Saturday, April 30, 2011

Day 36: The Polls Have Closed...

Okay, the polls have closed and the people have spoken!  According to the vote, I'll be waiting until the year is done before I can see pictures of myself that are taken during the project timeline.... "with the exception of my wedding photos."  I'm still wrapping my head around this one... 


24 hours: 3%
1 week: 20%
1 month: 13%
Not until the year is done: 30%

Not until the year is done, with the exception of my wedding photos: 33%

FYI, my sister felt pretty strongly that I should hold out until the very end.  She has promised to throw me me a celebratory party at the end of the year if I can make it through without even looking at my wedding pictures.  I'll have to see how I'm doing when it's closer to the wedding. 

Thanks to all who voted!

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Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Day 25: Just messing with me, right?

At work today I ran into one of my dissertation advisors while microwaving my lunch.  Here's how it went down:
Advisor: "Dang!  So I guess that no-mirrors project is off to a rough start, eh?"  
KJ: "huh?"
Advisor: "Oh, just kidding!  Haha - no, really you look... normal."
KJ: "Ummm... Thanks." 

My first thought was... Well, shoot!  I must look not normal!  But then I decided that he wouldn't have made fun of me if I actually looked weird.  Right?  

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Saturday, April 16, 2011

Day 22 - Makeup!

As an academic (in training), I'm lucky to work in an environment that is fairly ambivalent when it comes to grooming expectations.  It's a relaxed-but-professional place that purports to value minds more than bodies.  In fact, some folks in my department seem mildly suspicious of people who seem too put-together, as though the time spent putting on makeup (or deodorant, or making sure socks match) is time that could have been spent - ahem, should have been spent - theorizing.

Yes, this is indeed a far cry from my 3 year stint working in the fashion industry.  There I felt a bit scrutinized for being too "cerebral"!  (Cue Miranda Priestly complaining about hiring the "smart, fat girl.")

Going back to grad school was a welcome change in terms of my body image and sense of style.  It's been a lot more fun to be on the cooler-side of geek than on the geekier-side of cool!

In light of this, as much as I hope this this project helps me be less vain I'm not interested in completely losing the "cool" in my "cooler-side of geek" persona.  I still love fashion, even if I can't afford to buy it new anymore.  And I still want to wear enough makeup to feel like... myself.

Before this project started, I wore makeup almost every day.  I even wore makeup on days when I worked from home!  Somehow it just makes me feel more fully put together.  So here's the confessional on all the stuff I used to put on my face every morning, in order of application:

1) SPF 30 sunscreen (rubbed on with my fingers)
2) Liquid foundation (applied with a "foundation brush")
3) Concealer (applied with a "concealer brush")
4) Powder blush (applied with a "blush brush")
5) 2 Neutral eyeshadows (applied with an "eyeshadow brush")
6) Eyeliner (applied with an "eyeliner brush")
7) Waterproof mascara (after curling my lashes).
8) Lip gloss (dabbed on with my finger)

All this, to look "natural," right?

In the process of making that list, it became clear that I had room to downsize in the makeup department.  Never mind that I could do all-of-the-above in 5 minutes or less... the precise applications and multiple fancy brushes Simply. Had. To. Go.  

Most of this I was able to figure out on my own.  I have a massive make-up collection, and it turns out that several of my mirror-necessary products could be replaced by mirror-optional products that I already owned.  For example, powder eyeshadow was replaced with a neutral cream shadow that I could smudge on with my fingers.  Hooray!  Similarly, my lipgloss was replaced with a sheerer... lipgloss.  Less color = less room for looking like I'd been making out with a clown.

My eyeliner, on the other hand, simply went away.  It didn't matter how many thousands of times I'd applied eyeliner since 6th grade.  With fears vacillated between the unlikely (loss of an eye), and the very likely (leaving the house looking like a 5-year-old's art project), I didn't trust myself to apply eyeliner without a mirror.  

Not so for my mascara.  As many natural blondes with invisible eyelashes may understand... mascara felt necessary.  I am convinced that my eyes actually disappear when I'm not wearing any. So, with a little practice (i.e., going cross-eyed while watching the wand slowly approach my face) I mastered mascara sans-mirror!  Turns out that my trusty $4 Waterproof Maybelline Great Lash is mirror-optional.  

**FYI - don't even THINK of trying this with one of those volumizing/thickening mascaras.  You'll look like this lady: 

Tamara Faye LaValley Bakker Messner, RIP

Finally, I replaced my sunscreen, foundation + concealer with ONE product: tinted moisturizer with SPF.   The great thing about tinted moisturizer is that I can just put a blob in my hands and smear it all over my face like I'm applying lotion.  The not-so-great thing about tinted moisturizer is that Sephora had 45 different options available, and I had to try on about 20 of them before I found an acceptable combo of sheer coverage + spf + my perfect shade of pallor.  When I informed the 3rd sales associate at Sephora that I would be applying this "luxury" product with my hands instead of the recommended $58 brush, she looked at me as though I was planning to smear feces on my face.  Whatever.  A few months ago I probably would have bought the brush, but my new body image motto is "good enough is good enough!"  

Speaking of good enough I kept my regular powder blush + brush, since it's sheer enough to be mirror-optional. 

So here is the new, improved, mirror-optional list:
1) Tinted Moisturizer w/ SPF (smeared on with fingers)
2) Powder blush (applied with brush)
3) Cream Eyeshadow (smeared on with fingers)
4) Mascara (applied verrrry slowly, after curling eyelashes verrrry slowly)
5) Lip gloss (smeared on with fingers).

I've been practicing applying for about 10 days, and I'm pleased.  Dare I say that I look almost as put-together as before, but more "natural"?  Good enough?  Indeed!

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Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Day 12 - Short and Sweet, Research Plans

The nerd in me feels ill-equiped to write about my own experiences with(out) mirrors, when I know so little about their role in lives apart from mine.   I decided that I need some historical context to understand the role of mirrors in the modern world, in general.  Hopefully this will in form how they've shaped my life, in particular.
So, I've ordered the following books from Amazon.  Once they arrive I'll dive in one-by-one, and report back if I find anything blog-worthy!

The New York Times Book Review described the book as "An entire liberal arts education... Anyone who masters the contents of Mirror Mirror need never fear Trivial Pursuit again."  This sounds a bit intimidating.  The last time I worked through a  liberal arts education it took 4 years!  Still, sounds promising.... and a lot less expensive.

Next up: The Mirror: A History, by Sabine Melchoir-Bonnet

According to my local Los Angeles Times, "The Mirror is an amusing jewel of a book, a sparkling reflection of the history of the mirror in Europe, and the role of the mirror in European imagination.  Sabine Melcoir-Bonnet moves elegantly from the techniques of creating mirrors to their role in fashion, art, philosophy, the occult and religion... One also senses this spookiness in that chilling fairy tale question, Mirror, Mirror on the wall/Who's the fairest one of all?  Such cultural echoes seem endless in Melchoir Bonnet's The Mirror, which enthralls and instructs even as it glitters."

Finally..... Blogging All-In-One For Dummies, by Susan Gunelius

Yeah, I know this book isn't about mirrors.  Don't worry I won't report back about what I learn from this one.  Yet, you'll know I've mastered it when you inexplicably become wildly obsessed with this blog.  We can only hope!

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Sunday, April 3, 2011

Day 9 - Friday night fun + brainstorming

I did some counting the other day, and figured out that I have exactly seven mirrors to contend with before I leave my condo building each day; 2 in my bedroom, 1 in my bathroom,  3 in the living room, and 1 in the entryway to the condo building.  (The 2nd bedroom + bathroom in my place have mirrors too, but those belong to my roommate and won't be in sight!)

On Friday night M and I decided to try and come up with solutions for these 7 mirrors.  It seemed important for us to work together on this because we'll be living in the same place soon, and M is not planning to give up mirrors during the project.  No need for him to become a martyr for my cause, right?  Anyway, our Friday night brainstorming ended up being a little rough, but I guess that's always a risk when you start grandiose planning sessions in your neighborhood bar.  (BTW, all foosball-loving Los Angeleans should check out The Wellesbourne in West LA - cool British Library-esque decor, delicious bicker-inducing drinks, and... foosball!)

After scoring a prime people-watching table, we ordered a first round, and settled into our seats.  To get started brainstorming, M drew a diagram on the back of a drink menu.  It listed all of the mirrors I encounter before leaving my condo.  We decided to try tackling the mirrors in the same order that I see them on my way out the door each morning.  Unfortunately, we got stuck on the first one...

It's fitting for this project that an entire wall of my bedroom is: a mirror.  I have one of those very large sliding-door closets in my room, and both doors are mirrored.  When I wake in the morning, if I sit up in bed and look straight ahead... I'm staring at myself in a huge freaking mirror.  Not the best way to start this project (not to mention my mornings!), eh?

So, M and I tried coming up with ideas for how to make this HUGE mirror a non-issue.  M's first suggestion: "close the black-out shades in the bedroom, and never, ever, turn on the lights."  He exuberantly wrote the words "pitch dark" on the diagram, linked to the "closet" mirror node.  (I scanned the diagram so you can see, to the right)

I assumed he was kidding.  Maybe mocking the whole project?  I wasn't amused, and it showed in my face.  I said "ummm... can't we, like, brainstorm practical solutions?"

Oops.  M was not kidding.  He was serious.  To clarify, it turns out he wasn't terribly attached to the idea that we should instate a perma-blackout in our bedroom.  However, he was really serious about the process of brainstorming, itself.  M recently went through some formal training on creative brainstorming at work, and I apparently broke the cardinal rule: when brainstorming, one should not critique ANY idea.  Criticism disrupts the flow of ideas, and - more importantly in this case - my knee-jerk scoffing had offended him and kind of hurt his feelings.  I felt embarrassed to be the jerk, but also a little defensive;  my project, right?

M suggested that, if it's my project, maybe he should just let me do it however I want, and not be involved in any of it.  The tipsy control-freak in me found the idea slightly tempting, but I knew that this was just his knee-jerk reaction to my knee-jerk reaction.  Besides, up until that minute, I'd really been looking forward to making plans with M for the project.  I need his support, and want his involvement.  Besides... last thing I need was to piss off the guy responsible for telling me if I'm leaving the house with arugula in my teeth!  Embarrassed, I apologized.  He accepted, but I could tell he was still kind of disappointed.

We started over, but could't seem to find that brainstorming groove we had both been romanticizing..  Still, we chipped away at the plans for a few minutes, and figured out a few things:

First, we're going to hang a curtain in front of our bathroom mirror, so M can open it when he's in the bathroom.  I silently wondered if he'll forget to close this curtain at around the same rate that he forgets to put down the toilet seat (around 90%), but decided not to mention it.  I wondered if I'd be able to make curtains that actually look cool, and not like a puppet show is about to commence in my bathroom (suggestions welcome!).

Second, to avoid the full wall of mirrors in the entryway to our condo building, I'll be taking the back stairs to get to my car from this day forward.  I felt seriously bummed that I won't be able to pick up our mail from the front hall anymore, which has always been a daily pleasure of mine.  Also, the back stairs lead to a mildly creepy and very stinky alleyway, where homeless people sometimes retire at night.  I remembered that I hadn't run into any problems while taking out the trash over the past few years, and  consoled myself by envisioning the buns-of-steel I'll develop over 11 months of climbing 9 extra stairs each day.  Besides, this idea completely solves a major mirror problem.

M and I were still at the bar at this point, but we were both sick of talking about mirrors.  You're probably sick of reading about them!  M suggested that we try another round of brainstorming in a day or two, and mentioned that he'd like to use dry-erase markers to draw a massive brainstorming diagram on... the huge mirror in my bedroom.   I loved the idea and agreed to call it a night.   We played a game of foosball, and got a real kick out of how awful we both were.  With more luck than skill, we both managed to score 3 points against the other, and decided to quit while equally ahead.  :)

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Friday, April 1, 2011

Day 7: The "3-weeks left to figure it out" plan

To have any chance of completing this project successfully, I needed to be seriously strategic.  I've came up with a very rough plan for the 3 weeks I have left in my "figure-it-out" month. 

First, I'll plot out ALL of the mirrors I encounter in my everyday life, and figure out reasonable solutions to each of them.  **Note - I'm going to have to do once this for my place in Los Angeles, and again for the loft M and I are subletting in San Francisco during May and June.

Second, I'll need to figure out how to put on make-up without a mirror. 

Finally, I'll learn to style my hair without a mirror, and come up with a plan for putting together clothing/outfits over the next year.

Stay tuned for progress on these fronts!