Saturday, March 26, 2011

What Not to Care (about)

I have an ongoing debate with a few friends of mine about where Stacy London falls on the good-evil spectrum. My position is generally that whenever I watch the show, I spend at least half of it hoping that the makeover subject will punch her in the face. She just seems to represent so much of what is wrong with our society. She's shallow, superficial, snotty, and she thinks it's reasonable to expect the average person to pay over $100 for a single article of clothing. And yet, I will watch the show if it happens to be on and I happen to be in the room.

The truth is that I feel very conflicted over the whole idea of caring about how we look. Sure, appearance counts, but how much? Where is the line between wanting to look put together and professional for work and thinking I can't go to the grocery store without makeup on? The What Not to Wear paradox came up most recently after I mentioned to one of the SLDs (Stacy London Defenders) that a mutual acquaintance seems so sweet and smart and great, but she does herself a disservice with her clothes. The SLD immediately said yes, this person would be the perfect candidate for WNtW because (and I paraphrase) she just needs to get her swagger back after some major life changes. And I can see that, I can.

I can see that most of the people on the show seem to feel much more confident and happy after they stop wearing their deceased grandmother's castoff double-knit pants using a rope for a belt or whatever. But what happens after the show? Where are they three, six, twelve months down the road? Do they become obsessed with their clothes, hair, and makeup? Do they ditch the boyfriends and husbands who inevitably wear hideous, almost-too-small sweaters while shown conspiring to get their frump-with-a-heart-of-gold girlfriends made over?

As a fairly vain woman whose appearance long ago began the inevitable deterioration we all face sooner or later, I struggle not to care. I once explained to a naturally pretty, fresh-faced young friend and colleague that while she could roll out of bed ten minutes before leaving the house and throw her hair up in a knot and put on clothes off the floor and still look cute, if I did that it would just make me the sad mom who had given up. I do care how I look, and I try to wear clothes that look reasonably put together while camouflaging my ever-thickening waistline (ugh!), but I also have conversations in my head at the bathroom mirror about whether or not one needs to put on eyeliner when all she is planning to do that day is sit around the house or take the kids to the park or yes, go grocery shopping. I give myself stern lectures about how I do not have to be pretty and that should not be something that matters to me.

But true to form, I mostly don't listen. I put on the eyeliner mainly so I can go through the day without having to sigh the twenty times I catch a glimpse of myself in the bathroom mirror (I've had four babies, okay? Looks aren't the only thing that deteriorate). I cry and throw tantrums when I see pictures of myself. I care too much. I long for the anti-Stacy to get a show that will teach me the rules for letting go.


Unknown said...

I believe that George Costanza taught us how to let go years ago.

Unknown said...

I fall so far on the side of "I don't care about looks" that I jokingly check just to make sure I'm not on there, even though I don't shop at WalMart. You've never looked anything but professional and put together to me, if that makes it better. But I cannot bring myself to spend money like that on clothes, no matter how they make me look. I just can't do it, and I've always felt better in jeans and a t-shirt - the baggier, the better.

Angie McCullagh said...

You're one of the prettiest bloggers I know. And I care too much, too. I put on eyeliner every single day unless I'm horrendously ill. In my twenties I didn't, but now I feel like I have to.

A post like this has been brewing over in my corner for a while...

Courtney said...

So think we all. I was reading a short story by Alice Munro last night and was struck by this observation:

"Did that mean she was out of shape after five pregnancies, that she had not taken care of herself as Heather had. As Juliet had, to certain extent. That she was one of those women to whom the whole idea of such a struggle seemed ridiculous, a confession of insecurity?"

and that is where I am. At school with twenty-somethings and yet wanting to say that the struggle is in some measure ridiculous.

Rita said...

I have that eyeliner argument with myself a LOT. On the one hand, I want to be that woman who doesn't need the eyeliner to feel confident and put together. On the other hand, without eyeliner, I look washed out and puffy-eyed. Then I curse myself for worrying about things like whether or not to wear eyeliner to the grocery store when people in Japan are trying to find out if family members are alive or dead and whether their food will poison them. Thinking about that will either make me say, "So I should wear the eyeliner, because I can, today, I'm lucky to have it here for me to choose to wear." Or it'll make me say, "Screw the eyeliner, I'm just lucky to be here."

It's a no-win dilemma, isn't it?

dandelionink said...

I guess the question for me is, why do we all need so desperately to feel pretty. We know that the important thing is what's on the inside, but yet we continually look at the outside of a person for a clue to their goodness or their impression on us. We all know people who are just average looking until we get to know them and then they magically become a beautiful person to us. Why can't we as women focus on our inner beauty more? good question.

Sweet Sassy Molassy said...

Thanks, y'all. Melissa, it is almost unheard of for me to spend more than $20 on an article of clothing, and I consider that expensive. I will die before paying full retail and I will almost die before stepping foot in a store to begin with. I enter a mall maybe once a year, and then I'm usually just along for the ride. Most of my work pants I've owned for six years, since I came back to teaching and had to buy clothes.