Should I just go to Sephora and let them have their way with me?
September 30, 2012 8:37 AM   Subscribe

People close to me have been constantly making suggestions for me to put more effort into my appearance and it's starting to take a toll on my self confidence. What should I do...

A lot of people in my life (mother, friends, boyfriend) have been telling me that I should put more work into my appearance. The suggestions are things such as "do your hair" or "try putting on some makeup to go out" and the most common deals with my clothes looking bad on me and needing to wear nicer things. I am fit and non of the suggestions are health related, just superficial appearance.
I used to think of myself as fairly attractive and at times would find joy in dressing up for an event or futzing around with makeup for fun, but now I'm starting to have thoughts that without the crutch of makeup and nice clothes, I'm gross.
I have tried explaining the factors that keep me from being put together: I work 40-50 hours a week in a warehouse, where my work clothes get dirty. I spend a lot of time at home cleaning or doing home improvement projects. I don't go out much. I don't have a lot of disposable income to spend on nice clothes that aren't functional for my job and would rarely have occasion to wear. I am 27 and a good quarter of my clothes are from high school. The response I get is that I just need to prioritize and try harder. I feel too old to be this perturbed by other people's opinion of my looks, but everyone close to me has been saying these things with increasing regularity for the past 5 years or so. Its also strange to me that usually I hear questions like this and think that the asker should ditch the douchebag saying such things, but I don't want to distance myself from everyone because of this. I would love to have a life that affords me more time and money to put into myself, but its not practical right now. How can I preserve my self esteem?
posted by WeekendJen to Human Relations (78 answers total) 23 users marked this as a favorite
I'm not sure that thinking nice clothes and makeup are "crutches" is helpful. Sure, your work wardrobe is utilitarian, but unless safety regulations mean you can't wear earrings and/or makeup, I think those little touches are nice things to do for yourself, not just your audience. Of course, you're not gross au naturel, (that's black and white thinking, meaning it's either perfect or all wrong.)
And old-fashioned as this may be, I also think that how we present ourselves to the world reflects how we think about ourselves. Sure, some people can roll out of bed and go on about their daily routine, while thinking they're fabulous!, but that's a tiny percentage of the population.
While your mother and girlfriends might be a chorus to be ignored, if your boyfriend is mentioning this, I'd pay attention. You don't have to go the whole hog and start wearing false eyelashes and getting everything waxed, but you might consider getting some pro advice about how to make the most of yourself, and then pick and chose what you want to do. I do think that getting dressed and groomed is a creative act (not to be confused with shopping, which is not) and when I don't feel great about myself, dolling myself up is often the first step in feeling better.
If you do decide to get a haircut and/or a mani-pedi, it doesn't mean that your mom and fellow naggers have won, either.
posted by Ideefixe at 8:51 AM on September 30, 2012 [4 favorites]

This is a tough one. On the one hand - fuck them. Wear what you want and feel comfortable in. No one should ever wear makeup unless they want to. You are not gross or inferior, no matter what you wear or look like.

On the other hand, when people who love you are consistently giving you the same message, sometimes it's time to listen. If a quarter of your clothes are from when you were a teenager, maybe they are really falling apart, or don't fit right anymore. Maybe you could trying asking why they want you to buy new clothing? If they say your clothing isn't stylish enough, that is not a good reason - you may not care about or prioritize style. But, if it's about your clothing fitting or looking really bedraggled, you might want to listen and buy some new, comfy, durable clothing that fits your needs.
posted by insectosaurus at 8:53 AM on September 30, 2012 [31 favorites]

Have you tried telling these people to STFU and mind their own business?

Not excuses like your work or your time, but simply "I'm not interested in your opinion about my appearance or grooming. Cut it out."

Sometimes the practical excuses are seen as you not valuing yourself or they invite pity or argumentation.

"Not interested in your opinion" makes it clear that them opening their mouths is the problem, not your life, your choices, or your job.
posted by the young rope-rider at 8:55 AM on September 30, 2012 [22 favorites]

It sounds like you're happy with your lifestyle, your choices, and your priorities right now. That's a great place to be at! The people making these comments are trying to fix a problem that doesn't exist -- at least, it's not your problem, but probably theirs!

Spend some time thinking about the things you like -- your home improvement projects, your practicality, and your joy in the occasionally dressing up/makeup fun. Solidify that satisfaction within yourself, and use it as a firm ground to bounce off of when people give you this unasked for advice.

Also, I think that people increase commentary about needing to follow appearance rules with age, in a sort of "it's about time, you're not a kid anymore" attitude. For example, I am a female in the US, and I don't shave my legs. My parents and aquaintances increased their commentary about me needing to start shaving, as though age brought urgency to the matter. But, I was so content with the choice I made that, eventually, the sense of my confidence broke through the haze of their expectations, and they don't care anymore, either.
posted by Pwoink at 8:58 AM on September 30, 2012 [4 favorites]

One thing that sounds like a much bigger blow to your self-confidence than other people's take on your appearance is the fact that you say you never do anything but work and domestic labor, and that you don't buy nicer things because you don't get out much.

I'd remedy that first. You'll probably feel better about yourself if you start getting out more.

If you end up having to dress up a little or buy some more suitable clothes for going out and having fun, all the better.

I don't think it's a bad thing -- or really that financially difficult -- to have one or two nice outfits that are not for getting dirty at work.
posted by Sara C. at 8:59 AM on September 30, 2012 [13 favorites]

The thing about "looking nice" for women is that it often is incompatible with, you know, doing stuff. I've worked in a warehouse and I know how dirty and sweaty you can get--that would preclude even eye makeup for some people (dust attracted to mascara, makeup running, etc.). And if you like to do DIY projects at home, there again, you're DOING something, not just sitting around to be looked at. I think your parents and others who want you to "look nice" are not seeing who you really are, and that's not fair to you. You don't need to "try harder" if your priorities don't include stereotypical femininity. I'm sure you look just fine the way you are. You're being bullied, even if gently, and you don't have to bow to it.
posted by scratch at 8:59 AM on September 30, 2012 [38 favorites]

Oh, and conversely, if you really would like these things but don't have the money, I think "unless you're willing to plan it and pay for it, I'm not going shopping any time soon" can get people to put their money where their mouth is or, like I said, STFU.

A lot of people (including the people who love us) are uncomfortable when women spend a lot of time being happy in their own skin. If a lot of women were "gross" without makeup, why wouldn't a lot of men be "gross" without makeup too? Oh, right, because of sexism. Unfortunately, awesome people aren't exempt from culture and our culture includes sexist norms about beauty and the amount of time, effort, and money that women should expend on those norms.

Frankly, I think it's lovely that you still have clothes from high school. A lot of clothing is produced in environmentally- and worker-unfriendly ways, and reducing individual consumption of it is a good thing.
posted by the young rope-rider at 9:00 AM on September 30, 2012 [39 favorites]

I say do what makes you feel good and comfortable. There is no reason to wear a lot of makeup if it's not you. There are ways to look "nicer" and to appear as if you have made an effort. If you feel comfortable and happy with what you're wearing, try to ignore the comments, remind them that you are fine, and thank them for their concern.

If you want to do something the simplest thing to do is to buy a few things that you are used to wearing but "nicer". Example: If you wear jeans and t-shirts from high school, buy a couple pairs of nice jeans and a couple nicer t-shirts to wear when you go out on the weekends or after work. Think of it as a uniform. Nice "designer-y" jeans (can be purchased at the Gap, Old Navy, target), a "dressy" t-shirt (nicer fabric, different necklines, fitted or semi-fitted), flats, or even a clean pair of Converse or sneakers that you save for non-work wear. If you always wear a ponytail, get a wash and wear haircut, put on some lipgloss and mascara. Done.
posted by Fairchild at 9:01 AM on September 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

Yeah, please tell them to mind their own business. People should be able to wear whatever they want without being judged.
posted by futureisunwritten at 9:01 AM on September 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

I'm starting to have thoughts that without the crutch of makeup and nice clothes, I'm gross.

Just as a point of perspective, I think that women who have "natural beauty" but don't "do much with it" are more likely to get these sorts of comments that women who do not meet classic beauty standards. So it may not be so much that you are "gross" in your natural state, but that these people are recognizing a missed opportunity to be a real head-turner. That doesn't mean you have to cave in to their wishes, but it is a more charitable interpretation of their meaning.
posted by drlith at 9:01 AM on September 30, 2012 [21 favorites]

This is probably not about your appearance.

In my experience, when people who genuinely care about you start suggesting X, Y and Z about your appearance, it's because they are concerned about some larger issue. Like depression. Or wanting to help you to find a partner. Or needing to look the part to get a promotion at work.

Of course you can always tell them to mind their own business, but if these comments are coming from people you love and who generally have your best interests at heart, maybe try and consider where they are coming from in the bigger picture.

It may be that they just don't "get" your lifestyle, but it's worth spending some time to think about.
posted by pantarei70 at 9:02 AM on September 30, 2012 [19 favorites]

I think those little touches are nice things to do for yourself, not just your audience.

This CAN be true, but it doesn't sound like the OP finds makeup/fancy clothing fun. Many women (myself included) legitimately don't. These "little touches" would only be "for" the OP in that they'd get people off her back, or (more sadly) because she'd finally internalized their negative messages about her appearance sans makeup.

It's one thing to be told you should gussy up, but it's another to be told that you're neglecting your "inner goddess" if you'd rather not.
posted by randomname25 at 9:05 AM on September 30, 2012 [12 favorites]

You should definitely take some pride in your appearance, but you should not let other people define what that means.

Having said that, I think you an honest self-examination, in line with what pantarei70 has said, would be helpful. Are you suffering some deeper problem worth examining? Are you prone to depression or self-neglect, have you mentioned that you're lonely and people are trying to encourage you to put the effort into your own self-image (and therefore, presumably, self-esteem) first?

If that's the case, then sure; think hard, and honestly, about that, and form a plan to address that. If not, and you're for-real happy with your life, dress and situation, then the surest road to one's own self esteem is not really caring all that much what other people think.
posted by mhoye at 9:13 AM on September 30, 2012 [2 favorites]

Initially: "Susan, I'm happy with the way I look. When you suggest that I need to change, it makes me feel undermined and frustrated. Please stop giving me suggestions about my appearance." And then change the topic when they continue. "Joe, I don't want to talk about how I look. Let's talk about [whatever] - what did you think of [thing]?"

If you feel like getting into it with them, ask them "is there something else you're trying to say to me? I'm happy with the way I look, so I'm confused and uncomfortable with your repeated suggestions." If everyone literally means that your haircut looks like it's 1993 or your glasses belong in 1982, let them say that. If they mean that they think you're depressed, let them say that. Picking away at someone with blanket criticisms is immature.

Also, has there been any other change in the social dynamic in your set? Are you working harder than others? Do other people feel like you're more productive or have higher social standing? I see from other answers that it's all "your loved ones are trying to tell you something", but unhealthy dynamics can also develop in groups. They may be trying to tell you "I am frightened by your strength and work ethic, which seem unwomanly to me, so I need to bring you back into the narrative of 'insufficient woman'". Or the group may need someone to criticize and pick on - some groups go that way.

As a gender-noncomforming person who has had to shut down a lot of "but you'd look so nice if you wore make-up/a skirt and your hair is so thick, why don't you grow it out", I feel very strongly that many people mistakenly believe that they should help you "be your best self" when "your best self" means "a narrow conception of how women should act and dress that makes them comfortable". Even people who love you can go this route. I have had to internalize that I do not care if I would look pretty with long hair or in a dress - that might very well be true. But I don't want to look femininely pretty. I just don't. Even if I could win beauty pageants if I just tried, I don't want to try. And my body does not automatically generate a contract with my nearest and dearest that I will dress it a certain way.
posted by Frowner at 9:13 AM on September 30, 2012 [23 favorites]

Echoing what Fairchild said - maybe consider buying some items that are your style, but one notch away from what you'd wear at work. (Fitted jeans and a few fitted tshirts?) For me, I noticed that as I started buying clothes that fit me better, my husband would light up and mention how cute I looked, and that made me feel more fun and flirty. It made going out (or even just socializing with friends at home) feel different than the grind of the regular workday. It was something apart from the workday, not an extension of it or an afterthought. You don't need to invest in a whole new wardrobe, particularly if you aren't going out often. Start with 1-2 tops and a nicer pair of jeans. And if you like how that works, you can buy more later on. The nice thing I've found is that my social clothes stay in good condition because I only wear them once a week or so, so they will last me a good long while.
posted by Terriniski at 9:14 AM on September 30, 2012 [4 favorites]

My wife almost never wears makeup, and since she works at a vet clinic she wears scrubs a lot of the time. At home she wears a lot of beat up clothes because she spends time tending to the garden and the chickens or hanging out with our menagerie. (When you work with animals all day, occasionally one follows you home. ) So she's usually covered in dog or cat fur. No one comments negatively on her appearance.

She does, however, have a couple of outfits that she has just specifically so she can go out somewhere, whether out to dinner or just shopping, and not feel like she's covered in fur.

Bottom line - it's your call. Trust me when I say I understand not wanting to spend a bunch of time every morning on looking "just so."
posted by azpenguin at 9:17 AM on September 30, 2012 [2 favorites]

On the operational front, if you're game for having a go at a little wardrobe tune-up for cheap to see how it feels, I know a slew of women (and men) who've found verrrrry nice things, some of which are unusual, vintage, foreign, etc., at thrift stores.
posted by ambient2 at 9:18 AM on September 30, 2012

It's hard for us to answer this, because there are definitely levels of grooming that are pretty basic, and not meeting them would be weird. I'm thinking; shower frequently, hair is not a greasy flat cap or a tangled rats's nest, clothes don't look like they might fall off or fall apart. But my personal bar for 'required attention to appearance' is 'clean and neat', some people have it higher. I last wore make-up to a friend's engagement party a few months ago. I have been staying with family for a month with two pairs of jeans and a stack of tshirts. My sisters think it's funny/odd that I don't care about clothes, and tell me that I underdress for formal occasions, but don't try telling me what I should wear in everyday situations.

However, to me it seems like your question has an undercurrent of 'sure I'd like to dress better and wear make-up, but I can't because external factors!' My attitude is more 'oh god, really, clothes and make-up?' Perhaps people are picking up on this and are really trying to tell you that you should be taking more time for yourself, in a caring-about-yourself way, not a presentation-for-others way. If dressing up more really isn't something you care about for yourself, then try and tell people this. Maybe you can think of some other way to 'pamper' yourself, and respond to this kind of suggestion with a joking 'if I had spare time I'd be finishing that jigsaw puzzle, not wasting it getting dressed!'

If it really is the case that you would love to put more time and effort into your appearance but can't, then call them on it as the young rope-rider said. "I would love to but I have other priorities right now" (vague back off option) or "I would love to but with all the time required caring for Spot I just can't get to the shops. If you would babysit him for an evening that'd be sweet!" (concrete, obvious do-this-or-shutup option).
posted by jacalata at 9:21 AM on September 30, 2012 [6 favorites]

Self care doesn't have to be about makeup and clothes. Taking good care of yourself can help increase your confidence.

Buy yourself a loofah washcloth to use on your body in the shower. After your shower put on a body moisturizer with sunscreen. Put sunscreen on your face too. This is your everyday self care ritual. And no one else gets to know about it or judge it. It's you taking care of you. You'll know that you're caring for yourself for the long haul.

If in a few years doing the whole makeup and fashion becomes appealing to you then fine. If not, you'll have beautiful skin which no makeup can fake.
posted by 26.2 at 9:24 AM on September 30, 2012 [3 favorites]

You say you used to dress up and wear makeup sometimes, and now you don't. Which, of course, is totally fine and your choice.
I struggle with this with my partner, because she'll frequently say that she doesn't care, and then later confide that she feels foolish sometimes, or has confidence issues because when she does try to dress up, she doesn't think she succeeds in looking pretty. [but she totally does].
And there's a huge difference between trying to encourage someone to do something that they want to do but are intimidated/overwhelmed by it, and then trying to force some societal standard upon someone.
Try impressing upon those people that for you, it's the latter, and so their concern is stupid and not warranted, and they need to shut it.
posted by FirstMateKate at 9:24 AM on September 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

As the Lebowitz quote goes, prettiness is not something you owe the world for being female. That goes double if you work a hard job for low wages and you just don't have the time and money for the "little touches." Seriously, I can not believe people in this thread would add on to the pile of crap you are already getting from people close to you.

The thing is, they are NOT just "little touches" - let's say you're earning $10 an hour and you go ahead and go to Sephora and plunk $20 on a mascara and $20 on a blush. You've just spent half a day's wages for what? So your eyes stand out a little more and your cheeks look a little different? FUCK THAT NOISE. Let's say you also need to get up fifteen minutes earlier every day to do your makeup and hair and that comes out of your sleep. Do you know what that mild sleep deprivation is doing to your body over the long run? Bad bad things like higher risk of heart disease, poorer cognitive function, etc. Is chronic disease the price you want to pay for being pretty? It's another thing entirely if you have the disposable cash and the makeup isn't just going to run down your face two hours into your shift, but you need to keep in mind that even the women in this thread who are suggesting you listen to this criticism come from privilege; they make more per hour than you, have desk jobs rather than doing physical labor, and maybe they have partners or hired help at home so that they can find an extra 15 minutes per day to do their makeup and blow out their hair. That's nice that they have that luxury but you are in no way obligated to spend your time and money that way because you got XX chromosomes.

You are putting your limited time and money toward more important things, things that will pay more dividends later in life towards your overall happiness than putting on mascara every day. Maybe things that will let you work a better job in the future, things that will eventually give you the disposable time and money that you may or may not spend on makeup. But if you spend your limited resources that way NOW you're much less likely to ever reach that point.

It boils down to this: looking basically presentable makes life easier and allows you to get what you want without fuss (ie. showering so you don't offend anyone will let you keep your job, so that's in your interest) but going beyond presentable to pretty and polished is just a way companies invented for women to spend discretionary time and money they may have. It may not be a particularly wise use of either, unless you have tons, in which case you're still not obligated to be pretty just to make others happy. Go tell everyone else you have other (and probably better) priorities than mascara and that they can STFU in the future.

for the record I have a closet full of pretty, fancy clothes that I love and spent good money on, and spent my own time tailoring to fit just right, because it's sort of a fun hobby for me. I would never ever suggest to another woman that she needs to do the same.
posted by slow graffiti at 9:41 AM on September 30, 2012 [35 favorites]

Not sure if this helps, but I'd like to thank you.

We get, and follow, so many messages about what we must do and buy to be acceptable, that I wonder if we really even know what women really look like anymore. It's disappointing and exhausting. You sound like the type of woman we need more of -- a woman who is more interested in living her life than she is in chasing the look of the moment and achieving the illusive goal of finally looking "right" enough to be acceptable.
posted by Houstonian at 9:41 AM on September 30, 2012 [17 favorites]

It is possible to have totally utilitarian outfits that look clean, fresh, flattering, and relatively stylish. Same with hairstyles.

Explore the vast middle ground between "I have put the bare minimum of effort into my self-presentation" and "show-pony." The former comes across as a bit self-absorbed to me -- I mean sure, who cares what other people think, right? Except that interaction is a communal experience, and dressing appropriate to the custom is sign of respect for that experience. A loving partner is going to have no shortage of opportunities to see you at your worst, so you might as well strive for better than that when you can.

We have a LOT of control over how others treat us, and the appearance we compose is part of that. Maybe the vibe you're giving off in your current state doesn't really sync up with what you're really like as a person. Is that what they're trying to tell you? I could see why they might be concerned about that.
posted by hermitosis at 9:46 AM on September 30, 2012 [5 favorites]

I am 27 and a good quarter of my clothes are from high school.

Just wanna add that most clothes aren't meant to keep their color/shape/texture for this long. You're totally used to them, but they might strike others as being very shabby indeed.
posted by hermitosis at 9:49 AM on September 30, 2012 [9 favorites]

Ask them not to keep bothering you about this, that you find it disrespectful and hurtful. If they don't listen and honor your request, tell them to fuck off.

If it's not affecting your professional life, or at least not to a degree that's noticeable or a concern to you, don't worry about it.

The former comes across as a bit self-absorbed to me -- I mean sure, who cares what other people think, right? Except that interaction is a communal experience, and dressing appropriate to the custom is sign of respect for that experience.

Not really. It's a sign that a person thinks external niceties are a reasonable proxy for judging another person's personality, values, behavior, skills, intelligence, etc, and also that clothes have superpowers.
posted by The Master and Margarita Mix at 10:03 AM on September 30, 2012 [5 favorites]

Flip the script: laughing while saying "look in the mirror!" tends to shut down most critics.
posted by doreur at 10:07 AM on September 30, 2012

I totally understand wearing utilitarian clothing when you're working at home or at work.

But where are you hanging out with your friends, mother, and boyfriend? If they're all coming over to help you do home projects, then ignore them. If you're going out, then it may be coming across as disrespectful or disengaged or depressed to your dinner/activity companions that you look like you're about to start plastering walls. I'm guessing they're not expecting you to break out the little black dress, just to look neat and put together and as if you were actually expecting to be interacting with other people.
posted by jaguar at 10:22 AM on September 30, 2012 [2 favorites]

The response I get is that I just need to prioritize and try harder.

Sounds like you have prioritized, and dressing up/putting on makeup/getting more frequent haircuts/whatever have a lower priority than doing your paid work and your home improvement work. And this is a fine prioritization.

I mean, yeah, clothes that are ten-plus years old probably aren't fantastic to look at, but. Do you change out of your work clothes for things like dinner with your parents/friends/boyfriend? Maybe what they're really objecting to is that you don't seem to mark a transition between "I'm working in the warehouse/I'm fixing the back stairs" and "I'm having dinner with my boyfriend" and that makes them feel like you don't think the latter is festive?

On the one hand, if that is the case, then sure, it is a bit superficial. On the other hand, people like to think that spending time with them is a special occasion and that others have made some effort to mark the specialness of that.

So a thought, if it works for you, might be to pick up a couple of "dinner with the folks/date with the boyfriend/drinks with friends" outfits for cheap---at a second-hand store, even, and not sequined ballgowns but just some newer jeans and sweaters and tops---and change into those as a way of marking that those times are special, and different from the times where you're hefting boxes at the warehouse, or regrouting the tile in the bathroom.
posted by Sidhedevil at 10:22 AM on September 30, 2012 [8 favorites]

You sound like an independent person. They sound a bit meddlesome, but maybe they simply believe that you don't socialize enough and are worried about you. I hope you don't take their suggestions about your appearance to heart. I can't begin to express how refreshing it is to hear a woman express her liberation from the Revlon and Max Factor junkies.

Those opinions (of friends and/or family) are not worthless, but perhaps they are not well focused. Are you lonely? If you feel the need, seek out like-minded persons and go have a good time.

The notion that you should wear a uniform is appropriate, and your post seems to address that quite well. If you worked in an office, for example, you should wear business attire. If you are grooming yourself for an eventual social repositioning, then I guess you could think about how your image ought to change in order to be in tune with your new job. I don't see how trying to conform to the standards of yours friends is a healthy move. That would go back to the lonliness question, and associates who want me to change my image don't fall into the category of friends, if you see what I'm driving at.

It seems that the DTMA strategy is a radical price to pay for some peace and quiet. On the other hand, you might take some time to evaluate the life-choices that your friends (the detractors) have made, and see if you really want to emulate their lives. A friend who seems to need you to change your image may be expressing his inner landscape more than he's describing yours. If that's the case, then you can file his opinion under WTF, and let him decide whether he wants to be seen with you. His loss, as far as I can tell.

Please hang in there. Some folks care more about things other than superficiality.
posted by mule98J at 10:28 AM on September 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

If you want to work on your appearrance, you can hit a library and read a few books like "David Kibbe's Metamorphosis" to help you figure out what works for you, then hit a thrift store and spend not much money to perk up your wardrobe. If you aren't interested, I will nth "tell them to STFU". Explaining "why" only invites argument.

If you are clear this is not a priority right now, then stop discussing it. Give them a funny look, change the subject, if they are dogged assholes, walk away. However, if time and money are the real issue, you could also look them dead in the eye and say "I do not have the time and money for that right now. If it matters so much to you, feel free to buy me a new wardrobe. If you can't afford it either, then drop it."

These people have no right to tell you how to spend your time and money.
posted by Michele in California at 10:30 AM on September 30, 2012 [3 favorites]

The only person you need to please is yourself. One of my daughters is pretty utilitarian about makeup and clothing, and her sister used to rag her all the time on the topic.

That having been said, if the chorus is coming from all directions, and you think they might have a bit of merit, what I would do in your shoes is this:

a. have your eyebrows professionally done ONCE (waxed or threaded. Threading is my preference but ymmv) and then keep up with tweezers. This makes you look polished without needing a lot of makeup. Then after work, perhaps a bit of mascara and/or a bit of lip gloss.

b. I like you have little to no disposable income for clothes I can't wear to work. I live in jeans. What I'd do is go to thrift shops or consignment stores and look for tops or sweaters you like, or go to a really good shop and buy something on clearance. You don't need a ton of clothing, just several items you like that you could wear out and about.

c. If it can be found in the budget, get a really good simple hair trim from somewhere that isn't supercuts or such. A really good haircut won't need much maintenance at all and should last much longer.

As for the rest, tell em to put up or shut up. Most of us who have a life are too busy to get too fancy with our looks, and you shouldn't have to waste time or money on someone else's standards. Again, it's yourself you need to please.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 10:34 AM on September 30, 2012

Someone above mentioned that if everyone you're close to has expressed some measure of the same concern to you, there might be something to it. I think I would try to find out what that something is. If that "something" is: "you'd be so much more valuable as a human being if you wore mascara and a push-up bra", you can safely reject the opinion. If that "something" is: "your worn-out clothing and unflattering hairstyle are undermining your ability to present as a competent, well-functioning adult", maybe you should consider changing some things.

Simple, non-fashion-forward, utilitarian clothes do not project the same negative signals that worn-out, ill-fitting, dated clothes do. The former says "I'm comfortable, appropriately dressed, clean and taking care of myself"; the latter says you're not. Again, if that's the message your friends and family are trying to give you, part of it may be important and something you should adopt, but part of it may be something you can hear, respect and reject.

Someone may focus on the "appropriately dressed" part of that equation and think you should wear heels to the movies and lipstick to dinner. You may think both are more trouble than they are worth. So, fine, reject that and continue to wear (well-fitting, clean, not falling apart) flats, sneakers, boots, whatever. Make sure your face is clean and your teeth are brushed and screw the lipstick.

But if someone is focusing on the "taking care of yourself" part of that sentence, they may be worried that your failure to buy a new t shirt in the last 10 years means you're depressed or means you're too over-extended to notice when your shirts have all faded and lost their shape. That's a message--I think--maybe you shouldn't reject so quickly. So, take the time to replace the oldest or most worn-out shirts in your closet. Maybe buy some pants that have a more modern cut. Maybe get some clothes which you wouldn't wear to work for wearing when you're not at work or working at home. A couple people above had made this comment, too.

It's an old-fashioned notion, I know, that taking care with your appearance projects both self-respect and respect for the people around you, but it often comes from a place of good intentions and not a place of only valuing women for how attractively they present themselves. It's like Mr. Rogers changing out of his coat and tie and into his cardigan and sneakers. Clothes signal situations and they signal some of what the wearer feels about that situation. Maybe yours are sending signals you don't intend to send and don't want to be sending.
posted by crush-onastick at 10:36 AM on September 30, 2012 [35 favorites]

Oh, and don't go to Sephora. Overpriced makeup and I wasn't impressed with it when I went. Maybelline mascara is fine (I use Almay because I'm allergic to regular mascara). If someone wants to send you to a department store with THEIR money for makeup that's fine but drugstore makeup and instructional videos on Youtube are more than ok for the budgetminded.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 10:41 AM on September 30, 2012 [3 favorites]

If it's not affecting your professional life, or at least not to a degree that's noticeable or a concern to you, don't worry about it.

Why is one's personal life less of a concern than one's professional life?
posted by hermitosis at 10:59 AM on September 30, 2012 [2 favorites]

I've noticed a distinct regional thing with this, as I have a group of friends here where I live in a cosmopolitan city, and then a group that lives in a coastal city that is surrounded by hiking and outdoor activities. My friends here spend a lot more time and money on their physical appearance, own delicate and trendy clothing, and footwear that hopes to recreate foot binding. Those in the more active city shop at sports stores and wear tilley hats.

If your friends and family are all, to put it lightly, "activity avoidant", they almost certainly have no idea what it means to be physically active in your daily job.

Find some sporty and rough and tumble friends. Having a group that knows what it means to be dirty really helps to offset the social pressure to be dainty, especially when you have no interest in that. Joining a intramural sports team would put you in contact with a large group of people who are only interested in what your body can DO, and not in what it looks like.
posted by Dynex at 11:02 AM on September 30, 2012 [2 favorites]

“You’ll see I wear only gray or blue suits,” he said. “I’m trying to pare down decisions. I don’t want to make decisions about what I’m eating or wearing. Because I have too many other decisions to make.” He mentioned research that shows the simple act of making decisions degrades one’s ability to make further decisions. It’s why shopping is so exhausting. “You need to focus your decision-making energy. You need to routinize yourself. You can’t be going through the day distracted by trivia.”

That's from the Vanity Fair profile of Barack Obama, and it pretty much sums up my view on this stuff. It blows my mind how much time (most) women spend futzing around with hair, makeup and clothes. I bet that the daily grooming plus the scheduled "maintenance" and actual shopping and research for shopping (reading magazines, following trends, talking about it) probably adds up to more than an hour a day on average. Unless it's part of your job or you get some really special pleasure from it, that's just irrational. Instead, you could learn a language, redo your kitchen, get an advanced degree.

So I applaud you. Really the only good answer is: do what you want. If you truly do enjoy playing with hair and outfits, then by all means do it. But if you only mildly enjoy it, and you suspect it may be because you're been socialized to think you do, then yeah, keep it where it is in terms of your priorities. Be what you want, not what the people around you want.
posted by Susan PG at 11:10 AM on September 30, 2012 [15 favorites]

I would ask them, kindly, why they keep making those suggestions. "Hey mom, I noticed that you suggest that a lot, and I was wondering why?". They'll start out with some grneric crap about how you're so pretty and it's such a waste, or how it would really "brighten you up"; these answers are valid, but should be taken with a grain of salt. Keep digging- gently, without getting angry. I can't suggest the best way to do it because I don't know your family, but eventually you'll get to the real issue- whether it's "well, you just look so sad!" Or "it's embarassing for a woman your age to be running around in those clothes and you look ridiculous" or "you don't seem like you're taking care of yourself", or if it really is a completely genuine "you'd look a lot better with a little powder", you'll know the reason behind their suggestions and can figure out how much weight to give them.

I've had women that I liked push me to wear makeup. They weren't trying to hurt my feelings; they were trying to help me. To them and their ideas of the world, walking around without makeup was like having spinach in your teeth or toilet paper stuck to your shoe; it was about presentation, not my actual amount of natural beauty. Don't take it any more personally than you would if they'd told you that your shoe was untied. Of course, that doesn't mean you can't listen or that they don't have a point. But it also doesn't mean that you have to make a change if you don't want to.
posted by windykites at 11:13 AM on September 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

Why is one's personal life less of a concern than one's professional life?

While it's fundamentally bullshit how important physical appearance is in professional life, it's part of the game, is unavoidable, can't be changed by one person alone (even in the context of a single small company), and eating and keeping a roof over one's head is important.

However, in personal relationships, what matters is how a person treats others and what kind of company she is. It sounds like the OP has the basics of personal hygeiene down, so it it's completely inappropriate for this to be an issue. Making concessions to the game in matters of employment is a necessary evil. Having it be an issue in personal relationships, if this isn't a case of people close to the OP mistaking her lack of fucks given for depression, is inappropriate, and it shows that the ones who are devaluing the relationship are the people doing the nagging and judging, not her.
posted by The Master and Margarita Mix at 11:31 AM on September 30, 2012 [3 favorites]

What do people who do the same things you do wear? Which of those people look nice? Why do they look nice? What are they doing differently than you? Maybe you could look at people in this group and try and find someone whose style you would be willing to emulate. If not, it should be a boost to your self image because at least you don't look as bad as all those real people.

Obviously you don't want to emulate a runway model and get six inch spike heels and then go to your job at the warehouse. Or put on earrings and foundation and then try to squeeze between the joists behind the plaster to run an electric wire through a tight space at home. But people tend to judge you compared to an average and that average includes all the people they see on TV in commercials and in shows and working in retail where there is a dress code, so the average look... has a wardrobe team. It's more than likely those-who-feel-entitled-to-comment-on-your-appearance have been effected this way.

Assume the people who are saying these things love you, and want you to get some nice things. Smile when they say things like this and ask them to buy you a gorgeous set of work-boots from Mark's Work Warehouse for you next birthday/Christmas present. (Disclaimer: some stupid company that makes workboots closed their plant when its workers went on strike and moved to manufacturing offshore. Mark's promptly discontinued that brand as a PR move in solidarity with the workers. Otherwise I wouldn't have mentioned the brand name. Any decent place to buy work clothes will do in lieu of that particular chain.)

If you are twenty-seven and many of your clothes come from your high school days that means the minimum age of the garments is probably ten, assuming you wouldn't count anything you got in the last few months of high school. This means they are showing signs of senility and out-of fashion to the eyes of people who can tell how old a garment is because eggplant was one of the fall colours in 2007. This doesn't mean your clothes are no good anymore. It is just alarming people because when something like dentistry is ten years over due it is a red flag for neglect, and they are lumping fashion in with the essentials of life.

It is just possible that your favorites are no longer as decent as they ought to be, having become tissue thin from wear. However over the last few years inexpensive clothing has become tissue thin from manufacture cost cutting, so running out to Wal-Mart for some cheapie t-shirt won't result in anything thicker. It is also possible that some of your favorites have been repaired with a combination of staples and safety pins and honestly do make the local bag lady feel a gentle pity for you...

So, why are you wearing the same clothes? Because you honestly feel indifferent to how you look and never remember anyway? Because you dread clothes shopping? Because your peer group buys clothes using their credit cards in order to keep up their image but you handle your money better than they do?

Take a look at the clothes you haven't gotten rid of. Why did you keep them? Because the black t-shirt goes with everything and it feels soft? Because the chinos with the frayed hole in the knee has all those terribly useful pockets? It wouldn't hurt to start coveting similar useful comfy shirts and well designed pants, so that if they ever do wander past you with a label saying 75% off Clearance when you have a few discretionary bucks you will notice them.

I suspect that you had some help with style back when you were in high school - there may have been parental input on the haircut and clothing. And since high school there has not been probably because you are a big girl now and there are so many more interesting things to do and think about than figuring out what this season's colours are.

Fortunately work clothes go through fewer changes in fashion than party dresses so it should be possible for you to cultivate the style known as "classic". This will mean knowing less about fashion - classic colours are always in, and so are classic styles.

It could be your washer and/or dryer are duds and your clothes are getting covered in pills and showing signs of neglect.

Next time someone comments on your appearance go into leveler mode - no accusations, no defensiveness and interrogate them: What specifically are the commenting about and why, and what do they think they should see? This will enable you to figure out their motivation. "Your hair is filthy and you look like you never cut it and you look tired and I am afraid you must be depressed" is a very different complaint than, "Your hair is so lovely and you never do anything with it and you could look just like Sierra Sears if you just had highlights in it and I so want you to get a handsome boyfriend because I wish I had gotten one way back when but I got stuck with your dad."or "You are still wearing the same haircut I made you get when you were a Sophomore and you are still not making enough money that I feel secure on your behalf at that terrible warehouse job so when will you finally grow up and take responsibility for yourself and make a plan to support me in my old age?" or "If I were working at a job that gives me your hours I would have enough money to get my hair done every four to six weeks and boy, would I ever! Man, I so wish I could afford to get highlights!"

Notice how this all pertains to their agenda and not yours.

Also, depending on who is complaining, you could always cheerfully suggest you do a shopping trip together and see what results. It might be fun, it might lead to some useful and inexpensive purchases and it might make them happy. Or it might be hell on earth, but then they would never dare complain again after discovering that the reason you wear "that terrible belt" is because you have no waist and any pants you try on fall down immediately unless you wear a belt and/or braces. And that you are in shock at how much they owe on their credit cards because you don't have any credit card debt.

If the boyfriend is the one who takes you shopping and wants you to buy what he considers sexy clothes by all means agree to it, but on the condition that he spends an equal amount of money on clothes for himself in the style that you consider most pleasing, whether that be a made-to-measure suit, something tough enough he can hang out with you in the crawl space the day you are running the wires through the old rat droppings, or a sweet little French maid costume with an adorably short skirt that will require him to shave his legs.
posted by Jane the Brown at 11:40 AM on September 30, 2012 [3 favorites]

Why is one's personal life less of a concern than one's professional life?

Because you can't get fired from your personal life.
posted by elizardbits at 11:47 AM on September 30, 2012 [3 favorites]

Because you can't get fired from your personal life.

Sure you can! People might not to invite you out to do certain kinds of things or mix with other people if they think your attire will be inappropriate. This may even occur out of genuine concern or sympathy: they don't want you to be embarrassed or feel conspicuous. And romantic relationships can certainly be affected by issues like this, whether or not anyone thinks that is just.

Unless you're in a relationship where it's well established that physical attraction is simply Not A Factor, then I can't understand why you wouldn't pay attention to what your partner is or isn't attracted to, especially if they are respectful about letting you know. Not that you need to style yourself exactly to another's wishes, but acting like you live in a vacuum is just as extreme. Making small accommodations at certain times will go a LONG way.
posted by hermitosis at 12:13 PM on September 30, 2012 [5 favorites]

There are two thing going on here: what someone chooses to do with their appearance in order to fit in, and what other people choose to tell their loved ones about their appearance.

If someone wants to adjust their grooming and dress in order to fit in with a certain social group, fine. That doesn't make it willfully rude to not do so, by any means, and the implication that it does is generally sexist, racist, classist, and ableist, because--surprise suprise--the people who have to spend the least amount of time and energy dressing and grooming tend to be able-bodies white males with plenty of time on their hands and jobs that don't wear out or damage clothing. Are they just more naturally polite and sociable than the rest of us? I doubt it.
posted by the young rope-rider at 12:19 PM on September 30, 2012 [4 favorites]

Granted, but wouldn't you agree it's pretty common for able-bodied white males' girlfriends to maybe buy them a nice shirt or tie occasionally, or remind them to shave or dress up a bit when having dinner with parents, etc.?

It's not exactly a one-way street.
posted by hermitosis at 12:24 PM on September 30, 2012

[Please do not turn this into a general debate, folks. Thanks. ]
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 12:29 PM on September 30, 2012

if your boyfriend is mentioning this, I'd pay attention

Me, too. It would be a big red flag that I should probably find someone who likes me the way I actually am, not the way he wishes I were. Beware of relationships with gentlemen who are not attracted to you in your everyday state.

As someone who has had a non-traditional, non-girly job similar to yours, I can tell you that sometimes moms have a very hard time with that, for various reasons, and bugging you about your appearance can be a convenient shorthand for expressing her concerns/dismay. Mine was worried about my safety, concerned that I would be broke for the rest of my life, and just plain baffled at how I was screwing up her vision of my having a better job than her steelworker dad. YMMV.

Boyfriends might also have a hard time with ladies who rock non-traditional jobs, but I wouldn't know because the ones I had during my time in the audio engineering world were fantastically supportive of it. There are dudes out there who will not whine at you to change your appearance, if that's what you're looking for.

You do not owe these people a change in the way you dress or use makeup. If you want to change something because it seems fun or beneficial to you, knock yourself out. It's your call.
posted by corey flood at 12:32 PM on September 30, 2012 [3 favorites]

I'm going to assume that you are ready and willing to make some changes and not that you are being forced to do so at gunpoint.

Avoid having a makeup counter salesperson have her way with you. I find that most of them tend to have the makeup gun set to "whore." You will leave the store much poorer and with a bag full of stuff that you don't need.

If you have a friend who's taste you admire, maybe you can ask her to help you out with finding a few basic things that you can add to your routine. It can be as little as a nice powder or BB cream to even out your complexion, a tinted lip balm, and mascara.

If you are really not into makeup then try getting your eyebrows done professionally. It's a small thing that can make a big difference in your overall appearance. Ditto for just getting a regular facial as a spa.

If you are able to maintain a new hair color or cut financially then ask around for a hair stylist recommendation.
posted by Pollfabaire at 12:42 PM on September 30, 2012

Looking put together is more of an aspect of growing up. If those you're close to are saying that the clothes you wear look bad on you, then they may mean you look age inappropriate. Especially if you're 27 and still wearing clothes from high school. I'm 24 and little I wore in high school is age appropriate now, nor do I own any of it. Catch an episode of What Not to Wear and look at your wardrobe objectively. Often just switching to dark wash jeans and a fitted rather than graphic tee can be the difference between ratty and awesome.
posted by teslacoilswoah at 12:59 PM on September 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

Since you've clearly laid out your priorities and needs, and at least the way you've worded your question, it sounds like the others haven't clearly explained what they're after, so it would be more about their own comfort/perception of you, here's an exercise in just how subjective all of this is. I'm originally from the middle of nowhere in Oregon. Now I live on the French Riviera. I'm 36 and occasionally still wear clothes I wore in high school.

Guess what kind of reaction I get when I wear those clothes. "Whoa! That is such an awesome authentic American look!" Why thank you, genuine Northwestern early 1990s grunge and occasionally college student...

I never wear makeup, and never catch flak for it. Not even to the Monaco opera house, ha! :) (I'm in ur opera house, not wearin' nuthin' on mah face, still gettin' treated well by staff.) I, personally, refuse to waste my money and time on it. I also like women who rock makeup because they enjoy it. To each their own.

Here in France I also get men and women asking me what true Parisian style is, and am taken for a Frenchwoman, people say because of my style when out and about. I do not spend a lot of money on clothes; I even sew many of them myself. Here's where subjectivity, especially classism, comes in: no one has ever guessed that I was raised poor (my parents weren't actually, but they raised me as such, long story), among poor friends, in an area that's so small it's not even laughed at, it's ignored. They all – and I do mean all, they end up telling me in so many words – assume that I'm from a well-to-do-family who sent me overseas and that I've married a well-to-do man.

I'm single and have done all the DIY on my place, on my own. And I came over here on my own sweat and tears. We humans are very, very influenced by loads of unconscious stereotypes. Just because no one imagines a countryside hick (no really, I was and still am at heart) would live on the French Riviera, even when they see countryside hick style on me, their stereotypes tell them to assume, "ooh, chic French hipster irony!" My last ex-boyfriend was so totally into his fantasy hot-French-American-chick thing with me that once he finally understood that I really was from the countryside, he actually said outright, "oh, that totally changes how I see you now. I guess your taste in clothes isn't actually French," even though he'd thought it was for several months. It was only his perception that changed.

This is exactly what so many spiritual beliefs mean when they say that everything is an illusion. It pretty much mostly is, indeed. It's all in our societal heads. This gives you immense freedom: you get to choose if and to what extent you take part in the shared illusion. But never lose from sight that it's an illusion; that it's your choice, and others' choices too, though many others are less aware of it. Some think the illusion has to be defended as a reality.

So. If you are interested in style, have fun exploring the treasure trove that is the Internet and seeing what speaks to your taste. Just because a whole bunch of people are telling you the same thing, doesn't necessarily make it true, as tempted as we are by society to think that our current society's rules are true.

Have any of these concerned people asked you what YOU would like? Or is it all about their own comfort?

As to how to preserve your self esteem, well, you're doing a lot of things right: it sounds like you're prioritizing what's important to you, namely doing things you love (such as DIY), keeping a job, and holding to sane finances and scheduling. You have a lot to be proud of. If/when people tell you otherwise, ask them why, but really press it until they give, if they can, a reason that actually takes your priorities into account. If they can't, tell them to drop it. It's not all about them. Realizing that will help, though it's easier said than done, naturally.
posted by fraula at 1:08 PM on September 30, 2012 [5 favorites]

Oh, and don't go to Sephora. Overpriced makeup and I wasn't impressed with it when I went. Maybelline mascara is fine (I use Almay because I'm allergic to regular mascara).

QFT. Drugstore makeup is mostly fine. I think if you really are into makeup and want very high quality stuff, because you like that or it accomplishes what you want better, great. But as a casual non-makeup-wearing lady, I wear maybelline mascara and the tinted lip balm from Burt's Bees (sometimes, when I want to feel put together). It costs almost no money and takes almost no time to apply. I don't do it every morning. I don't deprive myself of sleep in order to fit it into my schedule. But there's no real financial or time barrier to owning some and using it when it works for you.
posted by Sara C. at 1:18 PM on September 30, 2012 [2 favorites]

I used to think of myself as fairly attractive and at times would find joy in dressing up for an event or futzing around with makeup for fun....I have tried explaining the factors that keep me from being put together: I work 40-50 hours a week in a warehouse, where my work clothes get dirty. I spend a lot of time at home cleaning or doing home improvement projects. I don't go out much. I don't have a lot of disposable income to spend on nice clothes that aren't functional for my job and would rarely have occasion to wear....I would love to have a life that affords me more time and money to put into myself, but its not practical right now.
It's not clear to me whether you aren't putting on makeup and dressing up anymore because now you don't find it as fun, or because now you don't feel like you can spend the time/money. The reason I'm not sure about your motivation is that none of the "factors that keep me from being put together" included "I don't want to dress up or put on makeup." Because really, that's the only thing that matters. Do you want to do those things? If you don't, you're well within your rights to tell your mom, boyfriend and friends to butt out. But your last sentence--"I would love to have a life that affords me more time and money to put into myself"--makes me think maybe you don't feel able to do the things you want to, and that is a different problem than nosy people telling you to conform to societal expectations.

If money is the only issue, tell anyone criticizing your wardrobe that you have a new outfit you'd like to buy, but you can't afford it. If they genuinely want you to be able to feel good about yourself, they'll help you do it, no strings attached. If it's about controlling your appearance, their response will tell you that, too ["Well, I'll pick out an outfit for you!"].

There is a difference between "hewing slavishly to the conventional societal expectations for women" and "wearing clothes and grooming myself in a way that makes me feel good." You don't have to do the former, but the latter is a good part of self-care.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 1:32 PM on September 30, 2012 [3 favorites]

Hi. I wanted to sit down next to you on the feminist end of the bench and talk to you.

I do not wear makeup except for special occasions or sometimes meetings. I do not know how to put in eye shadow. I have not subscribed to a single women's or fashion magazine for 15 years. Scales are banned from my house. I do not color my hair. I do not own a blow dryer. I do not shop this season's fashions, or any season's fashions.

I am 27 and a good quarter of my clothes are from high school.

So you can reject all of the above on the grounds of feminism, marketing backlash, utility, whatever but still evolve in ways that are appropriate to being a grownup. I have a really good haircut. I buy clothing that is appropriate to my age. I own two pairs of flattering jeans made in the last 4 years. None of that is selling out, it's just the bare minimum to avoid looking like a bag lady.

When I leave the house, I mean. At home, I TOTALLY continue to look like a bag lady.
posted by DarlingBri at 1:35 PM on September 30, 2012 [17 favorites]

I'm trying to tell from your question if you want easy ways to "fix yourself up" or if you want justification for going on the way that you are. I'm going to address the first one since the second can only come from you.

I have some experience with a kind of similar situation because my mother is a girly girl who loves to say things like "But you have such a cute figure! Why don't you show it off more?" while holding up a skirt that is so tight I would probably consider it lewd if I ever dared to put it on. But I feel like you are backlashing a little bit to their nagging and I know how that feels. You don't want to do it for them. You've got to find your own way. We could all tell you to say "screw 'em" but at the end of the day that doesn't really push you to experiment and try new things, which I am 100% in favor of.

My advice would be for you to go to the store, something like Nordstrom Rack or the gap or something and just see what is out there. Look around, maybe try something on. See if you can find a couple of casual flattering shirts and maybe a pair of jeans that fits you well. You don't have to buy anything but at least you will know what's available.

The aim is to have an outfit or two that is your "nice" outfit. You don't work in it, you don't scrub the bathtub in it. You only put it on when you want to put a little effort into it. Maybe you only wear it once a month but it's something different from your normal, comfortable routine and that's going to make life a little bit more interesting.

Practically speaking, if you have a birthday coming up or if you typically exchange gifts for christmas/hanukkah, ask for a gift card from the store you liked most in your trial visit. It would thrill the people bugging you about appearance to be able to get you that gift and who knows, maybe thrill you to find something that is both comfortable and more polished-looking than your old clothes.

For the makeup thing, I'm not too into it myself (now skincare, that's a different story) but there are many threads about drugstore makeup bargains that you could check out. Maybe you try one thing, maybe you like it, maybe you don't. But it's no huge financial hit and it would be an interesting self-experiment, you know, for science.
posted by tinamonster at 1:39 PM on September 30, 2012


Agree entirely with this. A thousand times over. These folks are feeding you their own expectations and trying to blame you for it. Return to sender.
posted by ead at 1:51 PM on September 30, 2012 [2 favorites]

A dear friend of mine used to do this to me. He would, in front of other friends, give me a hard time about losing weight, wearing a more flattering bra, getting a new haircut. I HATED THIS. It made me feel really uncomfortable and unattractive. I think I dress fine, my weight is what it is and I like my hair. So, I told him once that I wasn't interested in his comments on my appearance, it needed to stop and I wasn't going to listen anymore. The very next time he started in, I stood up and left the room. He was mid-sentence and we were eating dinner. Didn't matter. I only had to do that two or three times and he doesn't bring it up anymore.

IF YOU WANT TO, get at least one pair of jeans that fits well and flatters your butt, a couple of cute tops that aren't t-shirts and throw some mascara and lip gloss on when you go out. You could accomplish all that at Target for $30, probably. But I'm sure you're fine as you are.
posted by Aquifer at 1:55 PM on September 30, 2012 [2 favorites]

I'm generally in the "fuck what other people think" camp but it seems that there's more to the story than you're telling us and that a few others have already touched upon. Are you showing up to outings with your friends or family in sweat pants or stained, worn out clothing? You don't have to spend hours doing your hair and putting on makeup, but there is a minimum requirement I think people need to put into their appearance when actually going out with people. And those requirements are the same for all genders. You should be at the very least clean, showered, hair brushed, no ripped/soiled/stained clothing, clean shoes and attire appropriate for the venue you will be attending.

This isn't just one person being an asshole to you, it's basically everyone you know telling you the same thing, there has got to be a reason.
posted by MaryDellamorte at 2:00 PM on September 30, 2012 [2 favorites]

So I'm the farthest thing there is from a clothes horse, I don't wear makeup (I am male) and tend to find women who don't wear makeup more attractive than the ones who do, and have internalized the whole 'body policing is bad' thing. So my natural inclination with this question is to side with the FUCK THAT NOISE people.


This sentence stood out for me:

I am 27 and a good quarter of my clothes are from high school

This was true for me as well, for a good long time past 27 to be honest. My wife finally convinced me that ten year old clothing can be divided into two categories:

A) it's falling apart, because you've been wearing it for ten years; or
B) it's in ok shape because you never wear it because it's something you don't actually like.

So I finally threw out all the old stuff, and bought new stuff. Not fancy stuff -- I'm a freelancer, I work at home and I'm not trying to impress anyone with my appearance -- we're talking replace the old t-shirt with a new t-shirt. Replace the old jeans with new jeans.

And I've got to be honest with you, I feel better about myself when I wear clothes that aren't all raggedy. Irrational it may be, but even lying around in new sweatpants is nicer than lying around in old sweatpants that are starting to fray at the cuffs and have bagged out at the knees and pilled in the butt and etc.

Additionally, even though men's clothes don't change styles nearly as quickly as women's do, it turns out that clothes that I picked out when I was 17 wasn't necessarily the same clothes I would pick out at 27 even if it were new. My body is a different shape than it was then. Also OH YEAH I FORGOT I'M NOT A TEENAGER ANYMORE. Once I got over the mental hurdle of looking at any given outdated shirt in my closet as "a shirt" rather than "my shirt", it was surprising how often the the idea of wearing that shirt in the present day became totally embarrassing.

So I say: don't buy clothes that don't suit your lifestyle, don't sell yourself to the makeup-and-hairdo industrial complex, and don't feel like you have to be an uncomfortable fashion plate just to go outdoors.

But do toss out any clothing you owned in the 20th century, because it's either falling apart and looks terrible or you don't actually like it and never wear it anyway.
posted by ook at 2:02 PM on September 30, 2012 [13 favorites]

Be thankful that there are people in your life that care enough to make these observations. It is up to YOU to either accept them or reject them. 10 years later you might thank them for it.
posted by pakora1 at 2:16 PM on September 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

Relevant to your question, and probably to many other things as well: Balpreet Singh's enlightened response to obnoxious comments about her physical appearance. This was featured on the blue a couple of days ago but I can't find the post.

Me, for family occasions, I make sure I've showered and I'm wearing clean clothes. That's about the extent of my prep outside of work, for which I'll blow-dry my hair and wear makeup, frankly because I'm afraid of people's silly attitudes affecting my livelihood, not because I think I'm unacceptable to look at without the fuss.

I used to be a lot more fussy, now, not so much. I could look pretty damn good when I wanted to. However, I want to stress that I really don't think that anything I ever did with regard to my physical appearance made one bit of difference with regard to my career path, success with men, and so forth and so on. And, more importantly, it didn't change how I felt about myself.
posted by Currer Belfry at 2:24 PM on September 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

Fuck that shit.

I'm sorry, I'm being pretty frank - but I get this from one or two co-workers, and it never ceases to infuriate me. I am SO SORRY people are saying this to you. Do what makes you happy. If it makes you happy to spend the exceedingly small amount of time you have to yourself dressing up, do it. If you would feel happier reading a book, do that.

For my co-workers, I've started to give them laser eyes a la Calvin and Hobbes when they try it, then wear heavy work boots around the office for a few days (this is not wholly inappropriate, given my line of work). For your family members, I think I would try a more subtle approach. I would start by saying, "I really appreciate you telling me how you feel. I hear you, thanks for sharing with me. I don't want to talk about this anymore."

When they re-offend, say, "Yes, I absolutely hear your feelings on the subject. I feel bad when you keep bringing it up. I know you wouldn't want to make me feel bad, so please don't bring it up again."

If it happens again, say "Oh - remember how we agreed you weren't going to bring this up again?" And change the subject.

Again, I'm so sorry you're getting this.
posted by arnicae at 2:26 PM on September 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

This was true for me as well, for a good long time past 27 to be honest. My wife finally convinced me that ten year old clothing can be divided into two categories:

A) it's falling apart, because you've been wearing it for ten years; or
B) it's in ok shape because you never wear it because it's something you don't actually like.

There's a C), also: You are still wearing it, even though it stopped fitting well or being flattering years ago.

Even if your weight stays the same, the shape of your body can change. For example, I just realized that I need to replace a bunch of shirts even though I am exactly the same weight as I was when I bought them, I have clearly moved that weight around and the shirts are now too tight in the shoulders. Clothes don't need to be fashionable or expensive, but they should fit in ways that are ideally flattering (however you personally want to define "flattering") or at least are not actively unflattering.
posted by Forktine at 2:42 PM on September 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

You have a lot of advice here, but I feel the need to add one more thing.

I do think the fact that 1/4 of your clothes are from high school is probably a bad thing. I'm around your age, and I really shudder when I imagine walking around in clothes from 10th grade. Unless you were buying extremely high quality clothing, there is no way they have held up over time.

Moreover, do you really think a 16 year old girl and a 27 year old woman should be wearing the same clothing? I don't know what you dressed like in high school, but my look would definitely be out of place on a young woman in the year 2012.

By the way, I would say this to a man or a woman.
posted by murfed13 at 2:44 PM on September 30, 2012 [5 favorites]

Your friends and family are probably just meaning that you should allow yourself some time for self-care, no matter what that looks like. I still have some clothes from high school, but I only wear them for going to sleep, not for interacting with the public or going out running errands. If you're out running errands in 10 year old clothes, it just looks like you're not taking care of yourself.

I don't think this aspect of self-care is a gender-specific thing. I've dated rough-and-tumble outdoors men, and it makes sense that they'd run around doing errands in slightly ripped or stained clothes, but the clothes fit well and aren't 10 years old. Maybe you should treat yourself to buying some nice casual well-fitting basics (t-shirts, jeans, new sneakers) for when you are not in the warehouse or working on home projects. It's not about being more femme, I think, it's just keeping up with your self-care.
posted by Hawk V at 3:04 PM on September 30, 2012 [3 favorites]

Also, I realize that your *actual* question was "how do I preserve my self esteem" and most--if not all--of us are talking about whether or not you need new clothes or to wear make up or otherwise change your style. I think that you won't stop these comments without assessing why you keep getting them from various sources. I think you will have a hard time preserving your self esteem in the continued stream of them. I think if you explore why your family, boyfriend, friends are concerned that you should "put more effort into your appearance" you will be able to change the conversation to one that helps you preserve your sense of self and figure out why your appearance seems to matter so much to the people who love you.
posted by crush-onastick at 4:05 PM on September 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

A few weeks ago someone posted a question about how to convey to a friend that her attire was inappropriate for the office and holding her back. Your style sounds nothing like this woman's, bu I thought of that question because it was generally considered impossible for the asker to be 100% frank with her friend.

It could be that the ppl saying this are just a bit more preoccupied with appearances than you are. But it could be that they're trying to gently convey a message that is a bit more valid than just believing you ought to be more of a girly girl.

I kind of worry about my friends if they come to a group outing in clothes that don't fit, or are stained and frayed. And I wonder if they realize tht they are creating an impression that could work against them - and I hasten to add that I am not a girly girl and rarely wear makeup. I like the ideas above about gently probing until you figure out what's at the bottom of it.

Learning how to dress myself for different occasions has been a struggle for me, but in my experience it's been worthwhile and very helpful.

And if you would enjoy being able to buy some new things, the next time it comes up say "hopefully I'll get a big gift card to [store of your choice] for Christmas."
posted by bunderful at 4:09 PM on September 30, 2012 [2 favorites]

This means they are showing signs of senility and out-of fashion to the eyes of people who can tell how old a garment is because eggplant was one of the fall colours in 2007.

Just wanna add that most clothes aren't meant to keep their color/shape/texture for this long. You're totally used to them, but they might strike others as being very shabby indeed.

eh, considering half of what's in-fashion is from "vintage" stores anyway, or at least based on retro designs, it's a bit silly to suggest that clothing you have actually kept rather than donated and then bought back from a thrift store is automatically lamentable. I'm sure plenty of people own stuff that's more than ten years old and that they paid real money for.

I mean, if you kept stuff because you like it or it fits you well, it shouldn't be a problem. If you are depressed and it's actually stuff you hate or that's falling apart, that's something else, but I don't see why having some clothes from 2002 would be a big deal.

Basically, trust yourself. Feel free to try out other styles and options, but don't feel pressured to do it. Hang out with friends who appreciate you for other things...
posted by mdn at 4:38 PM on September 30, 2012

The no makeup, old clothes thing doesn't work as you get older. It looks like you may be afraid to grow up and face the future.

If not for your own satisfaction, how you look can affect your ability to get jobs.

I know a woman in her 50's like this. She is an unemployed professional person but I think her no makeup, old clothes look are hindering her career. She goes on many interviews but never gets hired and I'm sure her appearance is a huge factor.
posted by Tullyogallaghan at 4:51 PM on September 30, 2012 [2 favorites]

I feel like when all the people who love you are saying, "What about X?" maybe you should investigate it a little. They could all be giant jerkfaces, but on the off chance that all of them are not being giant jerkfaces you could check it.

I'm ten years older than you are and I've worked in construction for the last 16 years. I wear jeans, tshirts, and hoodies year round. I no longer own any makeup besides lip gloss because when I actually tried to wear some earlier this month, I realized that all of it had gone off since the last time I used it, 14 months previous. I have trouble finding non-work clothes because I have the double whammy of being fat and being "apple" shaped. This means that I wear jeans all the time except for the extremely rare situations that require something more formal. I have a handful of dress clothes that I trot out for those social occasions.

That being said, I make sure my hair is presentable, and my clothing is unwrinkled (thank you, Downy Wrinkle Releaser). Stuff that is stained or torn gets relegated for home use only, where I (like DarlingBri) look like a bag lady. My husband thinks it's weird when I wear makeup.

I think that it probably wouldn't hurt if you went through your wardrobe and made sure that everything a) is in good condition and b) still fits you properly, given the age of a significant portion of it. I also think that many women are wearing ill-fitting bras, so if that's something that is troubling you, you could perhaps look into that. Finally, what's up with your hair? Do you kinda need a hair cut but you've been putting it off? For me, decent hair + clothes that are in decent condition that fit = totally fine.
posted by crankylex at 5:11 PM on September 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

I don't work in a warehouse per se, but I have work boots and a hard hat for work - and other clothing to match. After several years of not buying new clothes, I went out and bought one (1) new pair of jeans. After seeing how good I looked in them, I could hardly stand to wear the old ones - they were so saggy in the butt/hips in comparison. And these are still jeans! Jeans I can move in, walk in, wear through a construction site or on a manufacturing floor.

So I would say this: Go out and buy one or two new outfits. Something that looks good on you and fits you well, but still practical. And then see if you feel any better in those than you do in your regular clothes, or if they get any better reaction from your family and friends.

I understand not wanting to wear anything nice if you're just going to be in the warehouse all day. But if nothing else you can save your nice outfit for weekends or change into it in the evening, if you want to keep it nice.
posted by Lady Li at 6:08 PM on September 30, 2012 [2 favorites]

The no makeup, old clothes thing doesn't work as you get older.

Huh, I know a lot of guys who don't wear make-up. You sure that's an age thing and not a gender thing?
posted by Mavri at 6:48 PM on September 30, 2012 [11 favorites]

You're right to be concerned about protecting your self-esteem. However, I'd like to suggest that it's possible that stepping up your appearance just a bit will improve your self-esteem.

I'm 51. I spent literally decades in jeans and t-shirts, ripping out plaster and shoveling compost. I lived in a liberal US town where grubby was the standard look. All I did was keep my eyebrows tidy and occasionally shave my legs, and I wore a bra only if my shirt was too thin.

Then I moved to a city in Mexico, and my new friends (individually, without knowing each other) all suggested repeatedly that I needed to dress in ways that took more advantage of my femaleness if I wanted to fit in. I ignored them because I associated dressing "girly" with being weak and caving to stereotypes, but I also started to wonder if they were a little embarrassed to be seen with me.

Then my Mexican boyfriend, who I respect and who respects me, made the same suggestion in a carefully worded but painful discussion, and I reluctantly let him take me shopping and let his sister apply a tiny bit of makeup. My boyfriend took "after" pictures to show me the change, which was dramatic, especially considering the modicum of effort we put into it.

Now I'm sold, because here, at least, a woman who "takes care" of her appearance has more power. When I dress up just a bit, I'm chingona. I am mighty, not girly. I'm proud to go out and to be seen. I get better service. I get compliments from friends and strangers. When I was grubby, I was never proud -- I was invisible.

All it took was a little pencil or powder in my eyebrows to give them some oomph and clothing that shows my shape more. This requires a well-fitting bra, which took awhile to find, but the clothing itself appeared rapidly, thanks to my boyfriend's enthusiastic help with shopping.

On special nights, I add some drugstore eyeliner and maybe some lipstick. A touch of concealer takes care of a reddish blotch on my face. That's it. It takes ten minutes, including putting in the contacts I bought when the "after" pictures showed how I look without my glasses. I have a hairstyle that just needs to be brushed.

My nails are clean and trimmed, not painted. I don't give a hoot about perfume or jewelry or any of those other fussy details. I put on something dark and shapely, and if I want an extra burst of power, I put on moderate heels (boots, in fact!), and I head out the door.

During the day, I'm in lightweight jeans and a cotton v-neck shirt, but they're much more form-fitting than the clothing I used to wear, and if there's a rip or stain that can't be fixed, I replace the item.

So the next time someone suggests a change, you might say, "Okay, let's try something. You take me to the store and I'll try on what you suggest. You can put a little bit of makeup on me, too. Then we'll take a picture, and I'll decide if I like what I see." Because you might like it, and it might even make you feel stronger.

And if you don't like it, at least you showed you were willing to take their suggestions seriously, and you can make clear once and for all that you don't see any reason to change.
posted by ceiba at 7:00 PM on September 30, 2012 [4 favorites]

While I'm firmly in the camp that you should do as you like, I also love ceiba's idea. Let them put their money where their mouth is. If they're not willing, then they need to drop the subject, because it's just nagging. If they do, and you like it, then hey, you've got a new outfit.

Be yourself, girl. What you do during the day gives you much more satisfaction and power than what many other woman do with their lives. I imagine it would never occur to you to worry about another woman's dress, hair, clothes. Some of us graduated high school and moved on.

The no makeup, old clothes thing doesn't work as you get older. It looks like you may be afraid to grow up and face the future.

I'm calling bullshit on this one. Of twenty women that I socialize with, a good ten of them NEVER wore or now wear makeup. I've tried it; it's a PITA and makes me break out; and frankly, since 1/2 the human race doesn't have to wear it, why should I? The other ten women wear make up to parties, to work, or for formal occasions--they don't leave it on after work or put it on to ride horses, go for pizza, or to impress anyone. Fifteen of these women are endurance or trail riders: strong, healthy independent women who can work hard, play hard, and know their own mind. The other five don't have horses in common, but they all relate to the natural world and are women who know their own power. None of us are afraid to grow up, and none of us fear the future.
posted by BlueHorse at 7:38 PM on September 30, 2012

I second BlueHorse. I believe that makeup is purely optional. I get compliments on my outfits all the time, but I never got into make up. Not even gloss. It's one aspect of female performance I choose not to engage in. Power to those that like it, but ain't for me. I prefer to go the route of quirky earrings and accessories, but even those are optional too. I think what matters the most is finding clothing that fit and flatters, and wearing outfits that are situation-appropriate. It's not necessarily to be femme or fashionable. You can keep it super simple, but just be somewhat neat and presentable.

The You Look Fab blog has some great tips for basic dressing-yourself advice. How to dress your body type, how to dress for a job interview, how to dress for a funeral, or what to wear to a date. Knowledge of trends is not necessary, just knowledge of some basics that should be good for the next 10 years pretty much.
posted by Hawk V at 8:53 PM on September 30, 2012

I kinda want to caution against the style blogs - they are so fucking trite and facetious that after getting sucked into the archives I want to pull my hair out.

That said I did realise that I have all of the usual '10 essentials' now, apart from the trench (inappropriate for my climate and lifestyle) and white shirt (inappropriate given my laundry habits and income).

I'm 31 and most of this came in the past two years. It's been something like a concious choice, but one I made to make this kind of shit easier. It's easier to go to something a little 'swank' if I have a plain black dress that makes me look good. A blazer makes any outfit kinda stylish (jeans and a tee? Great! Hoodie and sneakers? Awesome! Pencil skirt and cardigan? Still awesome!). The plain black dress and blazer were both from my sister who is the usual suspect with "you dress like ass" comments. I basically put her on the spot one day and she stepped up and basically gifts me all of her clothes when she does her quarterly wardrobe cull. She's stylish so it's not junk, but she's an inveterate clothes horse so there is usually HEAPS to go through.

We avoid the hurt feelings of 'you don't like it' by rarely going through it together.

Makeup and stuff I try and get a haircut/trim every so often and brush it into a bun rather than a ponytail - I also put some eyeliner in the outer corners, face powder and lip gloss on when I'm going 'out'. It's enough makeup to make them think you're wearing it, without being labour intensive (I can do it at stoplights) or irritating. I buy it at the supermarket and only stuff that's on sale.

You can get a similar effect going through op shops/sales but fuck me that's a drain. I would much rather just say to the douches being douchey "Fine, you keep an eye out and buy it for me if you think it's so vital" and then let it be.

Don't be afraid to tell them what the priorities are as well. My family know my feminist leanings, they know I would much rather be reading/writing than shopping and I have hidden my reactions to it less and less as I've gotten older. If they don't think the gardening and home improvement are priorities they will think that you're just using them to fill in the time that could be used for shopping and socialising.

So, in short, there are some basic fashion/makeup things you can do to fool them into thinking you're making an effort (my picks would be eyeliner, coloured lip gloss, hair in a bun/bobby pins, a blazer, nice jeans and non-sneakers) but you can call them on it. Because they are total dicks. Tell them, explicitly, that shopping/beauty is not a priority; but if they are so concerned they can give you X for Christmas/gifts/whatever (that does bring in some obligations though, so maybe as a last resort).

All in all I do these things because I know I am playing the game. I want to be taken seriously by a boss who wears heeled shoes while gardening and wore pants three times the whole two years I worked with her, so I wore a little makeup and a skirt to performance reviews. The same way I wear nerdshirts to certain things, or certain styles to visit certain people. It's a game and I choose to play in a way I am comfortable with - enough to fly under the radar but not so much as to impact on sleep or money.
posted by geek anachronism at 11:18 PM on September 30, 2012

I always hated that too. My go-to conversation killer when it's about something I find offensive in any way is "Thank you for the feedback." and then moving on - absolute refusal to engage on the topic shuts down the conversation.

OTOH, if many people are saying this to you, you may want to take a look at your look as it is right now and see if you do want to figure out some ways to up it a little bit. It happens, we all get complacent and after a while it reads as being in a rut. No big deal.

That being said, I just spent a fabulous 6 hour day hosting a clothing swap at my apartment. I invited about 30 women friends of varying sizes, who brought the clothes they were looking to get rid of. (Pro tip: make sure to invite the friends whose taste you most admire.) We potlucked snacks and drinks, drank mimosas and lots of wine, shopped in my living room, gave each other honest opinions about the things we tried on, and everyone walked away with a TON of new-to-them stuff that they really liked.

My haul today included a few dresses and tons of tops, three pairs of brand new slacks (tags on!) that fit me like a dream, a couple of handbags, a pair of comfy flats, and (squee!!) a gorgeous fall weight navy blue pea coat that fits me like it was made for me. And of course, nothing cost a dime. So perhaps you could organize something like this for you & your friends, for a little wardrobe boost that will fit your budget.
posted by deliciae at 11:21 PM on September 30, 2012

Okay, something bugs me here.

Let's just assume that it's correct to interpret the poster's question as "my family and friends are pressuring me to dress better and wear make-up; I wouldn't mind doing this but I work a difficult job and have many other responsibilities, so it makes me feel stressed, insecure and inadequate when they ask me to do something that I just literally do not have the time and energy for. Appearance is pleasant, but it is last on my list because I do not care strongly and I have a LOT on my plate."

So I feel like a lot of the responses are basically "here is an easy way for you, individually, to try harder! the people in your life just want you to show you care by taking on another responsibility! if you buy these inexpensive things and do these quick things, you can do what they want!"

It just seems like people are saying that the OP is alone in her life, that she needs to step it up in order to be the Total Woman regardless of what others around her are doing. There's this sort of Oprah/radical-individualist strain of thinking in modern life that worries me - it's basically "if you want it badly enough, you can bootstrap your way into anything at all, and if you don't succeed it's because you aren't prioritizing correctly or don't want it enough." Not only is this really individualistic, it's rooted in the idea that we really can have it all, regardless of external financial or social factors.

Why should this be on the OP? Her family and her boyfriend want her to dress up. She's apparently broke and frantically busy. Her boyfriend could say "hey, I know you want some more time for sleep, self-care and appearance, so I'm going to walk the dogs and do more chores so that you have extra time. And your mom and I would like to take you clothes-shopping at your birthday, in addition to buying you the regular [present] that you really needed and wanted." If her family and boyfriend don't have the time or the money to support her in doing this thing that they apparently are hassling her to do (and that we are assuming for the sake of argument the OP is into) then they need to accept that it is not happening right now.

The OP has no time and money. People in her life want her to take on another responsibility, making her feel frustrated and overwhelmed. So the people in her life need to step up and share time and money with her. If there's no extra in anyone's life, they need to get real about what is possible and shut their yaps. Far, far too often we frame women's real lack of time, money and energy as one more failure to be hacked - the problem isn't the lack of time or the persistent demands that the woman make everyone happy, the problem is that the woman hasn't figured out the work-smarter-not-harder way to meet everyone's needs. Fuck, as has been said upthread, that noise.
posted by Frowner at 5:03 AM on October 1, 2012 [6 favorites]

Her family and her boyfriend want her to dress up.

That wasn't my reading of the situation (though obviously the only people who know for sure are the ones who are there). I read it as multiple people in her life are telling her that her clothes are actively unflattering, not that they should be fancier.

It's not so much "please wear a hot little dress" as it is "please don't wear those pants that went out of fashion eight years ago."

People in her life want her to take on another responsibility, making her feel frustrated and overwhelmed. So the people in her life need to step up and share time and money with her.

This I completely agree with, along with the suggestion above to, when people make these comments, ask them to take her shopping, buy a sample outfit, etc, and assess the results. The people in her life are already stepping up by saying directly that something isn't right (which is not an easy thing to do); I agree that they may need to take it a step further and help in solving the practical issues at hand. (Namely, that clothes and hair need to be appropriate for long hours in tough conditions both at work and at home; that budget and time are both limited; etc.)
posted by Forktine at 6:00 AM on October 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

The issue with your boyfriend is between you and him, either he accepts you for who you are, or you agree to compromise a bit to keep him.

As far as your parents and anybody else, now's the perfect time in your life to tell them to keep their opinions to themselves.

I'm 25 and often notice I still regularly wear clothes I had in high school. I wear clothes until they wear out, not until they go out of style. Different strokes for diff folks... find a boyfriend who strokes like you, but the fam just needs to butt out.
posted by el_yucateco at 11:17 AM on October 1, 2012

The OP has no time and money. People in her life want her to take on another responsibility, making her feel frustrated and overwhelmed. So the people in her life need to step up and share time and money with her. If there's no extra in anyone's life, they need to get real about what is possible and shut their yaps. Far, far too often we frame women's real lack of time, money and energy as one more failure to be hacked - the problem isn't the lack of time or the persistent demands that the woman make everyone happy, the problem is that the woman hasn't figured out the work-smarter-not-harder way to meet everyone's needs. Fuck, as has been said upthread, that noise.

I just wanted to say, for all the 'yay blazers, try some eyeliner' I really really do agree with that.

And I was reminded of it yesterday when I was gussying up for a slightly important catch up with a potential supervisor. To get from where I usually am to something more put together, more 'adult' looking I did the following:

  • waxed my eyebrows (DIY - I had the wax on hand, and the tweezers, and the experience that says do not firmly smooth large lumps of wax over your eyebrows)

  • tweezed the leftovers, as well as the general dark hairs on my face/neck
    washed my hair

  • styled my hair (all pulled back into a sockbun - took probably five or ten minutes all up, no product and no heat, but I've done it many times before and I had the sock, the billion bobby pins and the hairties)

  • wore an outfit that I've been told makes me look like something out of a swanky ad (black skinny jeans, black tee, cons and a black and white stripey scarf) (jeans were my sister's originally, the tee was from a cheapo store, the cons are imitations from a department store and the scarf is a desperate attempt to not waste fabric on a failed shirt)

  • wore makeup (BB cream I'd bought on the advice of a friend - I picked it up while waiting for a bus, eyeliner, lip gloss, powder)

  • That was before the event. After I had to wash the makeup off and deal with the black cruddy gunk you get in the corners of your eye with makeup. It means my nice clean facewasher goes straight in the wash because it's streaked with makeup and black. It means I might break out in a few days. It means my eczema on my scalpline is acting up already. I had to clean up from the waxing and the tweezing. I didn't have to fuss with my hair but if I'd put product in it I probably would have had to wash it again as well (I usually wash it once or twice a week in an effort to settle the eczema).

    As simple as it seems, and as deadset simple as I make that routine, it is built on experience (the hair thing and the eyeliner particularly). It's built on already owning that stuff, or having made it, or having taken a chance. And it's a solid 20 to 30 minutes and at least $80 ($20 to buy all the hair/face stuff, another $10 for the wax, $50 for the outfit). I had it on hand because I need hairties and bobby pins, and I wax my legs, and those are the clothes I wear normally/naturally (just styled differently). Going in new? I don't know that it would be worth it in the least. Not for the minimal effect.

    Although the lack of bitching from people is pretty awesome.
    posted by geek anachronism at 10:28 PM on October 2, 2012

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