"ANOTHER selfie showcasing her meticulously made up face and perfectly messy hair?"
"How does she even wear those shoes anywhere? They're so impractical."
There I was. Encased in my standard uniform of yoga pants and giant, shapeless T-shirt they were giving away at the county fair circa 2009, inhaling the kids' leftover Valentine's Day candy, judging other moms via their blogs. The very same thing I complain that people do to me. The sassy moms and my perception of their lifestyles even prompted me to make what I now view as a somewhat sanctimonious video wherein I (proudly?) proclaim how ugly I look and messy my bedroom is, basically explaining how I "keep it real" which, now seems to me, is very effectively keeping it way less real than the pretty people I was bitching about.
Thing is, I really enjoyed looking at the pretty blogs. I liked seeing beautiful photos of happy families whether staged or not. Yes, yes, I realize there's a fine line between focusing on the positive and sharing those moments as opposed to pretending life is always amazing. But still... When did I decide that looking like shit is keeping it real?
So I thought and thought and thought about why I reacted so strongly about someone showcasing the beauty of life whether through lovely photos of their homes, gorgeous clothes or adorably dressed kids and I realized something:
I'm jealous. Plain and simple.
Jealous that these moms manage to look pretty and stylish even though many of them have more kids than I do. Jealous that they seemingly know how to decorate a room in that way that looks like some HGTV star popped in for tea and decided to quickly renovate the kitchen in the process. Jealous that they manage to dress their children stylishly instead of shoving their kicking legs in whatever sexist Garanimals piece is least dirty.
I want to look pretty too, I realized... And then my whole life/motherhood theory exploded.
Basically I have long held the mistaken belief that some of the qualities of a good mom include bitching about how harassed you feel, exaggerating and joking about how put upon moms are, how tired we are, how little we're sleeping, how showering and getting out of yoga pants is worthy of celebration, how managing to put on a dash of make-up is a victory. You know, because we're moms and that's the hardest job in the world and martyr, martyr, martyr...
All those things are true, showering may very well be a victory and moms are totally put upon, but somewhere along my motherhood journey I decided that ditching fashion and make-up made me more real. I think my Buddhist notions got all tangled up in there as well. The idea of ditching material things and focusing on my inner self, which is all well and good but I totally forgot that looking good on the outside helps me feel better on the inside.
I blame blogging too. When we all started blogging we were understandably thrilled to discover other moms who were also struggling with the myriad of difficulties that come with parenting instead of pretending their kids are better than ours (like the previous generation seemed to do) and so we bonded and celebrated and wrote missives pretty much calling our kids assholes. And we thought it was hilarious and great because kids can be huge assholes and, like popping a zit festering on your chin for days, it was such a relief to get it out!
The more posts we published about the horror that is parenting, the more we admitted that kids can be such assholes the better we felt. As opposed to pre-blogging days when everyone pretended they had it totally together in public and fell apart behind closed doors, it was such a relief to realize that you weren't the only parent who didn't know how to parent, that, in fact, nobody knows how to parent, that we're all just making it up as we go.
But we went too far, I think. We're still going too far. We continue to showcase the assholery of our children with barely restrained glee. We joke about how we wear our pajamas all day as if it's some kind of badge of honor, we reveal intimate details about our bodies that, quite frankly, I'm tired of reading about. Don't get me wrong, I'm verrrry guilty of this and I do enjoy a good post-birth mangled vagina joke as much as the next gal. Plus it can be therapeutic to realize you aren't the only one dealing with an unrelenting case of nipple hair but, as I'm learning, a little mystery never hurt anyone either. Additionally, a focus on the positive side of parenting, showcasing the beauty, can be as helpful to yourself and others as reveling in the negative in some mistaken notion that you are "keeping it real."
I stopped wearing make-up, stopped shopping for new clothes, pretty much ignored fashion and ultimately looked like shit. For years now I've looked terrible 95% of the time. And while I did it I told myself I was a better person for not concerning myself with the superficial, wasn't wasting money on pricey clothing, cosmetics and shoes and was even teaching my daughter what is truly important in life. In the process I turned into a ghost of my former self. Especially now that I work from home. No make-up, hair always slicked into a shapeless ponytail, gray or black yoga pants, t-shirts and gym shoes whether I managed to make it to the gym or not.
But looking like shit wasn't my only crime. I actually felt a kind of superiority towards women who concern themselves with such things because they seemed frivolous, materialistic and silly. As if looking nice is somehow done at the cost of being a good parent when, in actuality, looking good helps you feel good and may lead to better parenting. Although, when I made the aforementioned video I was coming from a good place, trying to say that it's really hard to be a mom and get shit done and still look good so it's okay if you don't look smashing all the time.
But what I neglected to reveal, what I wasn't aware of until after making the video, was how shitty "keeping it real" makes me feel about myself. What I've learned in the past month of dressing up and wearing make-up - if only a dash of bright lipstick - is that there is nothing frivolous or materialistic or silly about self-confidence and feeling good. It's a fact: feeling good on the outside helps us feel good on the inside. No matter how much the feminist inside my head doesn't want to believe it, the old saying about how lipstick can make you feel better is true. To a degree. It's not going to make your kids behave or give you more hours of sleep at night but taking twenty seconds to slather on a quick coat can make a huge difference in your mood.
So now, instead of ignoring how I look and pretending like not caring about my appearance means I'm somehow keeping it more real than the mom who attempts to look good, I'm making an effort. I'm trying to look hot. Serge certainly hasn't minded. And the look on my daughter's face the first time I emerged with make-up for a date night with dad told me everything I need to know. She did a double-take then stared at me in wonder before saying, "Mommy! You look bee-yoo-tee-full!"
Instead of instinctively launching into my routine about how make up is for fun but ladies don't really need it I simply said, "Thank you! I feel beautiful too!"
Now that I'm wearing make-up on a daily basis I guess I should probably pay someone and get my hair did. Because yeesh.
I am so interested in hearing your thoughts. Where do you fall on the spectrum of caring about style and fashion or even just putting on make-up and nice clothes even though you may not have anywhere to be?
*Note: I've got a new post up on MamaPop about House Hunters and why it's the greatest reality show on television. And if you haven't left a comment to win this beautiful Love Bird art your chances are pretty good. There are only thirty-something comments as of now!