Number 7: Confess your sins…

Curly hair.  It’s curlier today.  By the time I got home yesterday, around 6pm, my hair wasn’t curly anymore.  It had straightened out almost completely by the end of the day.  I didn’t fully wash it this morning, I just ran it under the sink, put more product in it and used the diffuser to blow dry it.

The same co-worker who complimented me first yesterday complimented me again today saying, “Curly again!  I love it!”.  I appreciated the compliment.  One other person mentioned that it’s a curly week for me and said it looks good like this.

No other comments today.  It’s strange how “normal” changes in appearance become to people.

It was pretty frizzy by the end of the day and I ended up wearing it half up for most of the day.  Not a bad look for me overall.

I’m so tired today.  I have a migraine.  I’m not fully here.  I want to be.  I’m so short tempered today.  I need to check myself.

Number 6: Leave a note for your next of kin…

Curly hair, don’t care.  That’s a lie.  I’m interested to hear reactions today.  In many ways, for me, wearing my hair curly is much riskier than wearing it straight.  My hair is unpredictable when I wear it curly.  Will it come out correct?  Will it frizz out and look like a mane to rival that of Albert Einstein?  It also takes a little longer to do in the morning, I wash my hair, put some curl defining product in it, and then blow dry it with a diffuser.  If it doesn’t work, it’s too late for me to rectify the problem before I have to leave for work.  I think it turned out ok though.

First comment of the day was from a co-worker who walked into my room for our typical pre-work chat.

“Oh!  I LOVE your hair like that!!!  It looks so great!”

Thanks 🙂

“I like your hair like that!” – co-worker

“I was just gonna say that.  I just looked up and noticed your hair is curlier than normal.” – co-worker…probably a sympathy compliment as the other two people in the room have complimented my hair and she’s just sitting there.

Some more post lunch comments:

“Is that your natural hair?  It looks so good!  You should let it be curly like this every day!  Did you put product in it?” – co-worker

“Your hair is getting so long!  I like it!” – co-worker

And my “favorite” comment of the day goes to the person who said this…

“You know, maybe your student had a behavioral issue today because he didn’t like that you wore your hair curly.”

Thanks.

 Image result for palm to face gif

Number 5: Duel before the sun is in the sky.

Once again, these lyrics are so close to how I’m feeling this morning it’s uncanny.  Not only close to how I’m feeling, but I actually got in a brief tiff/argument with a co-worker this morning…as the sun was rising.  I can’t.  Lin-Manuel Miranda, you are a god.

Back to the experiment on hand.  I’m tired again today, but again, I feel that’s more due to the fact that my work day as been from 6:00-21:00 since Wednesday.

I’m feeling really self-conscious today.  Really really…just fat.  I didn’t like the body I saw in the mirror this morning.  I hate days when I feel like this.  I want to crawl into bed and sleep until I love myself again.  Body dysmorphia is a real thing.  That’s not to say that what I’m seeing in the mirror is a distortion of my physical body.  I’m sure it’s actually quite real.  But I understand the struggle with seeing a gross distortion of what you really look like.  I should do some walking.  I’ve been pretty sedentary all week and have indulged in a beer, Chinese food, and some gummy candy.  My water intake has also been pretty low this week.  Getting home so late, I don’t have as much time to drink a lot of water before I fall asleep, and being a teacher, I rarely drink water during the day.  I can’t leave my students alone in the room without a teacher, so my bathroom breaks are few and far between.

Regardless of not liking my physical features today, let’s get back again to the actual experiment.  I’m in a t-shirt and leggings again today.  I could have worn a nice shirt but decided against it.  Friday’s I spend an hour and half in a kitchen with no windows or fans and want to be cool.  My hair is up in a pony tail.  Again, it’s hot in my school and I want to be comfortable.  I also forgot to put mascara on this morning.  I was tired and just sort of threw my hair up and ran out of the house.

My lack of make-up, pony tail, and dislike of my figure is currently combining into an epic battle of self-consciousness.  Normally, if my hair is in it’s usual bun, and I’m dressed and feeling similarly, I can say to myself, “Ok.  This is a bad day. Don’t worry though.  Your body is probably just in your head, and the rest of you looks how you always look.  No one is saying anything.”  Today however, I am convinced that everyone is talking about me.  I’ve been relatively put together all week and all of a sudden, I’m big, tired, and messy.  I’ve seen the way a lot of my co-workers react when my other co-workers, who typically wear make-up every day, don’t wear mascara for the day.  “Are you sick?”  “You don’t look so good.”  “You look bad today.”  “Oh.  Today you are tired.”  I work in a place where people feel they are entitled to say whatever they want.  And they do so.  Without qualm. I don’t ever want to feel like that.  I want to feel good and sassy and pretty (or sexy depending on the context), when I make myself up.  But I also want to feel comfortable and confident when I don’t.  Instead, today, I have this uneasy feeling in my stomach.  This, “You shouldn’t have forgotten.  You look gross.” feeling that won’t go away.  Maybe it’s because of the experiment.  I’m hyper aware of my feeling surrounding getting done up and looking put together, so maybe that’s effecting my ability to process or let go of the fact that I’m not feeling so great about myself today.   I’m not sure.

As always, I’ll chronicle any comments from the peanut gallery and we’ll continue the experiment on Monday with curly hair.

Update:

No one said anything to me again today, except my principal.  I had an unexpected meeting with my principal the last period of the day (everything is fine, thanks for asking).  I walked in, and as has become her fashion over the last few months, the first thing she said was, “Have you lost weight?”.  She reminds me of my grams every time she does that (that’s where the comparison ends).  My grams, every time I saw her, regardless of fact, would always tell me she thought I lost weight.  God rest that woman’s beautiful soul.

Nothing so exciting today.  Monday here I come.

Number 4: Time to get some pistols and a doctor on site.

Well if this doesn’t fit how I’m feeling today.  I’ve had a busy week and that may be contributing to my mood.  Last night I started grading January, English Common Core, regents exams.  It’s mind numbing.  MIND NUMBING.  I spent from 5-9pm reading essays about whether or not the US should eliminate Daylight Savings Time.  You grade one school, one group/class at a time.  If the teacher is good, every single essay sounds exactly the same.  They are written exactly the same. I get it.  You are giving your students tools to succeed, but HOT DAMN.  Mind.  Numbing.

Anyways, back to how I’m feeling.  I got home late, obviously.  I took a much needed shower, and relaxed for a few minutes (and waited for my Chinese food delivery – cut me some slack…it was late and I haven’t grocery shopped), and eventually got into bed around midnight, which is pretty standard for me.

This morning I am feeling feisty.  On top of doing my hair and wearing mascara, I’ve been trying to wear “nice”/”work” clothes every day.  This morning, I had worked through the typical 3/5 shirts that I like right now and couldn’t find anything I wanted to wear.  My eyes were blurry with sleep and then I had to get up and straighten my hair.  My hair was more difficult to straighten today because I fell asleep with it wet so it set curly.  I wanted to spare my hair the extra heat treatment from blow drying it (or I was just lazy).  Either way, I definitely started to resent this whole getting up early, straightening my hair and wearing makeup.

Is this little experiment over yet?

Update on today…

I received several comments that I looked nice today.  Here’s a brief description of what I’m wearing.  Black converse.  Black leggings, rolled up slightly.  And a black Harry Potter t-shirt.  A “Hogwarts Hufflepuff Seeker” t-shirt.  With a badger on it.

What?  This is the outfit that makes me look good?  This one?  I mean, don’t get me wrong, I’m all for it!  This is my look.  I live in leggings and t-shirts so if that’s what y’all think I look good in, bring on the compliments!

Many people even said, “I don’t know what it is today, but you look great! Maybe it’s the hair?”  Maybe it was, but my hair has been straight all week, so unlikely.

Whatever the reason; slimming all black, straight hair, of the confident walk of a nerd in her element, today I got a lot of compliments.  They left me feeling slightly confused, but overall feeling ok.

One more day of straight hair and makeup.  Next week I’ve decided to continue the chronicle (there were after all, 10 duel commandments) and see if the reaction is any different when my hair is fully curly.

Number 2: If they don’t, grab a friend…

I’m already annoyed because I had to wash my hair last night. I don’t wash my hair frequently because it has a relatively nice curl and washing it too frequently strips it and makes it brittle and dry. Not only did I have to wash it after only two days, I blew it dry AND flat ironed it again. I need to find a good dry shampoo.

Comments so far:

  • I like your headband!  It’s really cute! – co-worker
  • Aw I like that! – co-worker, big smile on their face, looking at my headband
  • Nice headband! – co-worker
  • I like your hair like that! – co-worker.  (This one made me feel a little annoyed…what?  May hair doesn’t look good when it’s a curly  mess?  F you! – maybe I’ll wear my hair curly next week and gauge the different reactions)
  • Ms. ___ I like that headband!  Where did you get it? – Peru – Oh I could tell! – co-worker

I think I’m having an ok time with the comments today because they are all focused on the headband.  I have never worn a headband to work.  At least I haven’t in the last 5/6 years (and there’s enough turn over in special education that anyone who may remember the one time I wore one is gone).  None of the comments are really focused on my physical features/the physical changes in my hair or the use of make-up.  It’s easier to accept the comments when they are about something novel that’s an accessory.

Strangely enough, no one over the last two days has mentioned the fact that I’m wearing make-up.  I’m just wearing mascara but I can see a difference.  Maybe everyone else can’t see a difference because of my glasses.

I’m going to leave this article here for you to read.  It is an incredibly important article.  Most of the article pertains to the “fear” of the word feminism, how many men and women believe that there is no longer a discrepancy between men and women, and the reality that we, as women, are NOT equal, even if we want to pretend we are.  Read the article.  It’s beautiful and profound.

There are moments, in the article that resonated with me so completely and deeply that I wanted to share them here.  They say some of the things that I’ve been feeling but haven’t been able to adequately express.

…You are still objectified. You are still catcalled. You are still sexualized. You are still told you’re too skinny or you’re too fat. You’re still told you’re too old or too young. You’re applauded when you “age gracefully.” You’re still told men age “better.” You’re still told to dress like a lady. You are still judged on your outfit instead of what’s in your head. What brand bag you have still matters more than your college degree…

…Your daughters are still told they are beautiful before they are told they are smart. Your daughters are still told to behave even though “boys will be boys.” Your daughters are still told boys pull hair or pinch them because they like them…

Number 1: The challenge, demands satisfaction.

If you happened upon the post directly before this one, you’ll have read that I planned on chronicling a little experiment.

I suppose the “experiment” really started Friday.  I came to work into Friday in a dress, my hair straight, and minimal make-up on.  It was the senior breakfast for my students and I wanted to look nice for them.

Friday’s comments included the following:

  • You look like a princess! – student

  • Go ahead Ms. ___!  You wearing make-up?  Go ahead girl! – co worker

  • You straightened your hair today Ms. ___? – co worker

I don’t really remember how the comments made me feel.  The most I remember is feeling shocked that everyone seemed so shocked that I was in a dress.  I wear a dress the majority of the school year.  It’s easy.  I can put it on and walk out of the house without thinking.  Most people were acting as if they had never seen me in a dress ever before.  I don’t remember feeling any more annoyed than that.

Saturday, I went to therapy with my hair straight.  I through some lip gloss on for good measure after eating my way through my Saturday bagel and coffee.  My therapist immediately commented that I looked different, although he couldn’t put his finger on it.  I told him I had straightened my hair for work.  We talked about it, the conversation closely echoing what we had discussed two weeks prior.  There isn’t much to add in terms of comments or thoughts made by either of us.

Today, Monday, I’ve come to work with my hair straight again and some mascara on.  I straightened my hair Saturday late afternoon in preparation for seeing a show, so I didn’t have to worry about taking extra time this morning to straighten it.  The mascara took me twenty seconds max to apply.  I didn’t feel anything other than tired while getting ready.

So far this morning, no one has commented on my appearance and I feel ok about having groomed and primped.  I will update as the day goes on and my feelings change.

Conclusion for the day:

Only two people commented on my hair, both towards the end of the day.  The school nurse said, “I like your hair today.”  Quick and simple.  No other comment.  A co-worker said, as she was walking out the door, “I like your hair!  Did you blow dry it?  Looks good.”  I appreciated the comments.  They didn’t make me feel resentful.  They didn’t give me complicated feelings that I mulled over for the rest of the day, or hours after.  They felt genuine.  It should be noted that both co-workers were female (hard to find a male co-worker in a special education school).

We’ll see what tomorrow brings.

 

I’m a girl in a world in which my only job it to…

I’ve spent the last month or so in an on-and- off-again conversation with my therapist about cultural norms and expectations for how women look and how that’s affected me in my daily functioning. It’s an interesting conversation with many interesting points. I’ve decided to write what I can remember about the conversations here (with the potential for a follow up experiment) to help me process it.

The most recent conversation took place this past Saturday. I’ll start there, as it’s fresher in my mind.  The conversation started with me talking about how I’ve put off, for roughly a year or so, going to the doctor to have my thyroid checked. I’m a notoriously warm blooded person (my winter jacket is a fleece), my hair has thinned recently, and my temperature hovers between 95 and 96 degrees on the regular. Despite all this, I continually put off (finding, and then) going to a general practitioner to get a blood test, or a referral to an endocrinologist. We talked about why that might be. I had a not so pleasant experience at my last GP and just haven’t bothered to find a new one. I go in for all other regular check ups with my various doctors, see a therapist once a week and a chiropractor twice a month. So what is it about going to a general practitioner, or having my thyroid checked, that is so off putting to me?

After a lot of pushing (on behalf of my therapist), I relented to a train of thought that quickly spilled out of me.

If I go to the doctor and the blood test comes back that I have hypothyroidism, than there’s a reason I am a thicker woman that extends beyond poor eating, sleeping, and exercise habits – not that I want to use that as an excuse for being a size 14. If it comes back normal, than this is my body. “AND THAT’S OK,” I practically shouted at my therapist, huge crocodile tears rolling down my face, my hanky (yes, I have a handkerchief. I am apparently an 80-year- old man) covered in snot. “Is it?” he asked. “It has to be.”

Here’s what I mean by that. I am incredibly tired of living in a weight-obsessed world. I believe that as I work towards bettering my mental health, I will continue to make healthier life choices and my weight will decrease until it stabilizes at where my body will naturally be without severe deprivation. I refuse to live my life counting calories, impatiently waiting for “cheat-day”, staring at a scale and lamenting when the number shifts up or down five pounds, and spending thousands of dollars (that could better be spent – in my opinion – on a plane ticket to some foreign country) on a gym membership where I go to be publicly shamed by gym rats. I refuse to, like the majority of my co-workers, spend every day talking about my weight, what I’m eating, or how much I hate myself. I know that self-love will come with hard work, but the work I intend to do is much more focused on working through the mental barriers that I’ve created from a young age.

This is where things get a little more complicated though. I’m also aware that we live in a world that IS weight and beauty obsessed. There’s no getting around it. From Hollywood, to sports, to even politics (if you look at the nasty comments the alt-right has made about the Obama’s beautiful daughters), weight and conventional (read: white, cis-gender, European) beauty standards are all that is talked about. I’m also, at 31 and single, the bane of my Jewish mother’s existence (which brings up a whole separate issue about still being a valuable and worthy women even if I never marry or have children – something society still sees as meaning my life is “incomplete” and that I couldn’t “possibly be happy when she lives alone, isn’t in a relationship, and isn’t a mother”). I’ll take a quick moment here to state simply that I know my mother is proud of me. I am an extraordinarily accomplished person in my field and outside of it. That being said, I know how desperately she wants grandchildren. I know she knew from a young age that she wanted to be a mother and has a hard time understanding my apprehension. I know that she wants me to happy and loved, and each year that goes by that I remain single, I think her hope for me in that regard dwindles ever so slightly.

Getting back to the point at hand, as a single woman in my 30’s, navigating the dating scene is an incredibly visual task. Dating is currently based in the world of apps. Swipe left. Swipe right. Swipe up. Swipe down. Wink. Heart. Like. Whatever the variation of the app is, the opportunity to really get to know someone for who they are is impeded by the flippant task of first glance physical judgments. I am well aware that standards of attractiveness affect both men and women. We are all expected to meet a certain set of criteria, determined by the elite who have glam squads and no real responsibilities outside of looking unattainable for the masses.

Add to all of that, the beautiful efforts of the body positivity and “no make-up” movements and I’m left feeling trapped between these two worlds. A world where I feel good about my curves, my stretch marks, my overall dislike for make-up, shopping, and fashion (which has been there since the beginning), and my propensity to dress in a more casual/tom boy fashion vs. a world where I’m taught that in order to attract a man I need to wear make-up every day, wake up extra early to straighten my “unattractive” curly hair, spend thousands of dollars a year on clothes and shoes and gym memberships.

In the middle of all of these thoughts tumbling out, my therapist asked why I don’t wear make-up. My initial response was, “I never have.” “Well why not?” It’s a good question. Before anyone had really dived deep into the reasons why I don’t wear make-up, my answer has always just been, “I don’t like it”, or, “I just don’t”. I’ve always felt more on the tomboy side of feminine. I abhor shopping. I’d rather sleep an extra 5-15 minutes than straighten my hair every morning, or cause great damage to it by blow-drying it constantly. I don’t like wearing make-up. Social convention dictates that women need to get dressed up and wear make-up to be seen as desirable. It’s the norm. My push back to this line of thinking has been, “Well WHY?” Women have worn make-up almost as long as recorded history; from Kohl around the eyes in Ancient Egypt to the lead based (I’m pretty sure it was a lead based) paint Queen Elizabeth used to hide her pocks scars. You could make the argument, that like the bright and colorful feathers of male birds, make-up has essentially been used as a secondary sex characteristic (although one that is applied and not one that’s evolved over millennia of sexual selection). But again, WHY does this need to CONTINUE to be the norm? Just because something has been normalized doesn’t make it “normal”. Celebrities such as Alicia Keys have begun to push back against the cultural expectation that women, especially those in the entertainment industry, have a full face of make-up on at all times. Unfortunately for me, my natural beauty does not compare to Ms. Keys, but I feel the principle is the same. This issue seems to be a hard line in the sand for me. I WILL NOT wear make-up daily or do my hair a certain why, just because society tells me that in order to be valuable, I need to.

But again, that clever therapist of mine has a reasonable and appropriate response to that too; “You have no trouble bending or following all other cultural norms. Why is this the one that trips you up?” I wear clothes ever day because the cultural norm is to wear clothes (and the law in most places). If I didn’t, I’d most likely be brought in for drug or psychosis testing. I, very quickly, adapted to the NYC pace of living after growing up in the slow country life, because that’s the norm here. If I didn’t walk quickly and with purpose, I’d get bowled over or cursed out (most likely both) on a daily basis. I give up my seat to the elderly or women who are pregnant. It’s the norm, (not to mention respectful), but it’s not the law. Why then? Why is bowing to the fact that I should be a primped and pretty princess at all times such a difficult thing for me?

I wish the answer were simple. I wish it were reflective of what I said earlier, that just because something is the norm, doesn’t mean it’s right or has to stay the norm. I’m not entirely sure that that’s the final answer though. I’m sure, in some way, shape or form, that it’s tied up in 3 decades of self-esteem issues. I’m sure that in some way, shape or form, that it’s reflective of (subconsciously or consciously) believing that I don’t deserve whatever attention I’d receive if I presented myself differently. I’m sure that it’s tied up in a million psychoanalytic things that I’ve yet to discover about myself. I’m sure it’s tied up in a never-ending cycle of nature-vs.- nurture (DNA vs. how I grew up) arguments that I am just starting to parcel out. I think I have trouble sifting through all the emotional things because, for whatever reason, I’m incredibly resistant to this area of change. This doesn’t feel, internally, like a psychological resistance. When someone tells me I should wear make-up every day, or dress, or act, or look, a certain way, it feels like they are telling me that I, down to my very core, am not a worthy person, and that’s where I get tripped up. I can’t even begin to see the (potential) underlying issues because my immediate response is, “I can’t do that. It doesn’t feel like me”; and it doesn’t. Dressing up every day, doing my hair and make-up, it doesn’t feel like me. Am I resisting the cultural norm or am I resisting change in and of itself? I don’t know the answer.

I suppose I had hoped that writing all this out would help me see my issues more clearly. If anything, it has made me feel even more trapped. Stuck. Fighting change. Fighting norms. Fighting myself.

I think the next thing I am going to chronicle is a little experiment. I think next week, I’m going to spend the workweek getting up, doing my hair, and wearing (in the very least) some mascara. I’ll chronicle my feelings and work reactions and try to keep the already building resentment as at bay as I can.

To help understand my thoughts on this:

Here’s a link to a jezebel.com article called “Becoming Ugly”, about the double standards placed against women and how we are to move through the world.

Here’s a link to another wonderful jezebel.com article about dating and being ok alone.