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Saturday, April 25, 2015

My Fashion War



I approached the MAC counter with the same caution that one would approach a strange wild animal. I glanced back at the exit doors at the rear of the Macy's. While I have never had anything against makeup, as a minimalist and a highly conscientious person, I had concerns. I worried that by wearing and buying make up I would be selling out--that somehow I would not be being true to who I am. I had concerns about buying into the superficiality of an image-driven society.

Prior to turning 30 I can literally count the times I wore make up. A few poorly applied eye-shadows in high school. A light brow pencil and mascara for Junior Prom, and a full face of make up when I was in my early twenties in order to help my makeup artist friend with her portfolio. Otherwise the idea of spending several minutes in front of a mirror to paint myself did not appeal to me.

I think I have always had a war with fashion. On the one hand I like to look nice and polished just like any other person. I like shopping (though that interests wanes as I get older), wigs, hair extensions, and hair styles. I like changing up my look and my style. But I have also had periods in my life when fashion took me to dark places.When I was a child my mother spent buckets of money trying to help me achieve "good hair" which sent me the message that the way I looked not only mattered, but that it was paramount. After all, as a child I did not care what I looked like. I just wanted to play like the little Tomboy I was. This expectation to look pretty all the time caused me to focus entirely too much on my appearance and, worst of all, to compare myself to other people. When I didn't measure up to the real or imagined ideal of how I should look I became depressed. Fashion has also caused me to waste time. I recall a time being a poor overworked graduate student wasting my precious time making exfoliants and putting peroxide and baking soda on my teeth. I remember spending 3 hours washing, blow drying, and conditioning my hair. (One of the best decisions I made was chopping all my hair off in 2008 and then in 2009.)

Then there is the money I invested in hairstyles that would inevitably fall apart that next day because I was trying to force my hair to do something God never intended it to do. Oh who can forget the acne and the stream of elixirs and fixers that were supposed to cure it. If I could somehow get back the money I spent on products, hair, and nails I would have enough to retire and live sufficiently--and I'M a minimalist! Talk about poor stewardship of the resources God had blessed me with.

In addition to irresponsible spending and time wasting, beauty and fashion also clashed with my religious rearing. All my life I have been taught that I should care about my appearance, but not really! That everything was vanity. That beauty was fleeting. That Christians are called to be peculiar people and that we really should not be trying to draw attention to our appearance. That people should not see us, but Christ in us. And yet we see examples of a beauty pageant in the Bible (book of Esther) and of Solomon waxing eloquently about the beauty of his lover in the Song of Solomon. I sometimes wonder if we have missed the point. I wonder if there is a way to spend a few minutes to look beautiful and presentable to society--if there is a time and place for shopping and fashion without losing ourselves in excess and self-idolatry. Heaven knows I do not have any answers to the question how much it too much when it comes to beauty, but I think the answer lies in simplicity.

So then there is me now. I have accepted that acne and eye baggies happens, that curly hair tangles, that I do not and cannot look good everyday--I'm not even sure that it is a valid expectation and it certainly isn't a healthy one. In my race to be to work on time I do not have time to stand in front of the mirror and paint my face or style my hair elaborately. Nor do I literally want to lose sleep over it. I spend a few minutes shaving once a week or every other week--let the stubble come where it may. I get my hair "did" every three weeks or less, Eyebrows plucked once a month. The only products that I use regularly are those products necessary for personal hygiene (think toothpastes and soap). I wear make up only on weekends or days off and rarely a full face then. My wardrobe is nice enough to earn the occasional compliment, but simple enough for me to grab any shirt, any pair of jeans, and any pair of shoes and run out the door to live life, instead of fashion. And I certainly do not endorse or read any fashion magazines or give any particular thought to what's "in". If I like it, I wear it. End of story.   And you know what? I'm happy that way. I wouldn't change it if I could.


Simply me. No make up or hair extensions 
or fancy photography


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