February 10th, 2016
Intro: I am into giving my opinions on stuff—you might have noticed. When I combined that poverty in grad school and working at a very underused info desk at that same time, you wind up with me on a lot of market-research and focus group mailing lists. I would get free products to try and/or take surveys for money about which products I currently use or would use if they existed, and I attended focus groups with clickers and some very upbeat moderators. I have given my opinion on everything from songs on the radio to feminine hygiene to grocery stores to candy. Sometimes they even ask me about politics! I resigned my major focus-group affiliation a few years back. I regret that a little–$100 for talking about gum for 2 hours–but really at this point in my life I need 2 hours more than I need $100. On the other hand, I continue to do and like the surveys. My recompense is free products and the occasional little cheque in the mail–which is fine, I like the perks and the surveys are a good quick break from more strenuous work.
This is all just background to my new project, which is via Influenster. I don’t even remember where I heard about it or why I wanted to sign up, because I don’t understand the site at all. I remember being interested because oooh, surveys, but after I’d answered hundreds of questions I thought it might never end, and no one seemed to be sending me any prizes, so I gave up. It wanted me to log in via various social media, so I linked it to my Facebook account, but the site kept importuning me to let it post on my behalf, which I kept having to deny (obvs.) I tried to link Twitter, but it was IMPOSSIBLE without agreeing that Influenster could tweet on my behalf. I honestly think no one reads my tweets, but still–that seemed a bit much.
So I gave up on Influenster, but I guess I filled out enough surveys that they felt they understood my interests, because they asked me to fill out another survey to get a Vox Box. I didn’t know what that was but after I got a few more emails all saying the same thing, I went to the site and figured out that a Vox Box is a box full of products to review and voice (vox is Latin for voice) your opinion on via social media, blogs, surveys, etc.
Now we’re talking. So I did the survey and yesterday a big glossy specially designed box came in the mail filled with three full size Loreal Hair Expertise products, plus a brochure proclaiming their benefits. I was very pleased with all of it, though I gave the box to my cats to play in.
Anyway, they are big bottles and the testing period, according to the website last 48 days, though the website strongly implied that I might like to start tweeting about the experience immediately. I did post an “ooh, free shampoo” hashtag post, and then checked out the others using the same tag. Apparently I’m 15-20 years older than most of the other Influensters. I also hadn’t understood that there was so much push for me to post photos of the shampoo bottle and me with the shampoo bottle–who wants to see that? Well, some of the Influensters are very attractive with fab hair , even before the new product, so I guess that is why. I will not be doing that.
Anyway, here’s the day one report. I’ll check in over the 48 days whenever anything interesting happens, hairwise.
My products are the Arginine Resist line: shampoo, conditioner, and spray. It’s for hair that is weak and fragile and falls out easily, which is certainly true of mine, which is all over my apartment and which my roommate (the last one before I started living alone) once found in the fridge. It’s supposed to make your hair stronger by both strengthening the hair shaft and increasing circulation at the root. I didn’t fully understand–it’s interesting how beauty treatments get more and more medicinal sounding the older you get. I wonder how old I’ll have to be before they are palliative, just keeping my hair comfortable until the inevitable end.
Anyway, I normally wash my hair every other day because it’s healthier for the hair according to some, but I hate that, and feel like the swamp thing by the end of the second day, so I’m taking this opportunity to go back to every day washes for a while. I figure if the shampoo/conditioner itself is supposed to be making my hair healthier, I should use it as often as possible. Both looked like generic hair products, white creamy guck with a mild sweet scent, totally unproblematic. My hair felt really great afterwards, but that is often the case for me with new products, any new products. My hair enjoys novelty, apparently, but it wears off in a few days.
The spray, which isn’t hairspray in the usual styling sense, was harder to figure out. I didn’t know if I was supposed to put it on before or after combing, or styling, or what. The instructions on the back are pretty odd and minimal. I put it on first, and it combed through nicely. I debated other styling products, but decided against, to give the Arginine its full chance to shine. After a few minutes there was no smell, and my hair seemed a bit less frizzy than usual. All day long it felt extra soft, though after a few hours it didn’t really look different than on a normal day.
So that was the first day! I suspect this post was really boring, but as I wrote it on a break from various much harder things throughout the day, I thought it was delightful–sorry! I’ll strive to make the other ones at least shorter.
April 20th, 2015
This one is unexpected, no? But it’s true–I love to watch endless videos about the many variations on “the smokey eye” (so many!) and follow various pretty ladies on YouTube as they make themselves slightly prettier over and over again. You’ll note my tone is not entirely serious, because I’m not really sure this obsession (unlike the Fitbit, which is fun and healthy, and Tig Notaro, who is fascinating and inspiring) is doing me any good. I spend a lot of time critiquing these videos, and very rarely actually use the tips they offer. But I can’t stop watching and sometimes I actually learn something useful.
I am actually wearing a good bit more makeup than I used to, too, which is where the video obsession came from. It all started last summer when my friend Wren (whose old blog had apparently disappeared when I tried to link to it just now) asked me to stand up in her wedding. I was very honoured and happy to do whatever she asked, which was originally slated to include doing my own makeup…with smokey eyes! I bought a bunch of stuff and started ardently trying to wear it, mainly to work (oh my lucky lucky colleagues). I was really surprised by how much I like wearing makeup. I don’t have a strong visual sense or very steady hands, so as with every art class I’ve taken, drawing on my face is hard for me. I also don’t have a flawless face, which is what most of the gurus on YouTube use as a basis for makeup art. If you don’t have really clear smooth skin, enormous eyes, and regular features, it seems like it’s really hard to have a successful YouTube makeup channel, completely missing the point that most of us want to wear makeup to fake having those above things we lack.
Why do I wear makeup? Well, that’s an interesting question. For one thing, it’s a fun thing to acquire–I can spend $15 and have a nice little treat. It last a long time, does me no harm, has no calories, and keeps me busy. Friends have commented that I’m sort of over-thrifty–I don’t buy a lot of stuff just cuz. Which is actually a good thing of course, but within reason. It’s nice to have treats, and a makeup habit is actually a lot thriftier than a shoe habit.
What else? Looking better is actually somewhere near the bottom of the list of makeup perks, though of course it’s pleasant when it works out. Anyone who has seen me with much make up on (oh, the poor Mighty J–she’s witnessed some alarming experiments) knows it doesn’t always improve matters. I have yet to master the smokey eye (someone else wound up doing my makeup at that lovely wedding) and thus when I wear eyeshadow it tends to be just a wodge of one colour. All this “creating depth” stuff was obviously covered in a class after I dropped art and joined band, but I am trying. It’s fun to change my appearance, even if not obviously for the better. It’s fun to make my eyes look wider or my lips look…crooked, or bigger, or whatever. I like that makeup makes me more mutable than I thought I was.
Another big bonus about getting into makeup is girl-bonding. I suppose I’m not a typical girly-girl, but I like being friends with all of the girly-girls, so you’ll often find me doing what they’re doing. Oh, the woebegone crafts I’ve made for a similar cause. But there was a whole world of girlfriend-intimacy that was not open to me since university (when doing each other’s makeup was a regular thing) and that was makeup-bonding. As soon as I started asking about eyeliner, I got a bit tighter with a whole set of females I already like.
Let’s get this straight–even the smartest people have goof-off hobbies, so if someone’s is makeup that’s doesn’t make them any shallower or sillier than someone really into video games or archery or whatever. I find the world pretty judgy about lady interests, so I don’t make the distinction that anything is more useless than anything else based on the target gender.
But still, a number of these videos have some unfortunate cultural vibes when you get into these things. The makeup ladies in the videos–as opposed to friends of mine who wear makeup–are really deep down the appearance-alteration rabbit hole. They see 365-day-a-year spray-tan, hair extensions, and eyelash perms as totally normal and often joke about their crippingly long nails or blinding fake eyelashes. Sometimes they still look great, so all the fakery is working, but other times the three inches of dark roots (is this is a thing now in LA?) and orangey spray tan just look…sad. And they’ve spent so much time and money on it, either way–could it possibly be worth it, no matter how nice you look? Who knows.
I like to think I’m a savvy enough cultural consumer that I can avoid internalizing the YOU MUST BE PRETTIER THAN YOU ARE message, but I do sometimes do the thing where I stand two inches from the mirror and tug on my skin until a certain wrinkle or wrinkles pull flat. But then I put on some copper eyeliner (crooked) and my favourite blazing pink lipstick and I feel better. So this is a slightly conflicted post and far too long to say, basically, I like makeup and videos about makeup. Here are some of my faves in the latter category, if you care…
Lisa Eldridge is the real deal–an actual makeup artist instead of someone who likes makeup…not that there’s anything wrong with that, but her technique is a bit more professional and her style more varied than someone who just has to make herself look pretty. Her explanations and tutorials are nice and simple and she is careful to include some reasonably priced product options even though she clearly prefers the high-end stuff. She’s also the Global Creative Director of Lancome Makeup, which means her principal income does not come from her videos, and is thus not so dependent YouTube subscribers and likes as some of the other video makers (it can get a bit depressing when they ask you to subscribe/thumbs up/comment several times in a video).
Kathleen Lights is more typical of the makeup video-istas than Eldridge. A very young, stunningly gorgeous American girl, she simply loves makeup, buys a lot of it, and loves doing her own face up many different ways. What makes Lights stand out is her euphoria–she’s in her early twenties but talks like a jubilant teenager, almost always pretty ecstatic to be alive. She LOVES makeup and her joy is contagious, though all but the simplest of her look tutorials leave me cold–she explains well, but I simply wouldn’t want to look like that. One of her datenight videos featured coal-black eyelids. But it works for her, and she’s fun to watch.
Chrisspy is the only makeup-video person I’ve encountered that is even slightly funny (on purpose funny, that is). She can be a little sarcastic and silly and has also created my all-time favourite makeup video (which will teach you nothing), Little Brother Does My Makeup. So charming! She has also said on-screen that when people tell her that her often heavy and dramatic makeup is not appealing to men, she tells them she doesn’t do it for men, but for herself (her actual response was less g-rated, but you get the idea). I love it, especially since most of these channels are filled with “makeup he’ll love” ideas.
Christen Dominique is a bit less exceptional than the other three. She does very nice, easy to follow tutorials for makeup looks that are a bit too complex for me at the moment but feel achievable enough that I might get there someday. She has a doll-like persona and is clearly trying hard, but in an endearing way. Sometimes her young son appears in her videos, which is sweet, but otherwise she’s not very different from lots of video-makers out there. But she makes the list of faves for her habit of waving with both hands and the fact that, if you watch her recent videos on YouTube you will see her carefully constructed set backdrop contains a copy of Canadian short-story talent’s Spencer Gordon’s collection Cosmo. It’s a great collection by a cool author, but it makes no sense in that context and that is why I love to see it there. A little hint of my main interest while exploring a sideline.
So in short, this is how I rest my brain and beautiful my face when I need to. What silly stuff do you get up to when you just can’t think anymore?
October 3rd, 2013
I am about halfway through Nora Ephron’s I Feel Bad about My Neck, which is largely a funny, silly book about things that don’t matter to me. The food essay was funny, but I don’t think she realizes how rare it is to have both the money and the leisure time to “need” twice weekly trips to the salon. But then, I’m about 20 years younger and a few hundred thou poorer than the target audience for this book, I imagine, so I’m trying to appreciate it for what it is, which is an extremely well-written book. And in passages like this, you see why:
“When I pass a bookshelf, I like to pick out a book from it and thumb through it. When I see a newspaper on the couch, I like to sit down with it. When the mail arrives, I like to rip it open. Reading is one of the main things I do. Reading is everything. Reading makes me feel I’ve accomplished something, learned something, become a better person. Reading makes me smarter. Reading gives me something to talk about later on. Reading is the unbelievably healthy way my attention deficit disorder medicates itself. Reading is escape, and the opposite of escape: it’s a way to make contact with reality after a day of making things up, and it’s a way of making contact with someone else’s imagination after a day that’s all too real. Reading is grist. Reading is bliss.”
Just about sums it all up, doesn’t it?
July 3rd, 2013
I promised ages ago to post some photos of my Thunder Bay Experience, and though that trip, less than a month ago, seems impossibly distant now, I still enjoy looking at these and thought you might too…
And there’s even more, but you get the idea–Thunder Bay is a gorgeous place and you should go look at it if you possibly can.
January 30th, 2013
The Beauty Myth is the 11th book of my overlong 2012 Reading Challenge. Closer every day!
I know, I know–what’s wrong with me? This book came out in 1992 and 20 years later, I’m just getting around to it? In fact, my mom even read it right when it came out, and mentioned that my newly teenaged self might benefit from reading about where the enforced self-consciousness of females in our culture actually comes from. But I wasn’t interested. I did for some reason read Misconceptions when it came out in 2003. It was a fascinating but to me entirely irrelevant accounting of the medicalization–some would say patholisation–of childbirth in our society. It was also astoundingly gory–childbirth is, I guess. At that time, I didn’t know what an episiotomy was, and was much dismayed to find out. It was an eye-opening read.
At this point in history and in my life, *The Beauty Myth* was much less eye-opening. The link above on Naomi Wolf’s website says this book changed how we think about beauty and it’s true–Naomi Wolf’s dense and well-researched, imaginative and forceful treatise has wormed its way into the public consciousness. No one reads advertising or, indeed, models the same way anymore, and I’ve seen countless less-incisive writers spouting her ideas if they were original. They feel original; they feel as if we never didn’t know.
It was very interesting to go back to the source and read about how she investigated this stuff at a time when it just was what it was. But it was also…so earnest! One thing Wolf lacks is irony–her Biblical exegesis is soooo grad school (uglyness as sin), which doesn’t make it less brilliant. But sometimes, her inability to see pneumatic breasts and $100 skin cream as a humourous gets a little tiresome. I guess, too, I have the luxury of vantage point–Wolf didn’t know the near future would turn out the way it did. She assumed a woman’s ideal breast size would just keep getting bigger until we couldn’t walk upright, when in fact the ideal is now smaller but firmer, a la Megan Fox. Who knew?
So the reasons I don’t entirely relate to the book are various–20 years of distance and irony, the fact that I’m not exposed to a tonne of media–but intriguingly, the chapter that really resonated with me was the last one, “Violence.” I don’t know what I was expecting–domestic violence, I guess, which doesn’t really suit the context at all. It turns out that that chapter is about plastic surgery, and as in Misconceptions Wolf spares no sensibility in her gory evocation of how it really goes down.
Some of her panic is justified–in the late 80s and early 90s, women were dying from complications from liposuctions, breast implants were having to removed because they’d “gone rigid”–early plastic surgery was not a good scene. But it’s also improved greatly since the book was written, as all medical technologies do–she must have known that would happen. And also, though there’s always going to be a market for this sort of thing, most people actually don’t get their faces and bodies reconstructed. They don’t even think about it.
I was thinking this and then I realized…I did! I don’t think of it that way, because I was told by doctors that my jaw misalignment would eventually destroy the joint and therefore I needed the operation…but the fact remains that it was the same surgery many women have to look better. I’m always way too eager to explain I didn’t do it for cosmetic reasons, but the fuller story is a bit more complex. When I first began preparing for the operation, nearly 2 years out, they didn’t tell me I’d look different, and for some reason it didn’t occur to me that moving my jaw around would change my appearance. I found out when I was already well into the process and the surgeon, who was proud of his aesthetic successes, was disgusted that I didn’t want to be “improved.”
“Well, you don’t look normal now, you know,” he snapped. Now I think about what a weird statement that is–the ideal is not the median, and people with perfect faces are definitely not “normal.” Then I was just horrified. Anyway, he was extremely aggressive about persuading me that there was no non-stupid way to correct my medical problem without correcting my cosmetic “problem” to. I cried, but my jaw really hurt and I’d been preparing for the operation for a year. I didn’t research what I was told or try to dissect how much of the surgeon’s medical reasons were actually just a patholization of imperfection. I agreed to the operation, whatever it took.
I think that’s what Wolf was afraid of. Not that women walking down the street feeling good about ourselves will see a Botox poster and feel our self-esteem shatter, but that how self-perpetuating the beauty industry is, how proselytizing. It was strange for me, reading the book, not to get it and then to get it exactly.
*The Beauty Myth* is not a fun read, although unlike many academics Wolf writes with clarity, concision, and occasionally real beauty. It took me nearly 3 months to read it, and I stopped in the middle to read Bridget Jones’s Diary and Bossypants among other things, because it was just too sad for Christmastime. But it was instructive reading nonetheless and I feel good to have read it. Because far as we’ve all come in reading media for the commercial, coercive enterprise that it is, apparently we (or at least I) can still be stunned by an attack in the name of beauty. And it’s worth thinking about why.
For the record, I don’t look that different now, unless you’re one of the people who think I look very different. It depends on how you look at faces, I guess. I think I look fine and my new face is now entirely my face–I relate to it. However, although I know have a “perfect” ratio of space between my nose and upper lip, and lower lip and chin (seriously–I was told there’s a number), I still miss my old face, which was longer and seemed narrower. I believe Kathrine Mansfield would’ve called it “horsey” but it was mine and I always rather liked it.
October 30th, 2008
I was interviewed by the intrepid Nathaniel G. Moore on Danforth Review and you can read the result. This morning I came quite close to walking into a skunk, but we both emerged unscathed. I have realized that I can avoid burning the tops of my ears while blowdrying by setting the dryer to a lower temp and drying for longer. This is a boring way to spend 10 minutes, hanging upside in one’s bra holding up the hairdryer, but it’s worth it, I guess.
Also, although I still waste way too much time obsessing about minutiae of etiquette, dress, diet, and dialogue, I realized whilst hanging upside-down today that I no longer care about enlarged pores, furniture, celebrity gossip or whether the person whose hand I’m shaking has a cold. So that *is* progress.
All the girls say
October 15th, 2007
Another thing I’ve gotten behind on is reporting my count-down to the Great Becky Brace-Off, which is on *Friday* if you can believe it. Though you haven’t been seeing it here, I’ve most definitely been thinking about it, to the point at which my lunchmates are surely sick of me looking enviously at their handheld fruits and telling of my plans to have my own soon. Perhaps you are sick if it, too. Other things I am looking forward to include:
–the end of the teeny elastic bands that I must use to wire shut my mouth every night. Those things, in addition to being hard to apply when one is very tired, *hurt*, as well as look stupid and make it very hard to talk, post-application.
–ease of applying lipstick increased by the fact that I will soon be able to press my lips flat over my teeth, and press hard with a lipliner. I use lipliner about twice a year, and for costumes at that, but this incidence may go up for the sheer pleasure of being able to do it.
More to come!
Asleep or dead?