Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Day 158: Revisiting My "Bridal Beauty: Countdown To Gorgeous" Challenge

It's been almost a full month since I've bothered to do any bridal beautifying.  Frankly, it's been great!  I didn't plan to take such a break from beauty, but life got busy and my priorities were elsewhere. (WOW, it feels SO GOOD to say that!)  I even started a "No Makeup Mondays" tradition; yesterday was my 3rd N.M.M. and it keeps getting easier!  But way back in June, I challenged myself to complete all 37 tasks of The Knot's "Bridal Beauty: Countdown To Gorgeous" list without mirrors (see Day 68 for the emotions and logic behind this decision).  My last completed task on the B.B.C.T.G. list was a haphazard attempt at self-tanner application, on Day 131.  I smelled funny for a few days but my arms didn't look much different.  Considering all the effort involved in streak-free self-tanner application, I quickly reverted to pale and haven't looked back. 

So tonight I looked over the remaining tasks of my B.B.C.T.G. challenge, and found 3 stragglers in the "1-2 Months Before" category.  With 5 weeks to go, I realized that it's time to get creative.  Here are the 3 tasks, and my thoughts on (hopefully) getting them done:
Meet with your makeup artist for a trial run.  If you're not hiring a pro, get a makeover at a department store counter and purchase anything you need now (so you have time to practice).
Love. This. Film.
THOUGHTS: Okay, first there's no makeup artist in my current budget, and department store makeovers give me the creeps.  Does anyone else remember that heart-wrenching scene from The Other Sister, when Juliet Lewis's character get's a Macy's makeover on one side of her face, and is told that the un-makeuped side is "bad"?  I've been angry at those makeup sales-people (sorry, "artists") ever since!  RESOLVED: I'm going to do some youtube research on wedding-day makeup application tips, and - once educated - I'll shop from my own (extensive!) makeup collection to add a little pizazz to my look that day.  A lot of people have been questioning my plan to do my own makeup... well, as I mentioned a while back on Day 108: my mom thinks I can do it, and that counts for a lot in my book! Besides, my plan at the moment is to just wear my usual everyday makeup, plus eyeliner and maybe (gasp!) false eyelashes.  Oh, and some sort of lip stain.  I'll apply all of the usual suspects myself, and my bridesmaids can help with the extras. 
Bring your veil to your hairstylist for a trial run of potential big day 'dos.  (If you're not happy, now's the time to speak up.)
THOUGHTS: Veil?  What veil?  Oh, shit.  I still have to get one.  Operation FIND A VEIL will commence this week.  Does anybody out there have suggestions on where/how to find a one (or 2!) for under $100?  Etsy?  UsedWeddingDresses.com?  FrugalMidwesternBrides.com? (that last one isn't real, but I would totally shop there!) I'm feeling chapel length for the ceremony, but would like to switch it up to a modern birdcage for the after-party.  Oh, and I did make an appointment with my hairstylist to have a "trial run" 6 days before the wedding.  I know it doesn't give me much time to change my mind, but.... hey, that's the point!  Besides, a good friend of mine is getting married that day (Hooray for Jenica and Hayes!!), so I'll be able to try out my "do" on the dance floor!
Strategery, my friends. Strategery!
Want a sparkling big-day smile?  Cut down on tea and coffee now and try a whitening toothpaste.  You may also want to consider a professional bleaching by a dentist, or using an over-the-counter whitening system.
My morning motto.  Image here.
THOUGHTS: "Cut down on tea and coffee now"?!?  Are these people crazy? Heck. No.  I'll skip the coffee on my wedding day (jitters are bad for publicly stated/stuttered I DOs!), but on most days a few caffeinated beverages keep me sane and functional.  I know this isn't the best long-term approach, but - with research, teaching, blogging, and wedding-planning - I'm burning the candle at both ends.  I love all of these projects too much to cut anything out.  So.... coffee/tea/CokeZero it is. I'll give this task more attention once I'm done teaching classes next week.  In the meantime, I am using a whitening toothpaste (do they even sell non-whitening toothpaste anymore!??!), and I have a dentist appointment next week.  I won't be shelling out for professional whitening, but a professional cleaning can't hurt, right?  (Speaking of professionals... maybe our talented wedding photographers, Lisa and Geoff, could just photoshop my pearly-whites into pearlier-whites.  Now that's what I call delegating!)

How would/did YOU balance time while wedding planning?  What made you feel more beautiful and confident? What made you just feel more stressed??  

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Sunday, August 28, 2011

Day 157: 3 Mirror-free Mishaps

The story of my week.
(image found here)
Last week was one of those times when I had a bit too much going on.  I spent my weekend, Monday & Tuesday in Las Vegas, at the biggest professional conference (for sociologists) of the year.  While there, I gave a talk about my research, lost $80 at the slot machines, and promptly caught a major head cold.  Quickly gone were my voice and sense of smell.  :(

I flew back to Los Angeles early Wednesday morning and went straight to UCLA to squeak and cough through two 2-hour lectures for the courses I'm teaching.  On Thursday morning I drugged myself with antihistamines just in time to be interviewed on camera by the UCLA Office of Media Relations for a PR piece about this project (how cool!).  (Of course, I can't actually watch the interview, but I was told it went quite well.)   Finally, that same night, I flew to up to San Francisco to spend the weekend with Michael (my fiancé), who I hadn't seen in 3 long and lonely weeks.

And so, it shouldn't have surprised me that this was a week full of mirror-free mishaps.  I'm usually quite mindful.  Really.  I do my best to floss after poppy-seeded meals, wipe my nose after every sneeze, and zip all my zippers.  Not so this week!  In addition to knowingly dressing a bit haphazardly - which nobody commented on - I was caught on 3 separate occasions with some major mirror-free mishaps.  Here they are.  Please don't think less of me!
Oh poor Li-Lo... At least when I do crap like
this it doesn't get much further than my own blog!

1) On Tuesday I was in a hurry to get ready, and scampered off to the conference in a state of ditzy disarray.  I left my Las Vegas hotel room with my suit jacket tucked into my pants.  Okay, Okay.  I know this could have been MUCH worse (see the Lindsay Lohan pic to the right - it made me feel better!), but it was still really humbling.    I was rescued from utter professional humiliation by my dear friend Liz, who sadly spent way too much time of her own busy weekend trying to get me to stop and smell the roses, despite my disappearing sense of smell (and sanity!). So sorry for all the added stress, Liz.. and THANK YOU for the rescue.

2) Last night (Saturday), I was having a romantic moment with Michael.  At least I thought I was.  I caught him gazing at me with a smile on his face.  I leaned in for a snuggle, but he put both hands on my shoulders and continued to gaze.... but with what I soon recognized as more of a smirk.
NOT the look I was going for...
"Your eyebrows are crooked!"  He announced.
"What??!" I squeaked.
I'd had no idea.  Really.  I thought things were under control; every few days since the start of this project I've kind of brushed a finger over my eyebrows, expecting to know by feel if things were getting out of hand.  (Besides, full brows are "in" this season, no?)  But crooked.... uffda!  How embarrassing!
"Do you want me to try to help you with that?" he offered, clearly preparing for an eyebrow-intervention.
I declined awkwardly, remembering Michael's slight tendency towards uni-brow-over-tweezing.  Hopefully I'll find time in the next few days to enlist the help of a professional, or a trusted friend with great brows!  Any volunteers??

3) Finally, adding insult to injury, my evening with Michael grew even less romantic when he pointed out that I "might want to trim that nose hair" from my right nostril.  Egads!  Nose hair??  Where???  I ducked away and rubbed my nose with the back of my hand.  I didn't feel anything suspect, but by this point I was trusting my own senses less and less.  I turned back, nostrils on display.  "Oh!" Michael exclaimed, "it's gone now.  It must have just been a booger."  Ugh. Great.

Given the craziness of my week, it's entirely possible that these "mishaps" would have happened regardless of whether or not I could look in the mirror.  But I doubt it. I'm just thankful that the only people who saw them were part of my inner-circle of close friends and loved ones.  (Unless, of course, nobody else bothered to tell me!!!)

When's the last time YOU left the house with a "mishap?"  

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Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Day 152: An Interview w/ the Groom (to be)

I'm writing this post from my comfy, fluffy bed in Los Angeles. It feels SO GOOD to be back in California.  Never one to stay in one place for long.... I'm headed to San Francisco Thursday night to spend some long-overdue time with my fiancé.

Speaking of Michael, this project would have been impossible without his support and encouragement.  He calls himself my "cheerleader" (awww!) and really has been unwavering in helping me stick to my "rules" - even when it's inconvenienced him.  Like that time I "requested" that he help me cover the vanity mirrors in our first place in San Francisco, and dragged him to a record store in the creepy Tenderloin district in search of something bohemian-esque...  I digress.

Anyhoo, it's been almost 4 months since Day 0, and I haven't yet asked Michael to tell his side of this story.   (Also, the theme for this month's Feminist Fashion Bloggers post is "Dating and Relationships."  What perfect timing!)  I "interviewed" Michael on the phone tonight.  This was our conversation:

KJERSTIN: What were your first thoughts when I told you I wanted to avoid mirrors for a year?
MICHAEL: Ummm... it was the same reaction I had when I first met you.  My first thought: this is interesting and exciting.  My second thought: shit. this is going to be a pain in my ass!
KJERSTIN: Ha. Ha. Very funny.  But seriously though...
MICHAEL: Well, I thought it was a creative idea. It was also just cool to see you so excited about something.  You'd been having a hard time.  
KJERSTIN: Totally.  What has it been like being my partner during this project?  Has it been any different?
MICHAEL: I'm proud of you.  I've enjoyed watching you follow through on something you're passionate about.  You're really doing this!  But, it's definitely altered our trajectory a little bit.  We've had to work our lives around the project, both physically and sometimes emotionally.  I never thought I'd be on a blog.  I'm a more private person than you.
KJERSTIN: Yeah, I do try to respect that. By the way, thanks for letting me post those camping pics of you in your undies that one time!
MICHAEL: You still owe me about 2 hours of backrub for that.
KJERSTIN: Right. Ask me tomorrow. So, have you noticed any changes in me? Good?  Bad?
MICHAEL: Yeah, I have actually, a little bit.  It has been interesting.  I definitely noticed that you don’t prim and prep as much as you did before. Really, not under any circumstances, these days.  Before - especially if we were going out or something - I felt like you’d be fluffing about in the bathroom forever. Now I feel like you’re out of the house in a halfway reasonable time.  It probably takes you 15 to 20 minutes to get all of your shit done… but, hey, it’s not an hour anymore!  That’s progress, right?
KJERSTIN: Wait, I never took an hour to get ready in the morning!
MICHAEL: Right, an hour was for times we were going out, like on the weekend.  You didn't take too much time getting ready on an average day.   But now on a normal day you just put your hair in a ponytail and we’re out the door.  It's great.
KJERSTIN: So the big change is that I don't wear as much makeup and don't do my hair as much?
MICHAEL: Well, frankly, you don't look that much different.  I didn't notice any big change in your appearance, I just noticed that we're getting out of the house quicker.  
KJERSTIN: Well, I still am wearing some makeup.
MICHAEL: Yeah, but you're wearing a lot less.  And I think it's sexy.  It reminds me of my mom's cousin, who I've always thought was a strikingly beautiful woman.  She's had grey hair since her thirties - it's beautiful silver-white hair - and she's never dyed it.  She wears it proudly, and doesn't wear much makeup.  There's something so simple and appealing about it.    I look at her and think, wow, she's obviously self-confident and comfortable being herself. There is something really attractive about that.  And now there's the same thing going on for you... though I can't tell if you're actually comfortable being more minimalist, or if it's just an unavoidable effect of giving up the mirror!  
KJERSTIN: It's a little of both, I think.  It started as a necessity, but I'm getting more confident.  No Makeup Mondays have helped!
MICHAEL: I like it.  I think it's really sexy.  You have beautiful eyes and beautiful cheeks, and I see you more now.  And since you're not wearing much makeup I can actually see your skin instead of a layer of film and gunk, and stuff.
KJERSTIN: Film and gunk!??!  Hey now!  You never complained about it before.
MICHAEL: Well, whatever.  There's just something really nice about you being just you, without the costume.
MICHAEL: But I also think it feels more special now when you DO wear more makeup.  You've made it meaningful instead of mundane, because it marks special occasions.  Now when you take the time to put on a lot of eye makeup - and I still don't know how you do it! - it's a signal that we're going to have a special night.  Even though I think you're beautiful without makeup, I also think it's okay to go through some of the courting formalities on special occasions.  Maybe that's just the Kentucky boy in me.  We're getting all dressed up in silly formal clothes for our wedding.   And that's okay, because it's an important day and we want it to stand out and feel special compared to all the other days.  Maybe on a smaller scale, it's the same when you wear more makeup now. It feels special.
San Francisco.  How romantic! :)
KJERSTIN: Have your own appearance habits changed since I started avoiding mirrors?
MICHAEL: I don't think so.  I'm forced to look in the mirror a little bit less since most of the mirrors at home are covered. But I still use one every morning when I shave.  I don't think I was too mirror-focused before.
KJERSTIN: Whatever, I see you admiring yourself sometimes!  You've been more into fashion since you moved to California.
Indeed, this is how Michael's pants fit, B.C.
(Before California!) 
MICHAEL: (Laughs) Okay, that's probably true.  Moving to California helped me feel comfortable wearing more fashionable clothes.  There's more freedom here.  Nobody questions your masculinity or sexuality if you wear your jeans in the proper size.  I think in other places I've lived, caring about my appearance wasn't manly.  Here, there are more options for self-expression, for men especially, I mean.  There's a wide degree of acceptance here... not that I'm one to really push the envelope!
KJERSTIN: Well, I think you look great!
MICHAEL: Yeah, well you ought to!  You might not realize it, but ever since you stopped looking in the mirror you've been a lot more interested in helping me pick out my clothes.  A few weeks ago you cleared out my closet, and talked me into buying a bunch of new stuff at the Gap.  
KJERSTIN: You needed new jeans and t-shirts, AND it was all 30% off! 
MICHAEL: Yeah.  But I also know you miss experimenting with fashion.  Putting together outfits used to be a bigger part of your life.
KJERSTIN: Okay, now you're making me feel a little sad.  At least buying shoes is still fun!  
MICHAEL: Yeah, in an "I can't stop buying shoes" kind of way.
KJERSTIN: SHHHH!  I haven't told them that yet!  Okay, we have to stop now.  I'm writing too much.  Readers will get bored and grow cross-eyed.
MICHAEL: We wouldn't want that!  Alright.  I love you. Goodnight.
KJERSTIN: I love you too.  Goodnight. 

So there you have it.  Thanks for inspiring this, Feminist Fashion Bloggers! This exercise helped me learn a few things about my partner and myself. :)

P.S. I must give proper credit: all of the photos on this post (except the lame one of Michael's baggy shorts) were taken by Lisa and Geoff Bardot, the insanely talented photography duo behind The Goodness photo and design.  I feel so lucky that they'll be snapping memories of our wedding in October. This is them:
Lisa + Geoff = Genius Photographers.  www.thegoodness.com
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Monday, August 22, 2011

Day 150: Reporting From Las Vegas.

Hi everyone!  I can only write a short post today.  I'm traveling for the ASA (American Sociological Association) conference, in Las Vegas, NV.  My time is limited and my internet connection is poor!  

Anyway, I'm thoroughly enjoying my 2nd official "No Makeup Monday" while networking and presenting my own research at ASA.  This is the largest and arguably most important professional conference of the year, so I was delighted to find that I feel GREAT sans-makeup. Sociologists rock.  It occurred to me today that I feel more pressure to wear makeup when spending time with my students, than my colleagues.  I need to give this more consideration in the coming weeks.  Also - I decided to ditch my contact lenses for the day and wear my glasses.  I'm consciously trying to channel Daria (remember her??) - a personal hero of mine, along with Miss Piggy!  Both of these women (characters??) are bravely unapologetic about who they are.  I have always found this to be inspiring.

On a more serious note, I WILL be deleting any bullying (i.e., "you are UGLY/FAT/STUPID/CRAZY") comments left on this blog, going forward.  As I like to tell my students: it is fine (in fact encouraged!) to critique ideas, but not people.  In particular, I will not tolerate misogyny or fat-hatred, and especially do not want my readers to see these types of comments and feel threatened, bullied, or insecure by proxy.  Thank you for your understanding on this point.  The comments have been shocking to me, and I am truly grateful to those of you who have come to my defense these past few days!

As Miss Piggy has fabulously said, "Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and it may be necessary from time to time to give a stupid or misinformed beholder a black eye!"

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Friday, August 19, 2011

Day 147: A Note On Makeup & "Avoidance vs. Acceptance"

It's been an exciting and hectic week for me, thanks to a bit of media attention on this project.   Receiving feedback and encouragement from new readers tuning in from Jezebel, Yahoo, The Globe and Mail, and The Bay Citizen has been eye-opening and encouraging.  I find it rewarding to have started new conversations about body image, and beauty culture.  

Not all of the feedback has been positive, of course.  It's impossible to please everyone, and I'm okay with that.  Yet some of the (constructive?) criticisms have forced me to really ponder things, and in a good way.  Two themes, in particular, gave me pause:  First, some folks seem upset that I'm still wearing makeup most days.  Second, other people are concerned that avoiding mirrors can't possibly improve body image, and that it might actually make it worse.  I think that both of these critiques bring up interesting and intelligent points, so I've decided to respond to them here.

From a reader at Jezebel:
"She is trying to change the way she thinks about herself, but she's still 'putting on a face' for everyone else." 
RESPONSE: I think this would be a fair call-out if the aim of my project were to completely reject our society's beauty norms, and then see what happens.  (Note: I'd also have to abandon deodorant and clothes to reach this standard!)  I think this concept would make for a valuable experiment (any takers??!), but my project and goals are different.

On a personal level, I'm trying to find a balance of beauty practices - and alternatives! - that (1) support positive body image, (2) are in line with my values, and yet which are (3) flexible enough accommodate both my core sense of "self" as well as the variety of social contexts in which my life takes me.  This means that some days I abandon makeup completely (i.e., on Makeup Free Mondays and lazy weekends), but on other days I may choose to wear makeup, whether it's a more glammed-up look for my wedding, or simply a brush of mascara in hopes that it will help me look older and more professional than my students!  Anyway, I'm writing about it all, and learning about myself and our beauty culture in the process, which IS a stated goal for this project. 

From reader at Yahoo:
"Avoidance is not the same as acceptance.  If she truly wanted to accept herself and her body, she'd learn how to look in a mirror without the self-loathing, not avoid it.  If anything, there's more emphasis on equating seeing herself with her own poor self-image...."  (It get's a lot snarkier at this point, so I'm leaving that bit out!)
 Girl Before a Mirror by Picasso
RESPONSE: I agree that avoidance and acceptance are not the same thing, but I know that avoidance can lead to acceptance.  It has worked this way for me.  For example, not looking at myself in the mirror has made me miss all of the things about my body that I like, but wasn't appreciating at the time (when all I could see in the mirror was my less-than-washboard stomach): I miss seeing strong legs, clear skin, bright smile... AND the list of things I love about my body has gotten bigger since this project has started.  

Missing the look of my body has made me appreciate it more... a sort of valuing things that are now scarce.  Yet, the most important thing that is changing isn't the amount of hate or love I have for any certain body part: it's the extent to which my appearance shapes my self-image, overall.  By taking some emphasis OFF of how I look, I can focus more clearly on all of the other things that make me, uniquely, me.  And this, my friends, has been the most delicious and positive change I could have asked for.

Oh, and I DO think that looking in the mirror CAN improve poor body image!  For ideas on ways to do this, see Day 63, Day 67, and Day 139!

Thanks again for all of your interest, support, and - yes - even your critiques!  You've helped me make this project better, smarter, and more likely to cause real change, both in me (I know it!) and (hopefully) for others.  Have a great weekend!

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Thursday, August 18, 2011

Day 147: Fun Fact Friday - A Brief History of Funhouse Mirrors

How many mirrors are in your home?  Mine has seven (though most are covered!).  Imagine having THREE HUNDRED & FIFTY SEVEN mirrors in just one room of your home!  Well... that is exactly what you will find in the Hall of Mirrors at the Palace of Versailles near Paris.

Overlooking the Versailles Park near Paris, the Hall of Mirrors is the biggest room in the Palace of Versailles at 73m long, 10m wide, and 12m high.   The Hall of Mirrors owes its name to the seventeen mirrored arches facing seventeen windows overlooking the Versailles Park.  Each arch contains 21 mirrors adding up to a total of 357.  While sometimes referred to as Venetian glass mirrors, these large mirrors were made in a Paris factory that was founded to compete with Venetian glass factories.  Both mirrors and glass were exorbitantly expensive in the 17th century.  With some reports suggesting that the cost of ONE Venetian mirror was comparable to the cost of a large naval ship.  Yowza!
Image found here.
Now here's another fun fact: the Hall of Mirrors at Versailles is credited for inspiring those carnival monstrosities we call funhouses (maybe not so fun for me!), which typically contain a "Halls of Mirrors" or are even called "Houses of Mirrors".  Perhaps the most famous  of these was commissioned by Peter Stuyvesant, the governor of "New Amsterdam" (aka, New York!), who came across the hall of mirrors in the Palace of Versailles and was completely amazed by it.  He vowed to bring the attraction back to America. He did just that, and his House of Mirrors opened in 1651.  Commoners who wanted to enter this maze of mirrors were charged one Dutch gulden for the privilege.

(This Fun Fact Friday was informed by A Brief History of MirrorsExclusive Mirrors, and wikipedia!)

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Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Day 145: Props to The Beheld's Autumn Whitefield-Madrano & Alexa from Blossoming Badass!

Thought-provoking interview/essay found here!

I just read a fantastic essay featured on Blossoming Badass.  I learned about this blog back in April, when the author (a high schooler named Alexa) wrote a brave and poignant article for The F-Bomb in which she claims, "I am not pretty.  I'm not thin either." but then reminds us that "knowing... and caring.... are two blissfully different things."  Rock. On.  I have great admiration for this feisty child.

Today Alexa interviewed one of my favorite feminist beauty bloggers, Autumn Whitefield-Madrano.  Autumn, who writes The Beheld, embarked on her own 1-month "mirror fast" back in May, so we became fast friends from afar. (How's that for fantastic alliteration?) Anyway... I have so much respect for both of these writers.  It's deliriously fantastic to see them together in one place.

I'd now like to send you right over to Blossoming Badass, to read Autumn's powerful and articulate thoughts on "beauty," American culture, feminism, and her quest to bridge the personal with the political.   Enjoy!

P.S. - Autumn and Alexa, you are both fully Blossomed Badasses in my book.  :)

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Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Day 144: Reporting Back on Makeup Free Monday

Yesterday was my first official attempt at a Makeup Free Monday.  This seemed like a great way to push myself a bit further along on this journey of self-image, and facing my fears about letting go of appearance obsessions.  As I explained in my last post, wearing at least a bit of makeup most days has remained a bit of a security blanket -  albeit one that I enjoy mostly via memory and imagination.  (Though I've begun looking forward to smelling the scents of my various beauty products each morning.... egads! perhaps this is a sign that No Makeup Mondays have arrived just in time!)
Original image found here.

What can I say?  My day was mostly uneventful, but here are a few highlights:

1) I was faced with some decisions.  Namely: what, exactly, counts as "makeup"?  For example, is it fair to decide that my SPF15 makeup primer shouldn't count as makeup because it isn't tinted (back on Day 22, the sales-rep at Sephora promised that it would help both "brighten" and "even out" my skin tone.  Right.). Or how about curling my eyelashes?  Certainly that shouldn't count as makeup.  I stared at the sheet hanging over my bathroom mirror, and wondered (hoped!) that the prior day's waterproof mascara was still stuck to my lashes.  With this in mind, I hesitated before washing my face: greasy skin + eyelashes, or clean skin + invisible-lashes?  Sigh...   I went ahead and washed my face, and then applied the sunscreen/primer, curled my lashes, looked longingly at my makeup kit, and then dabbed Aquaphor on my lips.  My face FELT okay, but without mirrors, the whole thing was really anti-climactic (yet nerve-wracking).  Oh, and I felt like a freak for missing the smell of my foundation.

2) I fantasized about eating a lot of berries with breakfast and accidentally staining my lips and cheeks in a brilliant shade of makeup-free raspberry.  No berries in the house.  Somehow banana-stained lips didn't sound quite so apPEELing (get it?!?)

3) What to do with the saved 5 minutes of my morning routine?  I must have been desperately craving contact with some non-makeup cultural symbol of femininity.  Or maybe I just needed a scent-fix.  Anyway.... I sniff-tested all of the perfume samples I've collected over the past few years and decided to spray myself abundantly with something called Touch by Tocca.  It smelled great in the sample sprayer, but not so much on me.  According to Sephora, the core scent notes of Touch should be "Gardenia & Balsam" (at least that's what they were back in 2006 when they still sold this stuff!). Anyway, the sample sprayer smelled like Gardenia (heady romantic floral), but I just smelled like Balsam (a resinous pine tree).  I spent the next few minutes unsuccessfully attempting to wash the scent off of my wrists and neck.  Overall time saved: negative 3 minutes.   Oops.

4) After all of this I was REALLY nervous to leave the house.  Not only was I bare-faced but I smelled like a pine tree.  But then... big surprise... NOBODY NOTICED.  Or, at least nobody said anything, or acted differently.  I guess this doesn't surprise me on a logical level, but on an emotional level I'm still suspicious that people were just being nice.  Then again... maybe that's all that counts?  What do you think?

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Sunday, August 14, 2011

Day 143: Mirror-less AND Makeup-Free Monday

I'm writing this post on Sunday night, as I plan ahead for tomorrow (Monday).  After going back and forth for several weeks, I've decided it's time to give "Makeup Free Mondays" a try.

I first learned about Makeup Free Mondays from the website The Beauty Bean.  The founder of this very cool body-positive beauty website, Alexis Wolfer, has been promoting Makeup Free Mondays as a way to encourage women to feel comfortable in their own skin, and to stop seeing makeup as a requirement.  These things, I can definitely get behind in theory, but are harder in practice!  Though she is certainly not anti-makeup full stop, Wolfer describes intentionally going without makeup as "liberating, inspiring, and, needless to say, timesaving."  She also admits that it's a bit intimidating... which is the primary emotion I'm feeling right now.

This is one of the only photos I have of me without makeup.
Being intimidated to go without makeup may seem really weird, since I can't see myself anyway.  Still, I'm kind of freaked out about it.  See... even though I've dramatically cut back on my everyday makeup since beginning this project, I've rarely gone without it entirely, even when camping!  I'm realizing now that makeup has been a security blanket for me, and probably has been since my days of having "bad skin" when I would have sooner left the house without brushing my teeth than without applying foundation, concealer, etc..  This became an ingrained habit, even after my skin became "good" (thank you, Accutane!).

I feel more confident when wearing makeup... I think I look more polished, prettier.  And so... despite cutting back quite a bit for this project, makeup has remained part of my routine even after I stopped looking at myself in the mirror.  I've even felt pride in my mirror-free makeup application skills.  The most frequent question people - especially my female students, for some reason - ask me upon hearing about the project is "How do you do your makeup?  It looks so good!" This makes me feel nice. It also encourages me to keep wearing makeup.  That is, until tomorrow!

Instead of foundation+blush+eyeshadow+mascara, tomorrow I'll be wearing sunscreen+chapstick.  I'll be giving two lectures, and will be spending time with a much-admired guest speaker (Lisa Wade, sociologist and co-founder of Sociological Images).  It will be a very public, and (in my opinion) a fairly important day.  So I'm scared.  To be honest, leaving the house without any makeup scares me more than my earlier fears leaving the house with poorly applied makeup!  But I think it will be okay...

I'll let you know how it goes tomorrow.  What do you think??  Have you ever tried this.  Would you?  Do you wear makeup every day, or only for special occasions?

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Friday, August 12, 2011

Day 140: Fun Fact Fridays.... Advertisements In the Mirror?

Advertisers have always appealed to our vanity to sell products.  And they're only getting better at it!  See for yourself:
Yes, those are advertisements mirrors of a public restroom, specifically in O'Hare International Airport in Chicago.  As explained by CNN Contributer, Bob Greene in this article
"We have chosen to be in bathrooms," said Brian Reid, the founder and president of Mirrus, the Huntersville, North Carolina, company that manufactures and markets the mirrors. "Bathrooms are often the last places people stop before they board an airplane, and the first places they visit when they get off an airplane." 
Those travelers just about always stop to look at themselves in the mirrors above the sinks, Reid said. So why not turn those mirrors into advertisements?  And how do people react when they see an advertisement as they look at their own faces?
"Well, it is an unexpected sight," Reid said. "And some people do think, 'Gosh, is there no sacred place?' But we hope people realize that we have purposely chosen not to be around the toilet. We're over by the sink."
Yes, you read that correctly.  This marketing middle-man wants us to be thankful that his company hasn't put their promotional mirrors inside of bathroom stalls.  Well... that decision certainly makes my life easier, but even if I wasn't trying to avoid mirrors I'd find the concept fairly ridiculous - not to mention invasive. (I'm envisioning penile enlargement ads in the men's rooms, and a lot of tampon promos in the ladies'...  Just the type of thing that might inspire me to graffiti the stalls with the message: "Call this number for obnoxious advertising!")

For your viewing pleasure, here are a few more creative ways that marketers have merged mirrors with ads. (FYI, I found all of these ad examples on this design blog - thanks crookedbrains.net!) So... it this capitalism at it's best or at it's worst?  Your call!  What do you think?

A postage stamp with YOUR face on it:

Movie promos on your side mirrors?  (That looks dangerous to me!)

Your dream car, with YOU in it:

Finally, and ad I can really get behind!  Look emaciated in the "skinny mirror"?  Go eat something!! 

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Thursday, August 11, 2011

Day 139 - 3 *New* Things I Love About Myself

A few days ago a reader named Amber P. left a comment I found very inspiring, both for the story she told and for the questions she asked me to consider.  Here's her comment, and below that is my best attempt to respond as requested.  Thanks Amber!
At a point in my life when I had little to no self esteem what-so-ever, I had a friend tell me to strip down stark naked, and go look at myself in the mirror for at least five minutes. They told me to come back to them and tell them at least ten things that I loved about myself. I haven't done that in a while...and that person is now not only my best friend but my husband. So while I know that you aren't going to look in a mirror for quite some time now... I have a similar question.
What are a few things that you love about yourself, that you wouldn't have realized that you loved about yourself before the start of this project? 
Okay, how amazingly positive is this story?  I love this way of using mirrors for good instead of evil, and I've decided that THIS is the exact exercise that I'm going to do on the first day that this project ends.  I can't think of a better way to transition from no mirrors back to mirrors everywhere.  In the meantime, here's a short list of things for which I have gained a new appreciation since this project started.

1) My hands.  As I mentioned yesterday, I've always liked my hands.  In them, I see both of my parents - small nails from mom, index fingers pointing a bit inward from dad.  Since this project started, my hands have been the body part I see more than any other.  At first my pretty paws bore the brunt of many displaced beautification rituals: I bought new nail polish instead of new makeup every time I popped into CVS, and salon haircuts were replaced by manicures every few weeks.  I'm not sure if these practices were sending me in the "right" direction in terms of decreasing my vanity overall, but they kept me sane.  And it was nice to focus on a body part I felt like showing off, instead of worrying about bits and bobs that feel too bitty or too bobby.  But most recently I fell in love with my hands all over again, by staring at them while I write on my laptop.  With the exception of Mondays and Wednesdays (when I lecture for 4 HOURS each day!) I typically write more than I speak.  In this sense, my hands serve as my voice, and that's pretty awesome.

2) My cheeks (the ones on my face).  They've always been round.  When I was a baby my parents called them bumper pads, since they could break a face-forward fall.  I used to think they were too fat.  Maybe they are.  But they're also really soft.  That's something I didn't notice or think about until this project.  I love my chubby cheeks!

3) Armpits!  Seriously.  I never noticed them before.   Even when shaving I never really looked at my armpits; I just watched to make sure I didn't leave any stubbly stragglers behind.  But I started paying more attention a few weeks ago, when I decided to try a new deodorant.  Okay, not really a new deodorant, but a new scent in the exact same deodorant I've been using religiously for the past 2 years (Powder Fresh Suave Clinical Protection Antiperspirant, which works just as awesomely as the name brand stuff, but cheaper!!).  I'm a lady of rigid routines, so even switching the scent (to "Wild Cherry Blossom") put me on edge.  I applied the new goods, and then thought a lot about my armpits and my deodorant over the next few days.  A few conclusions: 1) my armpits are surprising smooth and well-behaved - no razor burn, no ingrown hairs, no excessive sweat so long as I use my Suave 2) I love both scents of my deodorant an applying them feels like I'm putting on perfume and a luxurious lotion at the same time, and 3) my armpits are kind of pretty. 

So there you have it.  A list of things I love more about myself now than I did before, and which I probably wouldn't have noticed if I hadn't started this project.

But now I'd like to hear from some of you!  Go stare in the mirror for a while, naked or otherwise.  Or maybe spend some time thinking about how your body feels or smells, instead of just how it looks.   What do you love?  

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Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Day 138: How To Choose Wedding Bands (and WIN an Engagement Ring!)

It's been several days since my last post. Sorry to those (one or two) of you who have been awaiting my next move with bated breath!  Moving back to L.A. the day before I had to start teaching 2 lecture classes at UCLA was more than I bargained for!  Thanks for your patience while I await the return of my sanity and composure. :)

I do have some fun updates to add.  First, for those of you who don't know this, Michael and I have a pretty awesome engagement story.  We WON my engagement ring in the 2010 L.A. Diamond Dash, hosted by Sarah Leonard Jewelers in Westwood, CA.

It was a completely exhausting Amazing-Race-style scavenger hunt, that required both athleticism and brains.  Somehow Michael and I brought both to the table (usually we're a lot more "brainy" than athletic, but we can bring out the muscle when properly motivated!).  We prepared for the competition in true nerds style, by studying maps to memorize historical landmarks, programming code into a laptop which we carried around with us, and by upgrading Michael's ancient iPhone (so we could get the text-message clues ASAP).  Well... we beat out 165 other couples for the grand prize and - as promised under threat of violence - Michael proposed on the spot.  Here's the (mildly embarrassing) video:
As you can see, we were both pretty psyched. :)  Oh, right. Here's the ring:
I was never into "bling"... until now!
That was 9 months ago, almost to the day.  On Monday of this week, Michael and I headed back to Sarah Leonard Jewelers (we are BIG fans of these folks, obviously) to pick out our wedding bands.  I have to say... this was the most fun I've had shopping for body décor since my no-mirrors project started!  Finally, I could actually see how things looked on my body (errr... I mean finger!).

(A side note here: I've always really liked my hands.  I have my mothers tiny fingernails, and my dad's pointing-inward index fingers.  Not terribly masculine, but not so girly-looking that I can't dive into a home-improvement project for fear of breaking a nail.  Yes, I like my hands.  And I've REALLY loved being able to look at them over the past 4 months... they've become my new vanity, and I'm 100% okay with that.  Using a ton of hand lotion and getting manicures every 3-4 weeks, and admiring my hands, feels a lot more sane than critically counting the blackheads on my nose with a magnifying mirror!)
This option was pretty, but I opted for a
completely plain wedding band instead.
It's less expensive, and appeals to my
minimalist aspirations.

Getting back to wedding-band shopping, things went really well.  Interestingly, our budgeting approach to wedding bands seems to be the opposite of normal: I opted for a cheapo plain palladium band, and Michael fell in love with a pricey piece of precious-metal samurai sword they call a "Mokume Gane" wedding band.  Seriously: "Mokume Gane" refers to a 17th century metalwork technique used to make Samurai swords (moku=wood, me=eye, and gane=metal).  Some artisan/marketing genius named Jim Binnion learned the technique, realized dudes would <3 getting a (literal) piece of the Samurai mystique, and is now making a killing on these things!

Beautiful ring, beautiful hand, beautiful person
Michael had an instant "MY PRECIOUS!" (in creepy Gollum voice) reaction to one ring.  He clearly preferred it over every other ring in the entire store, but seemed almost embarrassed to admit that this was the case.  The gender scholar in me couldn't help but wonder what was going on: was it the price (real-men-who-aren't-gangsta-rappers don't spend $$ on jewelry!), the fact that the ring would cost more than my wedding band (manly men don't wear more expensive wedding bands than their wives!), or simply the experience of wanting a piece of beautiful jewelry (only women lust after pretty jewelry!)?  Or, maybe this had nothing to do with gender norms, and everything to do with Michael being the kind of person who is more generous to others than he is to himself.  This last bit, I know is true.

And so I took it upon myself to convince him that it would be okay to spend a bit of $$ on something he'd be wearing every day for the rest of his life.  He didn't put up much of a fight.  We bought the ring.  He wore it for the rest of the afternoon, and then gave it back to me for safe-keeping until I put it on his finger again on October 1st.  I can hardly wait!

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Friday, August 5, 2011

Day 133: 5 Full Days in Front of a Mirror??!

Cosmetic giant QVC Beauty conducted a survey among its female customers (1,000 of them) to see how much time the allot daily for their beauty routine and how many beauty products they use.  The results of the study found that women spend a cumulative of 5 FULL DAYS in front of the mirror each year.  Holy smokes!

(This fun fact found originally here, at The Daily Mail)

Speaking of spending a lot of time in front of the mirror... the results of my latest poll are in.  Thanks to the 134 readers who participated.  How do we stack up?  Here are the results:

How frequently do you look in the mirror?

0% Never! Your no-mirrors project is nothing compared to me! 
7% Rarely. Like, if I'm getting a haircut or trying on clothes. 
63% Several times each day, like when I'm getting ready 
or when I'm washing up in the restroom. 
28%Constantly! I check myself out whenever I can... 
in mirrors, windows, silverware, other people's sunglasses.... 

91% of respondents look at themselves in the mirror either frequently, or constantly! 
Is this what you would have expected? 

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Thursday, August 4, 2011

Day 132: Underemployed + Something in my Eye!

Image found here.
Earlier today I visited Wendy, the Graduate Advisor in the UCLA Sociology Department.  I had to notify Wendy that I'll be taking a leave of absence from UCLA for Fall and Winter quarters of this coming school year.  I'd been avoiding this conversation.  I don't actually WANT to take a leave of absence, but (depressingly) I didn't get any of the scholarships I applied for, and my teaching contract with UCLA expired.  With the budget cuts at UCLA, funds are really tight and there weren't enough teaching positions in my department for all of us.

Basically, this means that I'll continue working on my dissertation, but I won't be an enrolled student, and I won't be earning any income for 6 months, starting in October (thankfully, I have a teaching job lined up for spring quarter).   Being unfunded and technically unemployed is a bummer, (and feels kind of embarrassing) but I'm coming to terms with it.  Hey, at least I don't have to schedule my honeymoon around finals week!

Anyhoo... So I stopped by Wendy's office to update her on my decision.  She was super cool about it, and gave me the lowdown on which UCLA perks I'll keep (email, library card, office space), and which I'll lose (health insurance - yikes!).  About halfway through the conversation, I noticed that something didn't feel quite right in my left eye.  At first I thought my contact lens was just a bit dry, but then it felt worse and I started tearing up in a big way.  I rubbed my eyes a bit, hoping to shift things back into balance, but it didn't work.  Tears began streaming down my face. Naturally, Wendy assumed that I was crying about the leave of absence situation (granted, I did cry a bit about that, but not in her office!).

She asked if I was okay, and started to give me a "there there.... don't worry, it'll all be okay" speech. I interrupted to say that there was something in my eye.  "Oh!" she replied, "do you want a mirror?!"  She started to hand me a makeup compact, and I hurriedly (still crying) said "No!  I can't look in mirrors."  She looked confused (at least out of my right eye) so I proceeded to blumber on about the no mirrors project. Wendy just sat there and nodded as though I wasn't weeping, and was talking about something normal.  Ugh.  Aaaaawkward!!!!

I ended up having to take out and then put back my contact lens.  Wendy was "amazed" that I could do this without looking in the mirror, but I was just amazed that the "put your contact in your mouth to re-wet it" trick actually works (at least until I get pinkeye in a few days!).  And thus the eyeball crisis passed.  Hopefully the unemployment crisis will too, in time!

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Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Day 131: Preliminary Adventures in Self-Tanner

NOT the look I'm going for!
It seemed only fitting that my recent return to Los Angeles was accompanied by the following commandment from The Knot's "Bridal Beauty Countdown To Gorgeous" list:
Want to experiment with self-tanners?  Now's the time.  Consider the neckline of your gown, and whether you have existing tan lines you'll need to cover.
Usually, KJ + "tan" = bad news.  I'm naturally uber-pale, and suffered from a several major sunburns as a kid.  My dermatologist tells me that I'm at high-risk for skin cancer someday, and I take that pretty seriously.  I wear 30 to 45 SPF daily, and try to cover up exposed skin when I spend time outside.  I've learned to "embrace the paste" and generally feel great about it.

This wasn't always the case.  Back in high school and college I loooved looking tan, and (sadly) spent time in the cancer-booths before every formal dance (cringe).  When my allowance and babysitting money couldn't cover tanning salon visits, I "experimented" with self-tanner.  Of course, back then they hadn't yet invented "gradual" formulations, so I developed my very own 13-step Oompa-Loopma-Proof routine:
1) Exfoliate like mad in the shower, preferably with scrubbing gloves.  Be extra mean to your knees and elbows.
2) Shave.
3) Dry body completely.
4) Take plain (non-tanning) body lotion and rub into knees, elbows, between fingers, between toes, and into cuticles.
5) Combine plain body lotion with self-tanner in a 1 Pump Lotion + 2 Pumps Tanner ratio.  Mix in hand.
6) Apply self-tanner to entire body rubbing in with a circular motion, starting with feet and moving up the body.  Do NOT apply to face.  (FYI - I have oddly flexible shoulder joints, so I can actually apply tanner to my entire back without help.  Independent woman, here!)
7) Once entire body is covered, wash hands.
8) Apply separate "face tanner" to face, rubbing in little circles and blending into neck.
9) Wash hands again.
10) Using a dry (old, ugly) towel, rub excess tanner off of inner elbows and armpits.   **FYI - THIS is my super-secret trick to avoid uneven application on your arms!**
11) Carefully squirt a teeny-tiny bit of tanner onto the back of one hand.  
12) Rub back of hands together to blend (avoid getting tanner on palms!).
13) Hang out naked for a while.  Do not dress, sit down, or touch anything until everything is 100% dry. 
WHEW! Now I remember why I stopped doing this.

But then I got back to Los Angeles a few days ago, and started experiencing some serious tan-envy.  EVERYBODY in this city looks like they just got back from a vacation in ... Los Angeles.  The only person I know in L.A. who is paler than me is my friend, Daniel, whose recent Facebook status read, "People of Los Angeles, today is the first day I am wearing shorts this summer.  If you don't own sunglasses... I am so, so sorry." Word.  I'm not saying I want to look like Hulk Hogan, but it would be nice to be just a little less pale.  Oooh, and maybe a tan on my wedding day would highlight my soon-to-be-ripped biceps.... Hey, a girl can daydream!

So last night I picked up a bottle of Olay Quench Plus Touch of Sun gradual self-tanner at CVS.  Even though I'm definitely fair, I picked the version for "medium/ dark skin tones," with the hope that I could accelerate the process a bit.  Also, this product won the price:ounces-of-product ratio.

So... I followed steps 1-13 (skipping #5), and here's what happened:

Geez, how gradual IS this stuff!??!  The only real difference I see is a little bit of staining at my wrist, but overall no big change.  So.... I'll be re-applying over the next several days, but I'm pretty sure my skin exfoliates itself at a rate faster than this.  I have potential beach plans this weekend, so let's hope we get some action by then!  To be continued....

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