The #nomakeupselfie is still a beauty contest. And I’m not playing.

I was nominated three or four times for the #nomakeupselfie. The women who nominated me are wonderful people (this has nothing to do with them), but I have to be honest: for the first time in a long time, I felt insecure about my face. 

This was weird for me. I like my face–it’s not perfect, but it’s mine. I like sometimes dressing it up with makeup. I like washing it off before bed. And I’m usually on board with the idea that “everyone is beautiful just the way they are.”

But suddenly, uncomfortably, my face needed to “get naked” to prove it.

What’s worse, I would have to “get naked” online, plastered alongside everyone else. They looked so pretty in their well-posed no makeup selfies–good lighting, good angle, right time of day. Meanwhile, I was sleep deprived and had a couple massive chin breakouts. If I supported “natural beauty” (and cancer research, apparently?), I needed to find a way to take an attractive looking picture of myself without makeup. In fact, I needed to do it within 24 hours. My typical confidence, my knowledge that skin clears up, my comfort with and without makeup–it all buckled once the expectation hit me.

Just like that, a well-intended “natural beauty” project quickly became an intimidating unofficial “natural beauty” contest.

Being free of makeup doesn’t free us of our desire to be beautiful on society’s terms–if it did, we wouldn’t care about the “likes” on our #nomakeupselfies. We wouldn’t be complimenting each other’s naked faces, we wouldn’t have taken 40 snapshots before finding a so-called natural photo that makes us feel pretty. Creating a “go naked or go home” regulation doesn’t really do much but suggest that if you don’t look and feel good without makeup, something is wrong with you and your self-perception. It doesn’t remove expectations of “beauty,” but adds to them: now you have to achieve these standards au naturel or you’re not “real.”

That seems wrong to me.

It’s easy for a healthy, attractive 20-something girl with flowing hair to take a #nomakeupselfie and claim that she’s promoting natural beauty. But we’re totally kidding ourselves if we think that posting pictures of these women being beautiful without any “aids” will in any way encourage those who are truly overwhelmed by society’s expectations.

Like, say, the transgendered woman who uses makeup to express her identity. Or the burn victim who prefers to cover up scars. Or even the cancer patients so unwittingly tied up in this trend–cancer patients whose treatments radically change their appearance, and who are often helped astronomically in the morale department by tools like wigs, makeovers, spa treatments, and friendships in the “beauty” community.  People shouldn’t be demeaned for finding comfort in these therapies. Who decided that beauty is only “real” if it’s “natural”?

I call bullshit. Beauty is “real” if you say it is. If, for you, that involves walking around with no makeup on, completely embracing physical signs and symptoms of whatever you have going on, then mad respect. But if that involves a little lipstick, or a post-chemo wig…who am I to judge that?

Perhaps my friend Niki said it best in her post on the subject: “The challenge we should be issuing isn’t “Real women” or “no make-up” (because that also assumes that only women face appearance pressures), the challenge we should be issuing is “What Makes You Happy.” Nevermind changing society, change you – do what makes you happy.”

A high majority of women (upwards of 97%) say that looking good makes them feel good. I’m not going to argue that this is wrong or bad, and I’m certainly not going to deny this to people who are struggling with their health. It is not up to us to judge or police how someone looks or feels good. People should be allowed to reject or conform to “normalized” concepts of beauty and gender if they so choose.

And either way, I don’t see how the #nomakeupselfie challenges any of those conceptions by replacing lipstick with good lighting and suggesting that it is “different” or “abnormal” to take a picture of yourself without makeup. As an example, here’s a selfie I took on a completely unrelated occassion:

 

nomakeup

If this is beautifulit’s probably partially because I was happy/excited/exhausted…but also because the angle was good, because my hair was styled in a messy ponytail, and because I took like 20 pictures before finding one I liked. There are other pictures that could be considered “beautiful” because I decided to use my face as canvas, and still others which aren’t particularly “beautiful” at all, depending on your definition. That’s okay. My pictures aren’t me. They are 2 dimensional pieces of art that I create to capture a moment. They don’t define my worth.

And I won’t be entering them in any beauty contest.

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In Defence of Playing Dress Up

Lately, I’ve been thinking about my makeup habits a lot.

Why do I wear this stuff? How I justify hauling a “mask” of sorts around town? What am I trying to prove? What am I trying to hide? 

While sometimes the answer is “Um, obviously you’re trying to hide that pimple, Shauna,” I have realized that these questions as a whole are flawed. My makeup isn’t really a mask.

IMG_8802Story time.

Growing up, my mother rarely wore makeup. She was a low-maintenance country girl and, perhaps more importantly, she had four little people to look after. I was the oldest of these, and the only girl.

On very special occasions, my mother would unleash the mystical cosmetics bag. I would watch, fascinated, as she expertly curled her lashes and powdered her face with whatever-that-stuff-was. She would share her eye shadow with me (just a little bit, just for fun) and I would giggle as I buried my little feet in her size-8 shoes.

Dress up was one of my favourite games.

My day-to-day makeup free momma was no more or less beautiful than the date night version, and she was certainly no more or less my momma. Still, I really dug the special-occasions grooming process. I loved watching my mother ceremonially draw on her face before leaving us with the babysitter. Once, in one of my most embarrassing moments ever, I even stole red nail polish from my her bathroom and tried to use it as lipstick.

(Wait. Let’s just take a moment to reflect on how stupid that was.)

Fast forward through a few face paint faux pas and the turtleneck-centric middle school years, and I found myself in the dress up big leagues. High school meant my choices were endless and personal. It also meant that the factors influencing those choices were complicated. I had more self to express, more peers to please, more categories and clothes and I finally got my ears pierced. 

So I shaved my head, then dyed my hair brown for awhile. I went through everything from au naturel months, to questionably bold colours, earthy tones, pinkish glows, red lipsticks. I wore cowboy boots. I wore sneakers. I wore huge hoop earrings and tiny necklaces. I stole (borrowed?) my mother’s nail polish once again, and actually managed to finally use it right.

This was dress up. This was the same game my mother played when she got ready for a night on the town. The same game I played as a giggly little kid, stumbling around in mom’s shoes with 20 different barrettes falling out of my hair. 

…and it’s the game I play now, as I try on my third outfit and rush through my current eyeliner-infused routine each morning.

And so the questions follow:

Why do I keep playing this game? Am I trying to be something I’m not?

Hardly.

Actually, as I look back on my life, it appears to be quite the opposite: Dress up isn’t about denying who I am. It is a part of who I am.

Is part of the motive to look pretty? Of course it is. I felt pretty in my twenty barrettes when I was five, in my vintage earrings and cowboy boots at 16, and in my big-kid makeup yesterday. No, I don’t believe I owe it to anyone to be consistently attractive (though for some people that’s a thing, and it shouldn’t be). I just believe that feeling pretty feels good. work really freakin’ hard to be beautiful on the inside (not sure if that’s a weird/vain thing to say), so sometimes it’s nice to feel like my face is a part of that. 

Do I try to look pretty for other people sometimes? Of course I do (‘sup, hormones?). But I also try to act nice and be funnier and listen better. Highlighting your best qualities isn’t a bad thing. And getting your game face on (literally) isn’t a bad thing either, not really.

Dress up doesn’t have to be about changing who we are. It can be about expressing and highlighting who we are, where we are, how we are. We just have to own the game.

You’re allowed to wear whatever makes you most comfortable. If that means sweat pants (helloooo Thursday night Netflix!), then great. If that means covering blemishes and highlighting features with a so-called mask of colours and chemicals, then cool.

As for me? Well, I’m just going to stick with what dress up means to me today: Reddish lipstick, blue jeans, and unmatching socks.

IMG_0793(2)Classy is as classy does, folks.

I Don’t Know What “Home” Means…But I Think it Involves Dollar Store Tinsel

One of my friends/readers tweeted me some really great blog requests for December:


Her bonus points didn’t last long. The suggestions were rad, of course, but I soon realized that she had spelled #shaunanagins wrong. And that I had spelled #shaunanagins wrong. I’m not going to even point out the irony in that.

The reason these were really great requests, besides that they fit into the student-sized Homestyle portion of this blog, is because I totally know this stuff. I love this stuff. I’m all over the gift-giving and decorations, especially in the homemade/reasonably priced department. This is something my requesting friend knows well. It’s something that You probably know well, too, if You’ve been reading the blog for awhile.

Okay, that’s nice and all, but…WHY? Why am I so into this stuff? Am I  really a future Pinterest mom?  I crash on couches!  I take the bus!  I crave chicken wings! I wear my scarves as shirts! I’m wearing mismatched Green Bay Packers socks RIGHT NOW, and the classiest thing I’ve done all month is *try* to walk in stilettos.

This is what the kids call “swag,” right?

All that may be true. But it’s also true that I love red lipstick and wedding shows and lingerie. I make a mean homemade lasagna.  I wear my scarves as shirts (yes, this fits into both categories). I have personally hosted a fondue party. And, of course, I have a blog that shares recipes and decoration tips on a weekly basis.

I have no kids to keep alive. Does this mean I have time to make soap?

I actually relate to both of the women on this meme.  There probably will be a day where my mismatched NFL socks and I will attempt to make soap.  It will probably be very messy. Reindeer-shaped treats are on the December agenda, but this will DEFINITELY be messy. And, no surprise, my friend/reader wants me to blog about homemade gifts and decor. Messy or not, she knows exactly how down Shaunanagins is for that kind of content.

But WHY?

I think I need to address why decorating and getting into the season is so important. I know that it can be regarded as materialistic, or frivolous–after all, having “stuff” that you don’t technically need to survive is involved, which at least makes it a luxury. I get that. But despite my many, many flaws (recall: *trying* to walk in stilettos), I do not think my desire to decorate is one of them. It’s not a bad thing. Or even a frivolous thing, really.  It’s creative and it brings people together–if it’s done right, at least.

Decoration isn’t a status symbol. It’s not a red, green, and gold announcement that I shopped at The Bay last boxing day.  It’s not even a red, green, and gold announcement that I got a little crazy at the dollar store.  It’s a red, green, and gold announcement that my house is a home, and that You’re invited to take part in whatever that means for this time of year. It’s the homemaking equivalent of making eye contact and smiling at people as you walk down the street. Some of my inherited decorations are painfully gaudy, cheesy, or just plain unnecessary. But I’ve made memories with them, and I want to continue making memories with them.

At age six, I met a girl whose family, following her father’s job, had moved to Canada for a few months. Because they were only here for a short time, they had very little with them from England. Upon hearing about the temporary bareness of their home and unfamiliarity with Canadian Christmas, my parents immediately set their hospitality into overdrive. My new friend’s family came with us to see the lights at Waterloo Park. They joined our family tradition of skating at City Hall. And, most importantly, my parents showed up at their door in December with a box of spare decorations to fill some of the otherwise empty space.

I didn’t know this story until a couple years ago. I’ve remained close with that girl–we never lost contact, and her family moved back to Canada a few years later.  When her mother recounted the story to me over a decade later, she still had the most amazingly touched look in her eyes.  My neighbors overheard us talking about my parents’ decoration donation and quickly joined the conversation.  They recalled their first Christmas in the neighborhood, far from their extended family and without traditions to stand on. They, too, were incredibly touched by the holiday season they were always invited to next door.  I don’t mean we had a cool one-night Christmas party–I don’t remember us ever having a “Christmas party.” But we had a decorated house, a full fridge, a schedule of the TV Christmas specials, and an open door policy.

A decorated home with an open door policy is the best. It’s amazing to live in. It’s amazing fill with people. And, now that I’m a big kid, it’s amazing for me to be able to make one for myself. A couple years ago, my parents’ box of spare decorations ended up on another bare doorstep: mine. The box was filled with tacky, cheap, memory-filled Christmas stuff.  Just stuff, really. But I fully teared up with joy while putting everything up.  My roommate and I spent hours with eggnog and a weird Christmas trivia book found in the box. It made a difference. There’s no doubt about it.

Last year, I ended up hosting my three brothers and parents in Ottawa for Christmas.  I knew what to do. I had learned from the best. We didn’t need decorations to have a good Christmas, but it sure helped make the place feel like…well, like “home.” I don’t know exactly what “home” is, but I think that (for me, at least) there’s a month a year where it involves tinsel.

When I post about homemade gifts and ornaments and silly-looking wreaths and warm recipes…I guess someone could be cynical and see it as a cutesy, first-world-esque response to a commercialized holiday. But I want You to know it’s coming from a very real place: A place that has brought a lot of people together.  A place that, during some of the harder years, has helped keep me together. And a place that, because I’m the coolest kid in town, got me procrastinating by making these the other day:

It’s also possible that I just really like stickers.

…okay, now I’m just showing off my cut & paste skillz. But that’s for another post.

Let the games begin!

Home-slices…and some other slices, too

Student life is pretty crazy.  Ideally, we can make it equal parts “pretty” and “crazy.” At least, that’s what I’m trying to do.

Currently, I am surrounded by Chatelaines and scissors, but also by books and brainwaves. My goal? To inject a little bit of beauty and a whole lot of crazy into everything around me. “Everything around me” also happens to be awesome, since I’m living in Ottawa.

I’m kind of obsessed with this city. Also with my home. Also with life.

So let’s chat about those things, shall we?

Every Friday, I will be posting something in the “Homestyle” category.  The weird look I got from my roommate yesterday when I told him it was time for “Autumn Apartment Phase 1” says it all, my friends.

Every Tuesday, I will be posting something in the “Lifestyle & Brainwaves” category. This will mostly be about student living in Ottawa because, well, that’s kinda what I’m doing!

Cheers!