Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Keeping Up Appearances, My American Version

There is one more thing I am absolutely obsessive-compulsive about...well, probably many more things, but I have this one thing I need to write about.  I have this thing about having my hair and makeup done before any sees me.  Anyone.  My husband.  My kids.  My friends.  Complete strangers. ANYONE. 

Early Christmas morning? I get up EARLIER than everyone else to make sure no camera captures my wake-up/no-make-up look. Going to the gym?  I need to make sure I'm presentable before I perspire.  "Come as you are" invitation?  I'll come as soon as I look like I've freshened up.  My husband surprises me by waking up early?  I duck into the bathroom to at least brush my hair, and brush on a little mascara.  My kids are home for the holidays? I'm the first one in the bathroom to get ready for the day.  I don't even like to wash my makeup off before I go to bed, thinking my poor husband won't be able to handle seeing me without eyelashes and foundation.  I do it, most of the time; but I don't LIKE to do it.  Yes, looks over hygiene.  Disgusting admission, I know.

Guess who I admired most at the hotel's complimentary breakfast this morning?  Not the perfectly coiffed woman in her business suit.  Not the shaven man in his tailored shirt and khakis.  I'm grinning at the folks who can roll out of bed, stay in their jammies, and show up to eat without so much as a comb-through.  WOW. I am in awe.  Anyone who doesn't give a thought to what anyone else thinks is my hero. (MARGARET, you know you are my biggest hero.)

When I see those posts on Facebook, and elsewhere on the internet, of people in public wearing their pajama pants and slippers, or looking a little haphazard in their appearance, I'm quietly cheering them on, envious of their comfort with and acceptance of themselves.  I'm thinking, "You go, girl!"  I couldn't do it; but I'm all for the folks who can!

As I look back at my life, there are a couple of situations that contributed to my obsession.  My mom, for starters, set the example.  She never wore much makeup, but she always had her hair and light makeup ready for the day before starting breakfast for the eight kids.  Always.  And there is one other moment that comes to mind.

When I was a teenager, I was very involved in 4H, student government, sports, and our church youth group.  One typical weekday, I had gotten up early for my at-home seminary studies, finished my last- minute homework, gone to school, hit the gym for volleyball practice, and then piled into the family van to drive the 45 miles to church for our youth group meeting.  As I remember, I had managed to change out of my perspiration-soaked volleyball uniform, but I hadn't had time to do anything about my stringy, sweaty hair.  

When I arrived at my classroom, our leader told us she was going to take our pictures that night to display at church.  I was horrified.  No makeup.  No decent outfit.  Oily, sweaty, stringy, straight hair. Was she serious???  Actually, no, it was an object lesson about making a good first impression. "We never get a chance to make another good first impression."  She was probably tired of us showing up looking like slobs, and not taking the time to attend to our appearance before getting to church.  So the lesson embarrassed me into putting more thought into the way I look.  

As I think back, I'm slightly irritated that my thinking was so severely impacted by that lesson. As a teenager, I felt like everyone was staring at me anyway. I was a good kid, going after life with gusto, with a jam-packed schedule.  I was also very impressionable. My life was go-go-go.  My choices that night were to go to church...or stay home and take a shower.  I wouldn't have made it to church at all if I'd taken the time to get ready to make a good impression.   What I really internalized was that looking good was important.  Looks triumph actions.

That night was a turning point for me.  I have since lived in fear of making a bad impression.  I have set unreasonable goals for myself, and have excused myself from some activities because I didn't have time to put myself together properly.  I worry about everything appearance-related.  Sweating at the gym. Bed head. Pit stains. Blemishes.  Poorly blended makeup.  Stray hairs.  Un-tweezed whiskers.  Spilled drink stains.  Runs in nylons.  I am a psychotic mess about worrying how others see me.

This is one of the reasons having helmet hair gave me such anxiety when we rode our Harley, and when we go cycling.  I like having a hat at the ready to cover my wild tresses, or as the case may be, my very flat, limp hair.  It is also one of the reasons I love trying on hats, and being silly.  I think there is a part of me that tries to overcompensate for worrying about how others see me.  I WANT to be a nonconformist...someone with a laissez-faire attitude...a self-actualized individual.  So I tend to make fun of myself when I feel "less than acceptable" physically.

Here I am, In All My Glory, on an early morning before school when there was a power outage. I blogged about the morning I was in a tailspin about not being able to get ready without hot water and all of my electrical hair appliances.  Just in case anyone saw me that day, and a few did, before I could get to a working electrical outlet at school, I wanted to be the first to laugh at myself. It would kill me if someone else had the first laugh.  The best defense is a good offense; isn't that what they say?  So I posted this pic on Facebook, allowing others to laugh if they would, WITH me; not AT me.  I hoped.

"I am the Crypt Keeper!"
Occasionally, to push myself out of my comfort zone, I take pictures of my scary self in the morning, and send them to my kids.  I'm often trying to de-sensitize myself about my obsession.  It's not like I'm some glamour girl; I just like to make an effort before anyone else sees me.

I can truly appreciate the self-acceptance of others who "tuck and roll," as my husband calls it.  What freedom it must be to give no thought to what others think, to live a life with little regard for looks, to have the confidence that it truly is what's INSIDE that counts.  I believe that, in my heart, I just can't bring myself to live it.  Which means I don't really believe it, doesn't it?

I'm going to challenge myself to "tuck and roll" every once in awhile.  But not this morning. This morning would have been a bad day to experiment with this concept. 

Holy cow, when I woke up, I scared myself when I saw my silhouette in the bathroom mirror.  After a wonderful massage yesterday, there were remnants of almond oil in my hair, and my short hair was sticking straight out from my head.  I couldn't convince my hair to do anything I wanted it to do. It wouldn't even tuck it behind my ears.  So, not today, but someday soon, I'm going to go au naturel, sans makeup, in comfy clothes.  (By the way, I looked up "au naturel." It means "in a natural state; nothing added" besides meaning NUDE.  I do NOT mean  to say that I'm going for a Lady Godiva look.  Just sayin'.)  ( I'm also always worried people will misinterpret my meaning, in case you couldn't tell.)

So today, I salute you who are comfortable in your own skin.  You have my deepest admiration.  I'm going to try to be more like you.  Soon.  I promise.


  1. This is a really good blog piece! Those things that are so hard to admit are the ones that make changes for the better in our lives. Thank you for sharing this, it felt good to read it. I only have one request. The next picture of you, au naturel, should be without the crazy face... that's part of the natural.

    1. Remove my defense mechanism of humor? I'll have to think about that one...I think because I'm having such a visceral reaction to your suggestion, it's probably something I should seriously consider. Ever learning...

  2. Good one, Denise! Really hit home. I think many of us women struggle with this. I am now 58, and am still learning to get "comfortable in my own skin," au naturel. First I started leaving the house without makeup. Then I stopped blow drying my hair. Nowadays, a little blush and lipstick is as good as it gets! It takes something REALLY SPECIAL to make me pull out the mascara. (Gosh, I have to wash it off at night and can't climb straight into bed!)
    I have to agree with Sue, next picture au naturel should be with your beautiful, natural smile. Your beauty radiates from inside, Denise!

    1. Somehow this makeup is my mask. I can't imagine not masking my insecurity. This piece came to light as I was reading The Dark Side of the Light Chasers by Debbie Ford. I realize I have some work to do on myself. This is only the tip of the iceberg. Thank you for your kind words. If I looked like YOU, I wouldn't wear much makeup either!


Thank you so much for stopping by Randomocity. Like most writers, I enjoy interacting with the wonderful people who read what I have to say, so please, if you would like to leave a "blogment," I would love to hear from you!