– look as if you are bleeding from a massive blunt force trauma to the skull and/or lacerations to your upper extremities.
– have imbued your home with the intoxicating aroma of cheap chemicals.
– have an unexpected, wholly new color scheme in your bathroom.
– have an uncontrollable urge to take absurd selfies.
Ready? Let’s begin!
Step One: Make sure your children are either in bed or out of the house. This may cost you either sleep and/or the favor of your spouse.
Step Two: Assemble your tools. Clothing optional (saves on the amount of clean up afterwards and eliminates the possibility of introducing stray globs of hair dye into your next batch of laundry). Put in your contacts — ain’t no way you’re getting this done in glasses.
Step Three: Adjourn to the bathroom. Follow the instructions on the box. Carefully.
Step Four: Realize that you mixed Tube # 1 into Bottle #3 instead of Bottle #2. Quickly transfer the contents of Bottle #3 into Bottle #2. Clean up the ensuing spill and scrape the excess off the counter and into Bottle #2. Realize you forgot to put on rubber gloves.
Step Five: Wash hands vigorously before they are permanently stained orange. Finish mixing the contents of Tube #1 and Bottle #3 into Bottle #2. Apply gloves.
Step Six: Apply mixture to the roots of your hair, evenly distributing the mixture from root to tip. Avoid contact with the skin and eyes.
Step Seven: Fail to avoid contact with your skin and/or eyes.
Step Eight: Immediately develop an itch in the corner of your right eye. Locate the gloved finger that appears to have not yet come in contact with dye and scratch. Realize you were wrong about the dye.
Step Nine: Finish applying the dye to your remaining hair with one eye shut.
Step Ten: Pass a comb through your hair to ensure the dye is evenly distributed. Pile your hair on top of your head and set a timer for 30 minutes.
Begin the frantic race against time to remove errant dye from your ears, neck, forehead, cheeks, arms, wrists, shoulders and various bathroom fixtures.
Step Eleven: Fail.
Remember the dye-encrusted comb that you left beside the sink. Retrieve and give a rinse. Give up, and dispose of comb.
Step Twelve: As you begin to accept the new color scheme of your bathroom, prepare to hop in the shower to rinse out the dye.
Pro-tip: “shampoo” your hair with the dye as you hold your head beneath the running water, ensuring that the dye is thoroughly incorporated through out your roots as well as beneath your fingernails. Make sure you have color-safe conditioner at the ready.
Step Thirteen: Realize you don’t own any color-safe conditioner. Realize also that the hot water is off. Run downstairs to wash your hair in the kitchen sink until the water runs clear.
Step Fourteen: Develop a terrible crick in your neck from having your head bent over into the sink. Realize the water will never run clear.
Step Fifteen: Towel dry, then blow dry and style as desired. Or, if in the case you are tackling this project at 11pm at night, go to bed with wet hair to avoid waking your slumbering child. Sleep on old towels to avoid staining your bedding.
In the wake of the shooting in Isla Vista, a conversation entered the mainstream media about the idea of male entitlement and the associated societal structures that breed this sort of mentality. Rape culture. Ingrained misogyny. Got me thinking, where else do I observe the abuse of dominance? It’s not just in the minds of the “friend-zoned” or out-and-out woman-haters. It’s in all of us. It’s everywhere. And women contribute, too.
In particular, it occurred to me that there is a fundamental conflict between what women say and what we do. For example, there are scores of books and movies dedicated to the average American woman’s notion of romance. You could call it “girl porn”, as seen in the film Don Jon: Men like to watch people getting it on, but women? Women like romantic comedies, romantic dramas, harlequin romance novels, Disney-style fairytales. (Parenthetically, it should be noted that OF COURSE there are females that enjoy pornography. But I’m going to wager a guess that most women go for the “romance porn” stuff.)
In these books and films we see male characters who are often disrespectful of a woman’s right to her own body, tending to act forcefully, or even aggressively, to assert their male right to female attention. These characters are written as Alpha-males, dominant over their women and their environment — they know what they want, they feel entitled to it, they are persistent, and they get it. Alternately, we have the “wounded soul” male — a person whose whole life experience has been so fraught that we can hardly blame him for being so flawed. We read Twilight (crazy obsessive stalker) and 50 Shades of Grey (emotionally unstable man-child who is borderline abusive, but has a heart of gold) and we swoon over these damaged male characters who treat their women poorly and possessively. Somehow, the lonely, needing quality gives these fictional men the right to exhibit aggressively toxic masculinity, particularly in their pursuit of the female protagonist. The stalking, the jealous rage, the single-minded focus of the male’s attention on the female — our culture has conditioned us to believe that these stunts are romantic. And we just eat that shit up. Men see that, see the hypocrisy in it, and come to the conclusion that all women a.) don’t really know what they want, b.) are sending mixed messages/being manipulative, and c.) that this crap:
Don’t get me wrong, I’ve read them all. I like them. They’re my guilty little pleasure. Some romance novels are actually very well-written and well-balanced, depicting not an over-hyped ideal, but a realistic struggle that we can all relate to. In a genre largely written for women by women, there is a tremendous opportunity to extol the virtues of sexual equality. But even when it comes to less delicately written erotica, I enjoy getting lost in the romance, the intrigue — mentally substituting the weak female protagonist for myself (because that’s exactly what these books are for), and embarking on a whirlwind romantic flight of fancy.
But then I stop. I put the book down. And I think about how I would never, ever, EVER accept that kind of treatment from my partner in real life. I think it’s time to own up to the truth: that, unfortunately, my partaking of this form of media is complicit acceptance ingrained misogyny. And that it is a bit hypocritical.
Women can, and sometimes do, send mixed messages. But it isn’t because we’re emotionally manipulative or cunning. We’re taught that clear, explicit messages of arousal or consent are unromantic. That being assertive is slutty. That you have to wait for the man to make the move. A woman that propositions a man is a slut, but women who are selective or discerning when selecting a sexual partner are prudish and condescending. Those words in bold? I don’t want to be any of those things, but it’s a “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” proposition. I know a lot of women who feel the same way.
I think it’s time that we all start taking responsibility for the ways in which our culture has altered our consciousness on sexual norms. For women, that means coming to grips with the fact that we are literally buying into patriarchy — not just by spending money on “romance porn”, but also spending billions of dollars every year on attempts to embody a standard of beauty that is unrealistic and psychologically, economically, and politically damaging.
Truthfully, I like getting dolled-up. I do my hair and make-up like a 1950’s pin-up model, not to attract male attention, but because it makes me feel good about myself and gives me confidence. But lest I forget that I am a product of my culture and my environment, I have to ask myself, how much of what I like is because I really like it and how much is because I’ve been conditioned to like it?
Girls grow up in a world where we are taught that our primary (if not our only) commodity is our beauty. While it’s not necessarily taboo to be an intelligent, articulate, or independent girl, it’s not so often praised either. I, for one, clearly remember feeling the need at eight years old to suck in my tummy when passing boys in the supermarket, but I didn’t begin pride myself on my smarts until I was in my 20’s. And that wasn’t because I was raised by misogynists (I wasn’t) or because I grew up in an environment that devalued educational accomplishments (I didn’t). It’s because even at that young age, I understood that my worth as a human being was inextricably bound to my appearance, so I had better make it good.
Women and men alike need to come together in the spirit of finding balance and establishing equality — first by confronting our previously unacknowledged hypocrisies and universally accepted “truths”, and then by making a commitment to change them. In the last few weeks I’ve heard a lot of people say “feminist” like it’s a dirty word, I think because there is a common misconception that being a feminist means “a women who hates men“. To assume such a thing is to miss the point entirely, and ultimately, to doom the fight by misdirecting the conversation (once again) towards hate and extremism. It’s about equality— and if that’s what we want, ladies and gents, then we all need to come to terms with the ways in which we directly or inadvertently add to the imbalance.