27 February 2014

mouthing off

It probably comes as no surprise that I adore makeup. I find the colors, textures, and consistencies endlessly fascinating, and, since I cannot draw or paint for the life of me, I figure that this is as close to successfully creating visual art as I can get. As with most things, my love of makeup is driven by curiosity and observation. I've honed my skills by both becoming intimately familiar with my own face and determining exactly what it is about other people's faces that I would like to emulate. I am by no means an expert (eyeshadow still baffles me, and don't even get me started on contouring) and my face continues to surprise me as it evolves on a seemingly daily basis, but I like to think that makeup and I are on fairly good terms.

(Quick thingwhen people act superior as they express that they prefer people "without makeup," I have to wonder whether they mean legitimately no makeup or if they mean "no makeup" makeup. Plus, how am I supposed to respond to a comment like that? "That's terrific. I'm glad you're so deep and special that you think it's a novelty to not like makeup on other people." I'm not going to even attempt to speak for everyone out there who wears makeup, but I personally do not wear it to appease other people. I wear it for me. Because it's my face and I like it. And, to the people who claim that makeup is inherently dishonest and "tricks" others, I can honestly say that, when applying my bright red or neon pink lipstick, my logic behind that action is not "this looks totally natural.")

I could go on for ages about makeup in general and could do series featuring a different product with each installment, but I am compelled to discuss lipstick today since we have a tumultuous history.

I've always been something of a lip product junkie. They absolutely dominate my battlestation, and, as you can see from my previous post, I usually have at least three variations in my bag at a given time. As a kid, I started out with clear glosses and flavored lip balm, but always looked to bold lips as my ideal. But, because other people around me didn't harbor that same fantasy (or, at least, didn't act upon making it a reality), I gravitated toward eyeliner and mascara instead, leaving my lips with maybe the tiniest bit of tint and shine.

For a while, it was fine. I drew liquid liner wings sharp enough to cut the throats of my enemies, mastered the art of the mascara wand wiggle without opening my mouth, and rocked a power brow that probably (definitely) verged into Frida Kahlo territory. But it wasn't enough.

And then, true to form, I decided that "fine" wasn't what I wanted anymore, and the amount of bright and borderline obnoxiously colored lipstick (because if I decide I'm going to do something, I do it) in my possession seemed to reproduce asexually and exponentially. It was alarming. After doing the obligatory swatches and wearing them in the safety of my bedroom, I finally built up the courage to leave the house with a vibrantly red mouth and slightly subdued wings. I mean, they were still sharp enough to inflict harm, but I didn't want them to take attention away from my blood-red mouth.

The beginning of the day was awesome. I felt fierce and powerful, like I was taking ownership of my face and my day and my life, really. I know that it sounds vain, but I promise you I am not being overdramatic about how serious this rush was. It was that good.

Of course, I didn't have constant access to a mirror that day, but I felt so amazing that it didn't really matter. It wasn't until several hours (and meals) later that I happened to glance at myself in a storefront window and was subsequently kicked back down to earth. Imagine my horror upon discovering that my mouth, rather than remain a pristine beacon of femininity, had morphed into a faded spider-witch monstrosity. I viciously scrubbed the crimson remnants from my lips and wondered how many people had seen my face and had chosen not to mention it. Defeated and devastated, I went the rest of the day with a bare mouth and a sullen expression.

The thing is, I was always under the impression that putting on lipstick was as simple as swiping it on and calling it good. After all, I feel like we're all naturally predisposed to make life look as easy as possible to an outsider. It wasn't until much later that I learned that the process is much more involved than that. To make lipstick last and look perfect is an ordeal. A commitment. It sometimes requires me to exfoliate, moisturize, prime, line, reverse line, apply, blot, and repeat for insurance. Now, I may love lipstick, but not as much as I love putting in minimal effort for a successful outcome. So, for years, I fiddled with the process to figure out how to eliminate steps, and am finally at a place where it's a three-step process at most, but it certainly hasn't been easy. There have been multiple spider-witch moments, which never stop being mortifying and serve as a useful, if painful, reminder that I am only human.

I know that I could switch to something sheer or neutral to reduce the probability of a mouth malfunction, but I also know that that isn't in my nature. And that's okay. If making myself happy means that I have to put in a little bit more effort, I will do it. I've even started expanding my range to include more unconventional colors. I'm not at the point where those new colors are as familiar to me as my classic reds and pinks, but I know they'll get there. And, until that time comes, I'll be sure to keep my bag stocked with a mirror and makeup remover wipes.

12 February 2014

in the bag

As someone who consumed far too much media as a child, some of my fondest memories consist of me sitting on the floor, surrounded by magazines, taking notes on how to improve myself or on what I found interesting and why. I figured that if I took enough notes, I would become the most perfect and intelligent person in the world; I would know exactly how to conduct myself in an interview, coming off as charming as opposed to a regurgitation of whatever talking points I had memorized beforehand, while remaining unhindered by trivial things like "stubborn belly fat" or unsightly blemishes because I had read about how to prevent them from making an appearance. Those days of optimism and naiveté have been replaced by cynicism and disenchantment because I have lived longer than five years, so I have amended those images of perfection to simply mean that I am doing the best I can and am proud of what I can do and have done. There's room for improvement, sure, but there is also a lot to appreciate.

But I digress. The reason I bring up magazines today is to talk about one of my favorite, yet underutilized, article formats. I'm talking, of course, about the "What's In Your Bag?" articles. The bag itself is less important in these pieces, but the major draw for me is the intimate look into what a person deems essential and worth carrying around. Naturally, nonessential items creep in, but such is life and we deal with those things as we see fit, throwing them away, hiding them from sight, or simply letting them hang out and do their thing. For me, those items are receipts, and I usually fold them up and shove them into my notebook until I get home, at which point I put them in a pile and ignore them.

The essential items are where things gets interesting. Clutter is eloquent, and far more adept at revealing who we are than we could ever consciously hope to be. We can learn so much about a person by how much stuff they carry, what condition that stuff is in, and how it is organized. For example, a person whose everyday essentials can fit into a tiny clutch is very different from someone who requires a massive and overflowing tote. Likewise, a person carrying a dinged up phone and broken eyeshadow palettes is very different from someone whose phone is pristine and somehow manages to keep their eyeshadow from crumbling in the pan. And it goes without saying that someone who takes advantage of compartments and little pouches within bags differs greatly from someone who lets everything mingle and wander around. A bag is just for the the individual carrying it, and a look inside can be shockingly intimate and informative.

There's also the issue of how the contents of the bag are photographed. Very rarely do we see it in its natural habitat, unedited and unfiltered.

Rather, we are presented with an image of items artfully placed so that everything is visible. But, we have to question what is not included in this picture and why.

This is my attempt at the staged shot. I've got my wallet, my makeup pouch with the makeup on display, my keys, a book, my notebook, pens, sticky notes, gum, eyedrops, little samples of lotion, and headphones. This is what I carry every day. I just ran out of tissue and I usually have more candy. Sometimes I'll bring a water bottle or thermos, and there's usually a scarf tied around the strap or stuffed unceremoniously into the bag if I'm not wearing one already. My things seem to be in okay condition, though the gum packet is slightly crushed and the sticky notes sometimes have folded corners.

I've shown you mine, now show me yours.

04 February 2014

simultaneously over- and under-caffeinated for this

I have a topic that I need to revisit, as its importance in my life has increased since graduation. It's about seating arrangements, and it has begun to dominate my brain function. I've talked about it before in the context of classrooms, but, as it turns out, this topic has become even more pressing in the real (whatever that means) world. On a side note, I should probably revisit this topic again in the context of public transportation, because I have quite a bit to say on that subject. But let's save that for another time.

I spend most of my time alone, which contributes greatly to my efforts to keep my sanity intact. For, surely, if I didn't dedicate time to quiet reflection and reading, I would have snapped by now. My favorite place for this sort of activity (besides my bed, naturally) is a small coffee shop a couple blocks away from my office. The coffee is strong, the pastries are delicious, and the music is conducive to my thought process. All in all, it's ideal, especially since its decor is spartan enough that I don't get distracted or too comfortable. I learned early on that reading in an armchair in a dark room means that I will undoubtedly be asleep in twenty minutes.

Another reason why I love this coffee shop is that there is an overabundance of seating. Unfortunately, there are only a few places where I would even consider sitting, which immediately makes me tense up when I enter.

But before I get into that, I should probably explain the layout so you understand what I'm talking about. The wall opposite the counter is completely lined with barstools facing the wall. Next to the counter is a large rectangular table that seats twelve. This table is fairly low to the ground and the chairs do not have backs. At the front of the shop, there are two large windows that each have a small round table in front of it, and each table has a couple of short stools. One of these little round tables is essentially in the corner, and the other is next to the door. There are also a couple of tables outside, but for the purpose of this exercise, they don't matter.

As you can probably guess, my favorite seat in the one in the corner. I like being able to see everything both inside and outside, plus I enjoy being able to lean back against a wall. Call it paranoia or whatever, but I like knowing that there isn't anything behind me. The barstools are my worst nightmare. If my favorite table is occupied, I like sitting at the large rectangular table at the corner closest to my favorite table. My back is still to the wall and my visibility is still pretty good. It also allows other people to sit at the table without sitting next to or, god forbid, directly across from me, thereby shattering the illusion of privacy I like to create. If that seat is taken, I gravitate to whatever seat is furthest from anyone else and try to take up as little space as possible.

Before you ask, no I do not like sitting at the other little table at the front of the shop. Even though it is small and discourages anyone from sitting near me, it's right next to the door, which means that I get a faceful of cold air any time anyone enters or exits the shop.

The question I have to pose today is whether or not it's okay to move seats if someone vacates one of my preferred choices. This morning, I was forced to sit in the middle of the large rectangular table facing the wall because the other patrons had already occupied my preferred positions. But, before my drink was ready, the person sitting in my second-favorite seat left, so I moved. After I had settled in with my drink and my book, the person in my favorite seat also left.

If I were alone in the shop, I would have moved without hesitation. Unfortunately, during the interim, the other seats in the shop had filled up with people who had seen me move once already. I'm fairly comfortable with my neuroses, but it was a bit early in the morning to incur looks of judgment and confusion from strangers who clearly needed caffeine as desperately as I did. So I stayed, settling for second-best and quietly seething when another customer moved from sitting at the large rectangular table to my favorite seat while I was considering moving.

I suppose the moral of this story is that Foucault's theory on governmentality and bodies in space has a real, observable foundation in everyday life, and I need to get over myself and sit wherever I damn well please. Or, you know, stop caring so much about where I sit.

(I was going to draw the layout of the coffee shop to better illustrate my woes, but then I remembered that I cannot draw to save my life and the inaccuracy of my drawing would probably just upset me.)