Monday, November 28, 2011

Makeup is Pretty

So, I really like makeup. Sometimes in a purely functional way, in the sense that I don't like showing off blemishes so I'm happy I can cover them up. But most of the time I like the creative, fun, playful, painterly aspect of makeup. I like colors and shimmers and messing around with different looks, especially those of bygone era's. Sadly, I don't really get to do this much at the moment since I'm at home with the cats all day and they don't really care about how awesome my eyeshadow combo is.

Sephora and MAC are probably my fave makeup sites because they display everything so nicely and have huge selections of colors. It's very similar to when I got to the art store and look at the various paint shades and finishes.

Overall, I'm not a huge fan of "matte" as a texture. Not on my skin and not in my work. It just tends to look too flat and unreal to me, so I usually opt for makeup that has some kind of "glow"...although there are many levels of "glow" from subtle to cabaret bam!. For every day you generally want a healthy, natural glow. A Twilight level of sparkle is a bit much for errand running and grocery shopping.

That said, I still gravitate towards glittery-as-a-fairies-butt eyeshadows most of the time. And generally not in neutral, subdued shades. The older I get the more I like bright colors for some reason. And the more I just don't give a fuck what other people think.

So...here's a list of makeups I like that is in no way complete because I'm constantly picking up new stuff. I do make an effort to use brands that don't test on animals but I'm also budget conscious because I can spend way too much money at Sephora in a split second, especially if my period is anywhere in the mix. So sometimes I do sacrifice some personal ethics so as not to be completely broke. Also, there comes a point at which no one "needs" any more eyeshadows. I only have two eyelids and so many days in the year.

FACE

1. I use Aromaleigh's mineral makeup in a blend of Alabaster, 1Y, and 1P mixed with their Illuminator in a generous amount. Unfortunately Aromaleigh doesn't make face makeup anymore after some change ups, but I bought enough when they were stopping that I should be good for at least a year. Then I'll have to figure something else out, unfortunately. A little goes a long way, honestly. And it doesn't irritate my skin or make it break out, and it's not heavy or masklike. I don't think I could go back to liquid foundation at this point, I'm so used to both the technique and feel of minerals. I personally use a flocked sponge to apply because I got a horrible rash from a face brush once, my skin is that sensitive.

2. Amazing Cosmetics Concealer in Fair. This stuff is ridiculously expensive in a full tube, but you can get a travel sized one at Ulta for half the price and it lasts FOREVER. You only need the teeniest, tiniest amount to cover dark circles or blemishes. And it really does cover them up and blend them in seamlessly, in any lighting. Which is fantastic. I'm really, really, really pale so it's unusual for me to find a concealer that isn't too dark, too orange, or too pink.

3. Maybelline cover stick in White. I only use this for Halloween, really, because it's waterproof and pretty high coverage, and cheap. It'll make your face a nice, nearly white, canvas for dead styles of makeup. I doubt it's great for your skin, but, it's a good cheap alternative. And if you're fair skinned enough it's a decent regular concealer.

3. Physicians Formula Shimmer Strip in Healthy Glow. This is technically a blush kit, but it's also got a highlighter and 3 shades of "blush". Now, personally, I don't generally need blush because I have pre-Rosacea and my cheeks are naturally pink-red depending on the weather, heat, or embarrassment level. What this kit does for me is actually give me a nice set of colors for use on the eyes, lips, and cheeks, for a natural look that also emphasizes my eye-color. It's not terribly expensive but it is a great "all purpose" product. They have a bunch of different sets for different skin tones. I found this very useful on my last few trips to cut down on carrying too many products around. It functioned just fine for everything and kept me from looking totally dead after a cross country flight.

EYES

*First, a tip. Depending on your eyecolor and skintone you should try using a contrasting color to make them standout. I have blue/green eyes so pinks, reds, and corals make them seem bluer. Copper has a similar effect. Purples make them seem greener, and browns and greys make them look sort of grey. Check out a color wheel and play around.

1. Makeup Forever Eyeliner. I have this in black, smoky gray, and a deep plum. I love them all. They stay put, make AWESOME smokey eyes, and are very easy to use and non-irritating. I don't really bother trying other eyeliners anymore because these just work and last quite a long time with maintenance. Ie. sharpen them regularly and be mindful of bacteria.

2. Urban Decay Eyeshadows in Lounge, Woodstock and their Deluxe eyeshadow in Fishnet. Woodstock is an incredibly vibrant hot pink and Fishnet is the most gorgeously nuanced shade of purple/pink with a hot blue shimmer. It's sort of the equivalent of the purple eyeshadow Disney villainesses are always sporting. I'm very fond of both because they're nicely pigmented, go on smooth, and make my eye color pop. Lounge is a brown/green that's really lovely and unusual, but great for pretty much any eyecolor. Also: most of their Deluxe eyeshadows are vibrant and true to hue no matter your skin tone. Which is great when you want a very dramatic pop of color. Which I usually do.

3. Aromaleigh Eyeshadows. Thankfully Aromaleigh is now making some limited sets again. Their eyeshadows were always immensely gorgeous. I have way too many to list them all, but they're worth checking out. Very layered colors, from high shine to frosts to glitters, to mattes. They last, they're really lovely, and they tend to have fun names. You also usually get quite a lot for the money. Some of my favorites over the years have been: Lilith, Ophelia, Grace, Drama Teal, Papillon, Flowers of Romance, Dirty Deeds, Strychnine, Cocoa Mauve, Mania's Locus, Phantasm, Nightshade, Dragon Scales, and on and on. Aromaleigh got me to try colors I never would have otherwise.

4. MAC eyeshadows in Shale, Shadowy Lady and Smut. Shale is a kind of mauvey gray that's subtle and more natural. Shadowly Lady is a deep gray purple, great for lining and drama. And Smut is a blackened red that makes blue eyes pop. I recommend going to a MAC counter or store to pick out shades, though. The pics on their site tend to be a bit misleading and I find the descriptions often seem counter what the pic shows.

5. Mascara. I prefer clear mascara, but I do like Benefits Badgal in black. Very simple and effective. Separates, lengthens, nothing too fancy or frilly and doesn't flake off.

6. Eyelash curler. For years I didn't see the point nor did I get how you could use one without hurting yourself. Then I figured it out and suddenly realized how it opened up the eyes and made the lashes more noticeable, mascara or no. I am a convert.

7. Eyebrows. I just groom mine with clear mascara sometimes. I don't fill them in or do anything fancy besides pluck when they look too wild. I prefer Tweezerman tweezers, though. Trust me, it'll save you a lot of frustration and owies.

LIPS

I love lipstick but I rarely wear it, likewise gloss. I feel weird reapplying it because I feel like I'm putting on a show. So what you'll mostly see here are tints or balms.

1. Fresh tinted balms in Plum and Pink. These are ridiculously expensive but the colors are amazing. And they have a new red one I really want to try. They're moisturizing, the colors are layerable, and they're in a tube so you're not trying to deal with a wand.

2. Stila's Lip/Cheek Stain in Cherry. This is my go-to. It's a stain that supposedly adjusts to your individual lip tone. I have no idea if that's true, I just know it's a fantastic, long-lasting, natural looking "flush". Kind of like I just ate a cherry popsicle, only more pigmented. You can also apply more than one layer for more color. It's not drying, but I use lipbalm regardless and it still lasts.

3. Clinique Almost Lipstick in Black Honey. I love this color and find it to be just the right pop when I want a more sophisticated lip that isn't too much. Goes on smooth, easy to reapply. Not hugely long-lasting, but, eh.

4. Lipbalms! I'm kind of a lipbalm junkie. I tend to have like 4 in my bag at all times. Plus one in the car, in a coat, etc. I have lots of different kinds. Carmex in the little tin thing for when I need exfoliation or have a fever blister, Nivea with SPF, Softlips, another Carmex only in a stick, Blistex, and I just got 4 natural lipbalms from an Etsy shop called AutumnBalmBotanicals. They smell awesome and feel great. The Peppermint even has a touch of shimmer.

The only sort of cosmetics I really don't go in for are nail polish and anything contouring. Nail Polish looks pretty but I can't stand the way it feels on my hands, and I'm not keen on the chemicals. Other than that, I tend to just have fun with it. I'm still looking for the perfect red lipstick, though...

Next time: Hair Stuff

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Love & Things

My husband is my best friend. He has been for 17 years. It is, without a doubt, the most important and influential relationship of my life. He's my home and I not only love him, I just really like him a whole lot. I know, I know. Gross.

Now, I haven't been married for 17 years, we've just been together that long. I'm 32 and he's 33. If you do the math you'll figure out pretty quickly that we were 15 and 16 when we became a couple. To us, this is just how things are. To other people, it's more than a tad unusual.

I wouldn't technically call us High School Sweethearts, since we went to different schools in different states, and I think that term usually refers to people who go to the same one. But maybe it does apply. We were certainly in high school when we met. It was even, ::gasp:: partially an online relationship! This was in the 90's, way before internet dating was a common thing, and there were no official dating sites that I'm aware of, at least not the way you see them advertised on TV now. We actually had this complex relay system on Prodigy so that a group of us could all talk together in a kind of makeshift private "chat" room, and then have individual ones if we wanted. I'm sure we weren't the only ones to game the system like that. It made it so those of us in different states could still stay in touch and have legitimate friendships or relationships with people we had connected with, who just had the misfortune of living too far away for regular hang outs.

It's funny to think about this now since the internet has changed so much since then. I have so many friends in so many different locations it's pretty routine. But I think those early forays into finding people with common interests but who were not limited to your immediate geographical area was really important. One of the least realistic aspects of school is the idea that spending time with people who are the exact same age as you, that you've grown up with and been in the same classes with, with largely similar backgrounds, is in any way "normal" or indicative of the world at large. In real life you tend to associate with people of all ages, from different countries (let alone different states), with radically different backgrounds and interests. That's a good thing, especially if, like me, you really don't fit in with your peers very much. Finding people outside the forced social circle I was in helped me enormously.

When I met my husband I was 15, a social pariah, and sincerely convinced that I was too ugly/awful to be loved by anyone, ever. There's a certain kind of conviction that comes with being that young that is both misguided and yet utterly sincere. You think you really know how things are, and sometimes you do, but more often you don't. I don't think adolescents are stupid, of course. But I do think they're young and, since everything feels so very important whether it actually is or not, you tend to overestimate what you do and don't really understand. It's a time where you're trying on a lot of different identities to figure out who you are, forming a more solid sense of self that is not dependent on what other people have told you to do or be, so everything has this air of "meaning" to it. I sometimes think the real conflict of adolescence is between the excruciating importance of everything you feel and think...and the relative mundanity and boringness of most of the situations you're dealing with. But maybe that's just because I was a geeky nerd who read a lot more than she socialized.

Anyway, it's interesting to me that during this overly fraught age is when I met the person I've since spent more time partnered with than alone. Well, sort of. Our relationship was long distance for the first 7 years. We saw each about once a month, twice if we were lucky. It gave the whole thing an air of tragedy, I'll say that. I cried every single time we had to part. Some of that was an adolescent tendency towards drama...but a good part of it was that I really only felt truly understood and cared for when he was around. I felt calm and appreciated for myself. I didn't have to worry about being judged or criticized for the things I liked...and he totally put up with the weird/silly things I did...like the whole year I wrote emails in a kind of a faux Scottish accent. And I understood that he just needed to wear this ugly old man hat he called, "Fred". We were good to and for each other. We didn't really have fights, we never had that break up/make up dynamic...and even then we were kind of our own mutual appreciation society.

I think part of what really solidified us a couple, though, was that about 6 months into our being together (we didn't really "date", that's tough to do when you can't see the person very much, we just a couple)...they discovered that his chronic back pain was due to 1. a tumor on his spine and 2. rather severe scoliosis that had developed rapidly to compensate for said tumor. He needed to have spinal surgery which ran the real risk of paralyzation, not to mention they didn't know if the tumor was maligant or not. Generally it isn't in that particular location, but still. He was 16 years old and the word "tumor" is pretty terrifying no matter what. He was also told that after the surgery he'd need to wear a back brace for at least a year to make sure the spine healed and "fused" correctly. And he'd have to be careful because if anything compromised that fusion he'd have to be rushed into surgery again.

There was a moment where I was like, holy shit, this is REAL SERIOUS LIFE STUFF. This wasn't some minor sprain or an annoying rash, this was something that would probably effect him for the rest of his life, a very risky surgery, and a year of recovery that was really only the start. I had friends who were like, you don't want to deal with this, you're too young, you should date someone local...but I didn't see it that way. Even at such a young age I understood that life was not a series of happy endings like in the movies. People got sick. People died. It could happen when you were young, middle aged, old, but it was going to happen at some point. You had to deal with it. It was scary and everything, but I just didn't think that bailing on someone the second they needed you for something actually important was a particularly nice thing to do, especially if you legitimately loved them. So I did what I could to keep him upbeat about it and read up on his back condition a lot. The day of the surgery was pretty much awful and I didn't sleep the night before. I was so relieved when I got the phone call that he was okay from his mom that I went immediately to sleep and didn't get up until the next day, probably a good 14 hrs later. It was a Thursday and I would go to see him in the hospital on that Saturday.

My mom, I have to say, was always really wonderful. She let him stay with us over weekends, in my room, and never made a big deal about it. She says now that it's because we clearly weren't casual that she felt like it was important to be supportive. She's also not a prude about sex and trusted me to be sensible and safe, which we were when we eventually got to that point. I'd had very thorough sex ed from both my mom and school so we didn't rush anything and I think that was a good thing. It didn't happen until quite awhile into our relationship, and well after his surgery. I think we both kind of knew that wanting to have sex was not the same as being really ready to. For teenagers we were remarkable self-aware sometimes.

So, when the surgery happened my mom was just a totally awesome person. She drove me up to see him in the hospital and waited in the cafeteria with his mom and sister while I spent about an hour with him. I had to be careful because of the surgery, I couldn't just climb into the hospital bed and hug him like I wanted to. But I did my best to be silly, sarcastic, and positive. He looked good considering, but seeing someone you care about in a hospital bed just isn't a fun time no matter how successful whatever it is has been. I managed to be completely composed and fine up until about 3 seconds after walking out of the room. Then I burst into tears and had a good long cry.

The year after that was, to put it mildly, challenging. He was in a back brace for it, which was hard plastic, and he also had to wear a metal support part from his chin down to where the brace started at about the top of his chest. He was also stuck at home that year, which couldn't possibly have been much fun. There really aren't any words to describe not being able to hug someone without a big old plastic barrier in the way...but it was way worse for him than it was for me. When he finally got that thing off, we had the most amazing hug. I still remember how he looked standing in the sunlight, a smile on his face, and I was able to put my head against his actual chest and my arms around his waist. As much as it's not an experience I would wish on anyone, and as much as I wish he hadn't had to go through it, I sometimes think that it made us appreciate each other in a way we might not have otherwise. I don't know that for sure and it's not really important. We got through it and were stronger for it.

Throughout high school and even most of college, we never talked about The Future in any grand sense. We never planned out a wedding or how many kids we might have or even thought much about big picture type stuff. We both knew that we were really young and that life could change things at nearly any moment. We knew we wouldn't be going to the same college, we knew that relationships like ours were not generally considered realistic or likely to last. We certainly didn't treat it like it wasn't serious, but we also didn't try to force it. I think we both knew that it was important that we grow up and do things for ourselves and not let our relationship define us.

In that sense college was not as difficult for us as it is for other people trying to maintain relationships. I went to school in NYC, he went to school in CT, and we both pursued our individual interests. We both commuted from home to school and we never pressured each other to compromise on our education or interests for the sake of our relationships. I think we both knew that would kill it faster than anything.

I don't want it to sound like we were some perfect couple who never squabbled or were the same person. We've had dumb fights, a few "serious" ones, and we don't always agree. And there have been tense times other than the surgery, like when he graduated from school and couldn't find a job for a year or two, and I supported us with my first comics editing job. FYI, those don't pay very much and it was not fun to handle bills and all that real life stuff on my own. But we got through that and actually ended up in games instead of graphic design. Which has ultimately worked out better as he's always been a gamer and loves it.

Likewise, going from long distance to living together had some adjustments. I will honestly never understand people who don't live together before getting married. Sharing your space with another person is challenging no matter how much you have in common or care about one another. I can't imagine leaping into a commitment like marriage without dealing with living together first. It teaches you a lot.

Then, of course, there's the fact that we didn't get married until we'd been together for 9 years. And only then because we wanted to be under the same health insurance/dental plan. Terribly romantic, I know. Neither of us had any issue with marriage per se, we just didn't really care. We were committed, we were together, and we definitely didn't need a piece of paper to make that binding (other than legally, of course). We did have a lovely, tiny, wedding, though. We pretty much avoided anything particularly traditional and when I say tiny I mean 20 people tiny. We basically went and got the license and told people where to show up like 3 weeks later. Friends and family were very sweet and said lovely things, I wrote the extremely non-religious vows, and afterwards we had pizza. I don't know if we're just weird but I don't remember feeling any different about our relationship after...it was just a really nice day.

Fast forward to now, we've moved cross country together, and recentlyish to San Francisco. Even though every apartment hasn't been fantastic, being together with our ridiculous cats always makes it feel like home. It doesn't "feel" like 17 years. We still talk constantly. Well, I talk a lot...he listens and enjoys my chatter for some reason. We like spending time together and pretty much hate being apart because we kind of feel adrift, without our anchor. Not in any sort of clingy sense, I don't think. It's not needy, grasping, or jealous. It's just...being together feels right.

I have no idea what the future holds for us. But I know we both feel really lucky that our interests have always seemed to run parallel to each other so that, while we don't love exactly the same things all the time, we "get" what the other one is about. We trust each other, we have a kind of obnoxious shorthand that probably drives other people nuts. Mostly, though, I'm grateful that I have such a supportive and kind partner in life. I don't ever want to take that for granted. It's too rare.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Rub The Lotion On Your Skin

Generally I'm not a huge fan of either our celebrity or product obsessed culture. There are times when I think Capitalism might just be the root of all evil. That and changing room mirrors.

However, I also like to buy things. It's clearly socialized, it clearly isn't a true "need", and it's obviously frivolous and silly to have a bajillion skin creams and about a hundred different shades of "pink" eyeshadow. As much as I'd like to tell you I'm the sort of person who only buys local, organic, and "upcycled"...I don't. And I seriously have way too many bottles of supposedly de-frizzing hair products.

So, one of the things I do enjoy is reading about what other people buy and use. One of my favorite blogs is Mindy Kaling's (http://theconcernsofmindykaling.com/) where she often posts about that sort of thing. Generally they are, very aptly, titled: Things I've Bought That I Love.

I'm going to shamelessly steal that idea for this post because I feel like writing about something A. fun B. girly C. maybe useful for someone else who likes to buy things but likes to have recommendations first.

This post will be about skin products. I have tried a LOT of these. Expensive, cheap, natural, fake, and pretty much everything in between. I try not to experiment so much these days as that just tends to make matters worse. I'm also on a budget and doing my best to be a good, thrifty freelancer, so nothing on here is going to be like that crazy $200 moisturizer (LaMer, I think) that so many people swear by. It might be like putting God on your face, but I'll never know because I'm not paying that much for something that gets used up.

My skin type is of the finicky variety that is multiple personality'd, and also disordered. It's very sensitive, acne-prone, oily in the t-zone, mostly normal in the cheeks, hormonally reactive, and it will get weird and dry and flaky in the right climate/right before an important event. I have never been able to get it to be perfectly balanced and it gets crazy pants oily no matter what. Even if it's doing it's best impression of an alligator, it'll still get shiny over it. I don't even bother trying to stop it anymore, I just make sure to moisturize (yes, oil skin needs it), stock up on blotting paper, and pretend it's a healthy "glow".

So! These are the products I use consistently that fall into the Not Cheap But Definitely Reasonable category.

1. Paula's Choice Beta Hydroxy Gel 2 %. This stuff is awesome. It's an exfoliator for your pores and it does what it says if you use it day and night. Keeps skin clear (nothing will keep it perfect, but this will definitely help), non-drying, non-irritating, and it even helps fade acne marks and prevent actual indented scarring because of cell turnover. I had an indented scar from getting injections in one spot for incredibly frustrating cystic acne a few years ago and this popped it out after a month. Which was a huge relief. Having acne scars like I do is embarrassing and upsetting, so it's nice when something helps keep more of them from happening. And me from crying and wishing I could wear bags over my head.

2. Paula's Choice Resist Smoothing Treatment 5% Alpha Hydroxy Acid. I use this at night a few times a week for extra exfoliation. It makes my skin super smooth, glowy, and further reduces marks and redness. It's also anti-aging. I don't totally understand the different between alpha and beta hydroxy's, but a combo is supposed to be good for you skin. So, I do what I'm told.

3. Cerave Moisturizing Lotion. This stuff is amazing. When I was using Retin-A this stuff saved my skin from irritation, flaking, and any kind of weather related crankiness. And it still does that, keeping my skin feeling soft and moisturized, never tight or greasy. You can find this at most any drugstore, it comes in a big jar or bottle, and it lasts forever. You can use it on face, hands, body, whatever. It's non-comedogenic and recommended by dermatologists. I haven't used another moisturizer in like 4 years, that's how much I love it.

4. Witch Hazel. I use this as a toner, especially if my skin is feeling irritated because it soothes it and never dries it out. Also it has the word witch in it.

5. DHC's Oil Cleanser. No, trust me, this stuff is great. I don't use soaps on my face because it just strips it, and this is my nighttime cleanser. It feels nice and soothing on, rinses totally clean, and removes clogs and makeup without making your skin feel stripped and crummy. You have to get it online, but it's actually very reasonable for the amount. And I swear, you can absolutely use it on the oiliest of oily skin.

6. Aspirin mask. If you didn't know, aspirin is made with salicylic acid, a common acne fighting ingredient. If you can find uncoated aspirin (I get Bayers AM) and dissolve it in a little water, it makes a gritter mask that reduces blemishes, redness, and irritation. You can use it as an exfoliator as well, though you need to be gentle as it has a rough texture. I tend to use just one or 2 tablets. See the next list for another DIY mask I do with this.

This is a list of Expensive Products That Are Worth It, as I've learned that if my skin likes something I should stick to it or it will get very pissed off at me and develop scales. It's pretty gross.

1. Dermalogica's Ultra-Calming Cleanser. This stuff is not cheap but you don't need to use a lot. This is my morning cleanser which gently soothes and removes product residue from the night. I don't use harsh cleansers because I'm not bathing my face in dirt and it's actually counterproductive when you have oily, sensitive, and acne prone skin. If you irritate it it just gets worse.

2. Dermalogica's Matte Sunscreen for the face, 20 SPF. This is the only SPF I've ever found that didn't clog my pores up immediately, smell like Rockaway Beach in August, or simply do nothing and let me get burned. This has held up in SoCal in every kind of weather and not made my skin dry or oily. My esthetician tells me that my skin has almost no sun damage, and I've been wearing sunscreen since I was a kid obsessively, every day, every season. I may look like a pasty vampire, but I'll take that over looking like I'm made of old leather at 32. It is over priced, but some things are worth it. Like not getting face cancer.

3. Murad's Clarifying Mask. This is one of the few clay masks that actually works for me, even though it has sulfur in it which can be irritating. What I actually do is mix aspirin with it and, for me at least, it shrinks pores, exfoliates, and often stops breakouts in their tracks. It also keeps the aspirin on better as it tends to flake off on its own. Be careful doing this kind of DIY, though, as skin is individual and what works for me could be a disaster on you. I'd do a spot test before putting it all over your face.

And then there are the Splurges.

1. Go to a dermatologist. If you have skin issues, that is. I can't stress this enough. If you're having stubborn acne, persnikety skin sensitives, or are just overall not finding things that consistently work, see a derm. Most insurance will at least partially cover a visit and it will definitely cover prescriptions. Obviously this is less viable if you don't have insurance, but a visit to a derm can actually be around $75 out of pocket for a consultation, and it will likely save you a ton in the long run by giving you product recommendations that will actually be effective. Most derms I've been to have also been super generous with the samples and don't just try to sell expensive stuff if you're on a budget.

2. Facials. I see an esthetician about once every month to two months who clears out my pores. Sounds gross, but, it's worth it to me. Picking at your skin is a bad habit that tends to make things worse, leading to deeper infections, bigger breakouts, and scarring. Estheticians (good ones) know how to do extractions that, while they don't feel great, heal up and go away without leaving marks or spreading bacteria. Plus, you'll look like you have baby skin when they're done, your pores are that clean and tiny. And, if you're lucky like me, you'll find one who is an obsessive sci-fi nerd and you'll talk about the latest episodes of Fringe while she degunks your face.

And that's my skin product rec's. Paula's Choice you can find at: paulaschoice.com, DHC Cleansing Oil at dhcskincare.com, Murad can be found at Sephora or Ulta, and Dermalogica can be found at Ulta or local Dermalogica skincare outlets.

Blame the Belly

It's strange to notice that the more stressed out I am the more anxious I become about my body and weight, which leads to an odd desire to shop for new clothes, which makes me even more stressed out and anxious about my body/shape/weight. It's a tremendously destructive cycle.

My area of greatest body concern has always been my belly. Even when I was starving myself sick but thin, it stubbornly held on. It is strangely resilient, this belly of mine. It refuses to be flattened or kept down. For something so soft and round, it's tough. It likes where it is and no amount of crunching, dieting, or obsessing seems to change its need to be seen, to be felt, to be noticed. And believe me, I've tried to hide it in every empire waisted, baggy, boxy, shapeless style you can think of.

There are days when I hate it. In fact, I can't remember not feeling, at best, disappointed with it. On my worst days it's an object of disgust, something I've dreamed about slicing off. It's the core, the center, of my self-loathing.

Like most things I dislike about myself, my belly hate starts in adolescence. Before puberty I was slight. Not skinny, really, but small and slimish. I never gave my body a second thought. I didn't really think about how I looked at all, and my weight was never a point of concern. Until it suddenly became one, which really did feel like it was overnight. Unlike how most girls seem to develop boobs and other noticeable sexual characteristics, puberty for me was gaining an overall softness sans breasts. It was confusing because I didn't look like other girls. I didn't look older or feminine. I just looked...soft. I went through puberty in the 90's which was the era of the half shirt/crop top. Everyone seemed to be showing off flat, muscled, slim abs. Even before my peers starting pointing it out, I knew my body was not "right" for that. And I couldn't seem to make it, no matter how hard I tried. So during some of my most formative years I became deeply convinced that my body was wrong, and that my belly was to blame.

Now, everyone knows that girls bodies change in adolescence. Periods, boobs, your hormones are doing their thing. What I don't see people talking about much, if at all, are the further changes our bodies go through in our mid twenties to late twenties. I wasn't prepared for that at all. I had grown accustomed to, if not particularly fond of, my body shape. I was still suffering with disordered eating and body dysmorphia so we'll take it with a grain of salt that I had a remotely realistic idea of what that shape was...but I had small boobs and no hips and my belly was still there. That had been my reality for over 10 years. It was my status quo.

And then suddenly...I grew breasts. It wasn't quite as overnight as puberty, but nearly. I didn't know what the hell to do with them. I went from pretty much never wearing a bra to, well, jiggling. Noticeably. What had always been what I called "booblettes" were now absolutely boobs. I was in complete denial at first. And then, a little later, out popped some hips. What the hell was going on with my body? Why was I suddenly "developing" at the ripe old age of 26-28? Was something wrong with me?

And what about the belly? It remained steadfast, though it did yield a bit more to a "curve" than previously in the waist department. But otherwise it still sloped and curved, still remained stubbornly un-flat. I had hoped it would be redistributed somehow, but, no. My belly was not having any of that.

A quick poll amongst my female friends of the same age made it apparent that we were all experiencing shifts. I even asked my mom who said "Oh, yeah, that happens." Which was both funny and irritating since I'd never heard about it before, from a woman who told me very candidly about the first time she had sex. I suppose it's not as traumatic for other women who don't have the body hangups I do, but I can tell you...I had a lot of cries over this sudden upheaval and change in physical terrain.

When I went into nutritional treatment and therapy for eating issues I went through another change. I gained weight when I started eating which has led to more boobage and hippage. Nothing drastic, but enough to make me anxious and self-conscious in a way I never had before.

And the belly...oh the belly. My soft rounded friend. She's certainly enjoying the additional curves, the added softness, the more rubenesque rolls. I haven't quite gotten to that yet, where I can rejoice in additions to my body that indicate a healthier, heavier me. I know that I am mentally and physically healthier now than I was when I was starving...but oh, the resentment that sometimes wells up. The anger, the disappointment in my roly poly fleshyness.

The thing is...I don't have this problem when I look at other women. Slim, fat, curvy, athletic, average, old, young or any shape or size you like...I honestly believe I see beauty in everyone. Except me. Myself I always view in terms of taking up too much space. I don't just "feel" fat, I feel enormous. As though I dwarf anyone else around me with my vast expanses of skin. This is, by the way, in complete denial of reality. I may feel like I'm towering over people...but at my height you'd need to be a child for that to be accurate. I'll refrain from even attempting to rationalize my size because this hasn't been a great day and I'm afraid I'll make some insulting comparisons or suggestions.

And in the end, it all still revolves around my belly. The center of my distress. The core of my terror. Because she's just so easy to blame.