Something unexpected happened when my oldest daughter turned 16 earlier this month. Beyond the OH MY GOSH SHE’S ALMOST GROWN AND GONE emotions lie something more personal, and more about me than her.
I’ve spent 16 years of my life teaching, guiding, encouraging, correcting this young life. But I’ve also spent 16 years largely putting myself last and taking misguided pride in that fact, somehow silently boasting that of course I’m frumpy and unpolished, I have more important things to do.
I have confidence in my intelligence, my work ethic, in my loyalty, my talents. But I’ve really never had confidence in my appearance. And while some may argue that it’s not politically correct or forward-thinking for a woman to worry about what she looks like in the 21st century, frankly, I disagree. Because it’s slowly been wearing on me (no pun intended) how appearance affects attitude.
Well, it’s time to get my attitude – by way of my appearance – adjusted.
Commence Project “Prettiest Me.”
For the last three weeks I have been researching, experimenting, shopping, trying on, returning, testing, wearing, and comparing all sorts of clothes, products, and beauty regimens. It’s been at turns funny, discouraging, and overall – enlightening. Here now are some of the lessons I have learned. (and feel free to snicker at my learning curve – I’ve been doing that a lot lately)
Beauty is messy. There are glops of things in my bathroom sink that weren’t there before (foundation, creams, etc). I keep wiping or smudging make-up because (as I now realize) I have a terrible habit of touching my face. My bathroom garbage is overflowing with all the tissues, cotton balls, Q-tips, product packaging, and facial cleansing wipes I’ve been tossing out. Who knew beauty and cleaning chores were so directly related?
Beauty hurts my feet. Shopping for clothes, shopping for make-up, taking regular showers (gasp!), brushing twice a day, doing my hair every day, applying make-up every day: these tasks require standing. Lots and lots of standing. It makes my feet hurt! They sell anti-stress mats for kitchens, but do they make ones for the bathroom? Until I find out, I’ve put a towel down in front of my bathroom sink to absorb the weight. There are practically feet-marks molded into it already.
If I can’t find it or see it, I won’t use it or wear it. I’m working against a very lazy nature when it comes to beauty routines, so I’ve created all sorts of strategies to outsmart my lazy self. I bought some really cool suction-cup holders (originally meant for the shower, I think) and stuck them to my bathroom mirror just above my sink. In them I’ve organized all the make-up products I’m using. I also bought a wire stacking shelf (just one) to put over my bathroom sink to hold my brush, blowdryer, facial cleansing wipes, etc. No excuses for me! I also organized my clothes closet so that everything is hanging clearly in one place. Unfortunately, this also relates to the need to consistently do my laundry and get the clothes put away. Which brings us back to beauty and chores. Sheesh.
When it comes to research material for learning the basics of beauty, reality tv has you covered. The TLC show What Not to Wearhas been invaluable to me. That’s because hosts Stacy and Clinton regularly encourage women to dress for their body and for what fits – NOT to worry about size. Pretty happens at a size 2 or a size 22. I have followed many of their tips for finding basic, flattering pieces and have had great success. I also adore Carmindy’s advice on make-up. I found a YouTube video showcasing her steps for a “5 Minute Face,” bought the suggested make-up products (Sally Hensen), and have absolutely LOVED the results. The make-up is easy, light, and leaves me looking refreshed (no small feat on a mom who sleeps about 5 hours a night!). Finally, judge Nina Garcia on the Lifetime show Project Runway is a favorite of mine. She wrote a book called The One Hundred: A Guide to the Pieces Every Stylish Woman Must Own, and I’ve studied the list with great interest and intent. I doubt I’ll ever own all 100, but I’m well on my way to 20 or so, and the pieces have added a lot of depth to my personal sense of style.
Speaking of style…It takes several trips – to several stores – to find all the right pieces to your wardrobe. I have never shopped more in my entire life. I even foresee a trip to the mall in my near future (double gasp!). What I’m finding is that pieces that fit and are the right cut and color/pattern FOR ME are here, there, and everywhere. I have forbidden myself from getting discouraged when I go to one store – or even to just one department in a store – and can’t find what I’m looking for. If you’re a plus-size girl like me, here’s a heads-up on where I’ve actually found some good pieces:
- Walmart, believe it or not. The Just My Size – Women’s Plus Tummy Control Modern Bootcut Stretch Jeans are inexpensive ($18) and flattering. Make sure to buy them in dark wash. I also found a few tops for just $7 that have worked well, though you need to make sure they have a bit of structure (get familiar with terms like “ruching”) or embellishment (and I DO NOT mean sequins!!) and aren’t too thin. I’ve bought far too many boring Walmart tees in my time that end up just being thin and unflattering. By the way, Walmart carries Danskin products that “say” they have plus sizes. I’m not sure who they’re sizing, though, because none of the Danskin products have worked for me. I think the best bet is to stick with brands who are known for carrying true plus sizes.
- Kohl’s – but ONLINE, not in store. The selection of plus sizes in our store is horrible, but online I found a bunch of great – and lovely – deals. You can return online purchases in-store, so I figured why not. I can’t comment on the fit just yet, though, since I won’t get my items until later this week.
- JC Penney. Their Worthington and St. John’s Bay plus size options are actually stylish, and occasionally on a good sale. It’s worth looking! I found some really cute denim (darker wash!) capris and a nice blouse there.
Stores I *hate* in terms of plus size options? Target is my #1 for worst retailer of plus size fashion out there. ABSOLUTLEY PITIFUL. I also have not had any luck with Old Navy plus sizes. I do like Fashion Bug for plus sizes, but there are no stores in a 30 mile radius to me, so they’re out. If you have any other store suggestions for me – and please keep in mind my price point is CHEAP – I’d love to hear them!
You can overcome a cheap, uninspired haircut. I’m not sure when I’ll muster the resolve to pay more than $20 for a haircut (and that includes tip!). Until then, I’ve decided that some hair product and relentless styling can at least camouflage a cheap, uninspired haircut. In fact, I’ve had so many people compliment my new ‘do lately, and I’ve said THANK YOU knowing that I deserve more credit than the woman who cut it. 🙂
Not only can I not write my name with my left hand, I also cannot (neatly) paint nails with my left hand. I got my first ever manicure a couple of weeks ago. What an education! I decided to take my $10 investment (I had no idea manicures could be so cheap!) and try to repeat the process at home the following week. Uh…yeah. I could probably count on five nails just how many times in my life I’ve painted them. It took three tries and a TON of nail polish remover to get my right hand not looking so dang sloppy. It was actually pretty hilarious. I’ve since gotten much better (thanks to some helpful products…like an “oops remover” manicure pen) and am enjoying constantly groomed nails.
Beauty is not about vanity, it’s about discovering and projecting the best of yourself. I don’t want to be the center of attention; when I’m dressed and put together, I don’t think I’m better than anyone else. I’m not fixated on my image, and I’m not fixated on imitating anyone else’s image. This idea of becoming the “prettiest me” has been a journey of self-discovery, and an opportunity to teach myself that it’s ok to take time for myself. And that time is WORTH IT, I am WORTH IT. And to borrow just one more cliché, one thing I would say to any mom interested in setting out on this journey for herself: if I can do it, anyone can.