Post-blog edit/preamble: this is a blog with even less of a cohesive point than most of my other blogs, but I enjoyed the heck out of writing it, just so you’re aware.
Why are there so many YouTube makeup tutorials out there? It was this thing that I became aware of…maybe in the 20-teens, I suppose, and then it just became a fact of life. I’ve never watched one on purpose — not that there’s anything wrong with making, or watching, a makeup tutorial —but the way they proliferated, like tribbles, you’d think that women’s main challenge in life was putting their makeup on right. I mean, it just started to take over the internet, edging up on cat videos, even.
Finally, the trend reached critical mass and the big f-bomb dropping redneck gal, Tammy, started making satirical makeup tutorials, skyrocketing to viral status practically overnight. Her big, honest face, and the riveting experience of watching her slap a shoebox full of Walmart makeup onto it, while talking about going to the bar and getting some dick, rather than being spellbinding was actually magically spell-breaking. All of the sudden, even I — someone who feels pretty uninvolved with makeup tutorial culture — was like, wait, why did it take Tammy for me to realize that all these tutorials are emphasizing the same weird thing? Which is, in most basic terms, this feminine fantasy of being all put together just right and then, He Sees Me.
Hm. Interesting. I’m not knocking it; I do hope that, by the time that perfect moment’s accomplished, there’s some ammo in the chamber for follow-through. Ok, He Sees You; what now. The interesting thing about Tammy is that she’s saying all the things out loud that are normally implied. The other interesting thing is that ten out of ten times, I’d rather hang out with her, in her blue eye shadow, than one of the perfectly contoured human mannequins normally on carefully crafted display in these videos.
Albuquerque is a city of highly made-up women, generally, and while I appreciate the artistry, I’ve often seen a young woman at a red light, or in the gym, staring vacuously but self-consciously straight ahead, kind of like an animal removed from its rightful habitat — that habitat being the bar, the dark, across a crowded room, the moment of being Seen.
Teal Swan did a great blog called “Do Looks Matter?”, acknowledging the harmful mantras of appearance worship — only a good looking gal can hold her man, that type of thing — and comparing them to the equally dis-aligned mantras of reaction to that — looks don’t matter, beauty is only skin deep, etc. I mean, anyone who truly believes that is welcome to, but the issue is many of us feel compelled to pay lip service to this idea that looks don’t matter — our own or anyone else’s — we’re “above” all that — but it’s pretty inauthentic in most cases.
She says out loud what I’ve tended to think, which is that we’re neither here to obsess about our physical bodies nor to reject them, but rather to be as healthy in them as possible, and that it is indeed a state of health we find appealing, in ourselves and others, and that that’s totally okay to admit and line up with. She goes on to make the point that there are as many healthy body types, shapes, sizes, and “looks” as good flavors of food, so there’s no need to try to look like anyone else — only to pursue health and equilibrium for ourselves. Any pressure to do otherwise is just static.
This all reminds me of an ongoing conversation I’ve been having with my brother, via phone and email and text, comparing engagement with one’s inner world to engagement with one’s outer world. And in this context, one’s own body represents an outer world engagement. He and I were sort of examining our childhood and upbringing in terms of how easily and naturally we were encouraged to engage with our minds, with our ideas, with our dreams, with our thoughts and beliefs and experiences through time — lots of reading, lots of writing, and so forth. We co-wrote a really silly book as children, actually, called “Ho Hum Yeng’s Wisdom of the Ages” — we wrote alternating chapters (it’s clear in hindsight that Karate Kid was a major influence), and then I bound the book with stitching and a fabric cover, which I’d learned to do in school. I’d also written a little solo project, also bound and illustrated, in grade school, which was about a young girl’s relationship with a cat. This was fanciful on my part, as I did not have a cat — the parents weren’t open to pets. I did a hunger strike when I was six, to leverage the acquisition of a hamster, and my parents just let me starve for a couple days. They were not playing.
Anyway, I touched on this in the last blog — I’ve been interested in femininity, “prettiness”, health, and essentially my own physicality ever since I can remember, obviously not at the exclusion of my inner-world development, and so I’ve been a bit surprised, at times, to have it interpreted as such.
My brother and I share such similar sensibilities, in terms of inner-world engagement, creativity, and having some spiritual and intellectual follow through, but like I told him, I think being born female literally harnessed me to my body in several ways that just aren’t necessarily the case for him, as a male. This is not a problem — I like being harnessed to my body, and I try to take reasonably good care of it — but it’s interesting because now I’ve aligned myself with a romantic partner, Nick, who is not only extremely outer-world engaged, but a natural strength athlete.
A most-often asked question from strangers in the gym (or more lately, parking lots where we barbell) is, “So what are you training for?”
Nick’s like, “Huh?”
Translation: there must be some really important, short-term reason for you to be suffering like that.
Newsflash: there’s not.
As someone mostly unfamiliar with heavy barbell, this has been a great immersion for me. I mean, anyone can put weights on it and pick it up different ways, and that’s the beauty, but this progressive overload strategy has gotten really real, really fast for me with Nick. It’s a daily (or 6 days/week) engagement with my outer reality that’s reorganized all my physical resources; affecting my sleep, my appetite, my libido, everything. I have a new clarity about bodily equilibrium that I mostly can’t take credit for, but is super simple: plant based diet and barbell. I just don’t think there’s any problem that combo can’t meaningfully address — not weight, age, confidence, sleep, hormones, anything.
I’m probably pretty strong and coordinated by now, but since Nick is my only workout partner, it’s really hard to judge. He’s the first to say, “I’m the worst person in the world for you to compare yourself to, so…try not to do that.” I mean, we’ve had to program in different stuff for me based on even the fact that I have a period every month. Stuff is just different, for women, even outside of raw strength differential.
I’m still fiercely protective of my daily inner-world engagement, which is represented right now through blogging but has taken various forms, over the years, and which feels just as important to me. Our relationship has stuttered along at times, with me trying to communicate the importance of this engagement to someone who can mostly, or even only, understand it through the lens of a daily workout — imagine if you didn’t get to squat today. That’s how I’d feel if I didn’t get to blog. He’s like, “ooooh.”
And I’m still committed, and always will be, to my own evolving way of performing femininity in ways that please me. It’s interesting because I have a partner who’s a lot more excited about me getting a heavy triple than me getting a new hairstyle or outfit or look, and sometimes I feel a little invisible in that regard, with him. He actually despises makeup, which is unfortunate for him because mine is tattooed onto my face (looks better than it sounds), and represents that demographic of men that’s really turned off by a lot of craft in that regard.
Social media in 2020 has brought some interesting things to the fore, though, demographically. Okay, here’s a really random thing that is fascinating: there’s an Australian women’s label, founded by two sisters, called Spell and the Gypsy Collective, with quite the cult following. I’m part of the cult — it’s a cult of pretty dresses, connecting one to a subset of global acolytes, in terms of social media. Really quick plug: all women’s clothes are trash compared to these clothes. Okay, that’s an over-generalization and there’s lots of good clothes out there but nothing on earth is as goddess-y as these dresses, in my experience. Wear anything Spell and get ready for the amazed compliments, from both men and women, to roll in.
I’ve been frustrated with women’s clothes all my life until I found these dresses etc., because I legitimately felt I deserved better. Turns out, I did, and I do, and I found the clothes I deserve, and it’s not a moving target. There is a pot of gold at the end of the clothing-search rainbow, and it’s Spell.
When Nick and I first started dating, he began to like me more and more, and then became uneasy because as each day passed and I didn’t demonstrate some spin-out or crazy or ghosting behavior, like he was worried would manifest, he kept becoming more sure that something, somewhere, had to be wrong with me. (Scarcity mindset, amiright.) Finally it became apparent that he was uneasy about something, and I let him know straight up: “I’m crazy about a particular brand of dresses and I have a bunch.”
He was like: “That’s it?”
I was like, “Yeah…well, I mean I have a lot.”
Once the Spell dress cat was out of the bag, Nick did have to acknowledge that the amount of dresses I own is pretty crazy, especially considering I’m mostly a truck driver by trade, but it was a form of crazy he was apparently willing to deal with. And as time has gone on, he’s learned to “see” what I’m seeing, there, which is that these clothes are to normal clothes what the sun is to a candle.
So okay, having established that, I’m in some private groups on Facebook with all these gals from all over the world. They’re all nationalities, all colors, ages, shapes and sizes, they have a bunch of kids, or no kids, or they’re preggers, or they’re dog moms like me, or they’re corporate executives, or stay-at-home moms; just all iterations of women; wonderful, gorgeous women. We buy, swap, sell, preview new releases, solicit feedback on combos, post outfits of the day, whatever. I’m Facebook friends with a lot of them, above and beyond the private groups. It’s really fun, and as a gal who’s largely felt starved of meaningful female friendships for whatever reason, it’s a community I really enjoy, even without the aspect I’m going to discuss next.
Now, enter 2020, COVID, BLM, all that. As I’ve mentioned before, this has been the year of me either moving right on the political spectrum, or the spectrum sliding left beneath my stationary feet — I can’t tell which. This has been the year of staring in digital and mutual amazement at the faces of long-standing friends, with whom I assumed I had much in common, and finding that — I don’t. Or not enough, anymore. For me, it’s been a year of feeling that it’s just obvious information is being manipulated, data is being manipulated, people’s emotions are being manipulated, and I highly doubt any of it is in my own personal best interests, as Jane Doe American citizen. I mean, you can just feel when shit is fake, and whether I understand what the truth is or not, I’m going to step back and think critically and take it with a grain of salt and look to my own health, my own habits, my own well being, and watch the horizon for the other totalitarian shoe to drop.
So, as my social media world has essentially filled up with the political version of what the ex-Mormons call “TBMs” — true believer Mormons —guzzling Kool Aid almost faster than they can pump it out — there have consistently been some gals who just aren’t having it. They’re not having it. They’re, like, posting counter-narrative memes, posting about the onslaught of mandatory vaxx legislations world-wide, sharing videos that get removed, fact-checked, and censored within hours, entertaining the notion that Bill Gates isn’t our global savior, sharing buried news about Clinton email updates as they unfold, posting conflicting side-by-side medical science articles, just generally having a shred of original thought and more of a backbone that I’m seeing otherwise.
My boyfriend Nick has been like “Where did you find that? Who posted that?”
I’m like, “One of the Spell gals.” “Oh, one of the Spell girls.” “This is from one of the Spell gals.”
Nick’s like: “Who the fuck are these women? They’re just like, ‘we’re into pretty dresses and raging against the machine!’”
I honestly had no idea that my penchant for pretty, Australian dresses would serve to keep me connected with an entire community that is looking majorly askance at these developments, specifically in terms of their disingenuous manipulative tendencies, especially in contrast to communities and individuals I’ve rubbed shoulders with more, and for longer.
So, back to makeup tutorials, Tammy, girl stuff, barbell, and everything else — what can I say. Well, let’s see. I’m a card-carrying woman in terms of internalizing a sense of that magical moment when I have myself put together just right, which is something a lot of men don’t get, and that’s okay. It happens so rarely that it’s probably a good thing. And like most women, something I really didn’t get, for our side of the equation, is how much men like to work out and be able to share that conceptual vocabulary with not only their guy friends but their girlfriends. I’m happy to have been enlisted in this world of barbell, which has done only good things for me. I like the middle road Teal Swan has cut through the morass of conflicting mantras, from “looks matter more than anything else” to “looks shouldn’t matter at all”. I like nurturing my inner-world engagements and my outer-world engagements roughly equally, every day. And finally, knowing what I do now, I wouldn’t ever discount a group of women focused on a seemingly substance-less topic of fluff, like pretty dresses, because you never know when that group will emerge as the free-thinking ninjas of your world.