Friday, June 29, 2012

A Beauty Post, Surprisingly, and a Feminism Post, Not Surprisingly

Sometime between age 35 and 40 I became a beautiful woman. I don't know how it happened, but it did. It has something to do with the armor I wear for lawyering - being dressed up some (not necessarily a lot) and wearing makeup looks good on me and I noticed that fact at some point. (Unfortunately, I can't seem to wear heels, anymore, which is too bad, because a short woman in a skirt suit should REALLY wear heels.)

Anyway, so I was counseling someone about something when they expressed surprise at my age and asked me what I used for my skin (aloe vera daily, and mango seed butter from at least weekly if not more). So, a few more years later, I thought I'd answer the question for everyone. I also thought I'd publicly acknowledge something that should be obvious to any feminist contemplating working in a male-dominated field: the decision to conform, and to what degree, to be able to work. To get work, and to be taken seriously while doing it.

When I went from software to software consulting I changed my attire to business wear because I was a _consultant_, which meant I met with business people. No more khaki capris and boat shoes (or whatever they were), because business people will take you more seriously the more you conform to their expectations. So, recognizing this, I conformed. As a strategic decision. I am an INTJ ( and am thus easily capable of ruthless pragmatism. Adhering to people's expectations about communication - visual (dress) and other non-verbal included, was work (oh, yes, it's work), but work worth doing to improve my communication efficiency.

I chose to further conform when I decided to go to law school. So, after that glorious first year in law school of, yes, comfy capris and comfortable shoes, along with delicious blue hair, I began my conformity transition in second year. This was deliberate. I looked at my professors and noted that they were my professional peers, and if I wanted to be viewed as a professional, by them, and persuade them to treat me as a peer, it made sense to look like them - to sling their lingo. Ditto, of course, internships, clinical placements, etc. I went back to being a redhead (thank you and, I use henna and cassia on my hair - naturally ash blonde/brown with some gray - and it looks fantastic with henna, and feels fantastic thanks to their shampoo bars - a must-try if you have a hate-hate relationship with your hair) and started wearing twinsets and skirts to school.

And then there was the makeup question. After wearing CoverGirl for a few years toward the end of my career in software, I switched to mineral makeups as soon as I learned of them, because, damn, I kept breaking out (and in the same damn spots, what is up with that?). And a lot of stuff makes me itch, even Physician's Formula and other stuff advertised as "hypoallergenic". I can't wear mascara because my eyelids itch so much I rip my eyelashes out. So, it was a relief to experiment with various mineral makeups and settle quite happily into a long-term relationship with Ocean Mist Cosmetics, They rock all they way down to replacing a brush that broke, twice. Mineral makeup is good for your skin, and during the winter I'd mix aloe and my mineral foundation together to make a liquid foundation. Because I have great skin - minimal sun damage, pretty good hydration, no acne once I stopped using liquid foundation, I don't need really heavy coverage even though I always liked wearing liquid foundation and still do.

And then I found Eliza Dushku's website,, and a little mention she made of Tarte Cosmetics,, and given that I think she's one of the most beautiful people in the world, I had to check it out.

So, after how many years, I'm suddenly experimenting again. Tarte Cosmetic cheek stains are great, and for summer I love that I have finally, after all these years, found a liquid foundation that includes SPF coverage and DOES. NOT. MAKE. ME. ITCH. I have no idea how, but bless you, Tarte! Finally, non-itchy SPF for my face! And it's a makeup! I've started using their Smooth Operator illuminating serum and mineral foundation from Ocean Mist blended together, and currently use three - 12-hour full coverage Amazonian clay liquid foundation from Tarte, Smooth Operator illuminating serum from Tarte, and Ocean Mist's powder foundation to tweak the color (necessary, at least in summer).

And then, yes, I put on a hat to go out into the sun. And put No-Ad SPF gazillion on my hands.

So, here's the thing: I like the way I look, at this age, at this level of conformity, with my grown-up woman hair length (just off the shoulder well-groomed shag) and my skirts and jackets (and now skirt suits, custom made from, and makeup and my Mineralogie lipstick and now my brand-new Cheerful Cherry lipstick from Eyes.Lips.Face. ( - mineral lipsticks for $5! AWESOME! Do you know how much bad-for-you crap is in most lipsticks? Check out the Safe Cosmetics Compact,, for more info). This is the insidious nature of patriarchy - I get more male approval today than I did 10 years ago - and, being a woman in the patriarchy, I am trained, however unwillingly, to want that approval, even though I've rebelled against and questioned that conditioning all my life.

I'm in my early 40s, now. I'm supposed to be over the hill or something. And yet I got a hell of a lot more action and attention in my late 30s and now than I did in my late 20s and early 30s. What changed? Among other things: I conformed.

It's inexpressibly sad that the fun I am having with playing with my looks (and most recently, nail art, as I'm now a Julep Maven,, *love* the colors) is tainted by the fact that I operate within - and more rigorously conform to - gender and age expectations of a patriarchal society.

The decision to conform in order to play my part as a female attorney, was, in part, a decision to give in to the demands of the patriarchy. I am both a beautiful woman, and a hypocrite. I look down on politicians for compromising too much, but haven't I compromised too much, myself? Pragmatist that I am, I don't hate myself for my conformity. But I do wish I lived in a world where it wasn't necessary.