Posted by: Hannah | 02/29/2012

i feel pretty, oh so pretty

I haven’t had a haircut in months. After several years of systematically making it shorter and shorter, it’s starting to grow out again. I think I look like Kelso from That 70s Show. Hubs mentioned out of the blue the other day that he likes my hair this way. “It’s more feminine” said he.

Last week on Twitter I had an intense discussion with several ladies about personal style, clothes shopping, and makeup hoarding. Makeup hoarding? I hoard the few pieces of makeup I have, forever. And ever and ever. Want an example? I still have the lipstick I wore on my wedding day. Sometimes I still wear it. I’ve been married for seven years.

My new clients are all girls, and much younger than my previous crop of kids. I’ve started looking for more age appropriate toys. A friend said she had toys to sell, and asked if I wanted “girl” toys. I knew what she meant. And I do. But I cringed anyway.

Lots of words have been spent on the Lego Friends line of toys. I was highly irritated when I first heard of them. I mean, Lego is Lego, right? But it isn’t. It was pointed out to me by friends with daughters that most Lego kits are specifically aimed at boys, and that themes around cops & robbers, aliens, spaceships and Star Wars are very limiting. I saw some young girls at the toy store going into raptures over the Lego Friends and while I still wish Lego were gender-neutral, I have to concede that it is not.


I was born in 1978. My mom could be pretty intense about gender politics and feminist issues. She didn’t model what I would consider “traditional” female behaviours. She didn’t wear makeup, ever. If she did wear dresses they were of the hippie-peasant-skirt variety. She tells me that as a toddler I expressed a longing for flowery dresses, and pink, and sparkles. Had there been Disney princesses then I would certainly have been a fan. I myself remember for years wishing hard for the pink frilly canopy bed that used to show up every Christmas in the Sears Wish Book.

She never gave in. And over time I kind of lost the desire to be a Special Princess (except on my wedding day, when I went full on. The only thing that stopped me from having a tiara was my very tight budget).


One of the toys I bought is a talking, singing purse:

It comes with keys, money, a mirror, a bracelet, and lipstick.

This bothered me.

Then I saw Pixie play with it yesterday. For a solid hour. She loves it. I showed her how to put on the lipstick, and I felt guilty for doing so. Like I was somehow betraying something. And then I wondered why I felt that way. The wearing of makeup is not two steps from going full-on Duggar, right? And how I wish my own mother would have shown me how to put on makeup, because lord knows I have no idea, and as I age I start to feel like it would give me more confidence when I go out in the world.

Same thing with my greying hair. My desire to say age is only a number and I’m determined not to be mutton dressed as lamb is totally at war with my wish to not look older than my husband, who is actually four years older than I am and can easily remember the last time he got carded because it wasn’t that long ago.


I am struggling with gender identity, suddenly. Maybe it’s because every living thing in this house is male except for our elderly cat, and since she’s a going-senile scrag who shits in the bathtub mere feet from the litter box and can’t remember what doors are for half the time, this is not comforting. But I realized that my ‘wardrobe’ basically consists of things that are practical, which is fine 99% of the time but I’d love to have some things just because, things that make me feel pretty and good about myself.

I want to not feel this weird sense of letting down the side because I want to spend time on my appearance.

I want to know how to dress for my age.

I want someone to nominate me for What Not To Wear, if it’s still on TV.




  1. Underpants! Where everything begins.

  2. Oh how I can relate to everything you’ve said. I grew up with a sister and a mom who was not a girly girl. I’ve never been a girly girl myself either. My wedding day was the first and last time I wore lipstick, it was the only time I ever wore a dress that cost more than $25.00 and was the first time in my life I had an updo – that was almost 10 years ago now.
    Through the years I’ve had bouts where I want to wear nothing but skirts and dresses and then go another 3-4 years without wearing one. I too live in a house overrun with testosterone (hubby and two boys and a male cat) and oddly I’m kind of okay with that. I honestly don’t know what I’d do if we have another child and it is a girl. I’ve got so many gender identity quirks that I’m not sure I know how to raise a girl and the fact I even feel that way is frightening and questionable. Why do girls and women have such an identity crisis? Why are there so many rules and expectations? What a confusing role we play in the lives of little girls if we’re not sure of our own identities.
    I too need a makeover. Maybe we can nominate each other 🙂

  3. I’m not much for make-up either. When I go to work I wear foundation and lipstick. On weekends I usually go without make-up entirely. On the very odd occasion where I get gussied up and add mascara to the mix my kids make a big deal about it. I, in turn, make a big deal out of the fact that I’m putting on make-up for fun, not because I think there’s anything wrong with how I naturally look.

    The whole make-up think bugs me a lot. Why is it that men are supposedly okay to go about in public, but women supposedly have to trowel crap onto their faces to look acceptable. That said, I think make-up (when applied subtly) can look very nice. Most of my friends wear make up and look fine. But I think they look fine without it, too. I shudder to think how much money people must spend on make-up.

    I still have wedding-day lip liner. I’ve maybe used it 5 times since.

    I rarely wear dresses or skirts. I feel like a kid playing dress-up when I wear high heels. I’m 41 for heavens sakes, I should get over that. My 22-year-old niece wears more grown-up clothes than I do. The fact that I can wear a t-shirt and jeans to work is one of the major reasons why I’ve stayed at my company for so long.

    I’ve tried doing the What Not To Wear thing for myself, a few years ago when I was obsessed with the show. Went out and bought a bunch of nicer clothes. Everyone oohed and ahhed and asked “what’s the occasion?” when I wore them. Lasted about 5 or 6 months, and then slowly I went back to dressing in the way I felt most comfortable. I am who I am.

  4. I am not a girly-girl. Snot, shit, boogers and blood don’t bother me. I don’t squeal at the sight of a snake or a spider, I think mice are cute (even in my house, which is not to say they’re allowed to stay), I don’t get cutesy-coy-squeamish about sex.

    Girly-girls are not women, just as ‘guys’ are not men. I very much like being a woman. because I figure *I* get to decide what that means. *I* do, not corporations trying to convince me only their product will make me a full-fledged female, and not an ideology that wants to define my gender a different way.

    So, for me? Mostly I wear jeans (because, hello, daycare provider), but I have some *very* nice dresses, and I look stunning in them. (Ahem.) Mostly I don’t wear makeup, but I like it and can put it on nicely when the mood hits. (My mother didn’t teach me. Magazines, then my youngest daughter, and, more recently, YouTube (!) taught me.) Mostly I wear runners (or bare feet), but I have some red Italian leather shoes with nice heels that I *adoooooore*. I’ve never, ever settled for ugly underwear. Why should I, when these days you can be pretty and comfortable? (Yes, you can.)

    I love it when men notice me on the street. (I’m 51, and it still happens, though admittedly not as often as it did twenty years ago.) Don’t like pink, only have two purses (one winter, one summer), prefer flannel pajamas to slinky nighties (though I own both).

    Rules for being a girl? Make-up or lack as a determiner of femininity? That’s just silly. Be your own person, and suddenly you’ll be a strong woman.

  5. I just used up the last of my wedding-day lipstick a couple of months ago (with sadness) – it was a good 11 years!

    I was talking with a student yesterday about the relative merits of Anne Shirley and Jo March. With Jo you get the smart, ambitious tomboy who refuses to be confined by the restrictions of conventional femininity, but in Anne you get something I find to be even more powerful – someone who loves frilly dresses, who is very feminine and concerned with being pretty, but who is smart and ambitious at the same time, with no one finding any conflict between those two sides of her character. I think Anne showed me that there’s nothing about a love of lipstick and earrings that would take away from my credibility as a thinker.

  6. I have a strong desire to be like Adam Glassman and create outfits for you. Squee!

    You know me, Hannah, I apply lipgloss to walk the dog or go to the grocery store. I used up my wedding lipstick about three months after my wedding. I wear makeup every single day, I do my hair, I coordinate my outfits and accessorize. I guess this *may* make me a girly-girl, but yet I think I am a strong woman, even so. I don’t think there is anything wrong with colouring my hair every six weeks or maintaining my appearance. I LIKE feeling pretty and attractive. For better or for worse, it gives me more confidence to make myself feel “presentable”.

    I don’t think it makes me less of a woman, or a feminist, to want to be hot. I was born in 75, and my mother was not a feminist or a hippie. But she did not want me to be attractive at all. Prettiness got girls in trouble, as far as she was concerned. She did her best to make me as unattractive as possible, and when I was a teenager and buying and applying my own makeup, doing my own hair, etc., she constantly told me that I looked like a hooker. My whole youth I recall having super short haircuts because my hair was “terrible and cowlicked” and the only thing to do for it was to cut it off. I’ve had long hair ever since I had control over it, and have always felt insecure about it.

    I don’t think that it is letting down the side to care about your appearance.

    PS I would have loved that singing purse.

  7. I think that gender discrimination goes both ways. While, on the one hand, I too am violently against everything pink, princesses and such, I am also equally against highly masculine stuff – I refuse to buy Owl toy cars, Nascar or Pixar themed items and so on.

    Also, since his daycare is heavily populated by girls, it is not unusual for me to arrive to pick him up and find him wearing a princess dress (the blue one. The PURPLE one is for girls, you see…) He has also seen purse behavior modelled so much that he’ll put his hand into any loop and then admire the effect on his wrist by turning his hand one way or another in a way that George Takei would no doubt approve.

    There are no guns or space alients at his daycare at all.

    I like that.

  8. Great post!

    I was adamantly “nurture over nature” until I had children. Nothing like practical experience to mess up high-minded theoretical notions of parenting. I chafe when I hear parents (usually of the liberal variety) gloat about their sons playing with dolls or wearing pink, while simultaneously getting their backs up when their daughters do the same thing. Why is it regressive for girls to like pink, but progressive for boys to like pink? Sometimes I wonder if it’s not rooted in a anti-male bias.

    And now I feel badly that I don’t know what became of my wedding lipstick!

  9. I agree with wrathofmom. My boy wasn’t quite as ‘boy’ish as some of the other little boys in our circle, but my girl came out a girly-girl without any prompting from me. I don’t think it is letting down the side to want to feel attractive; it’s not feminist to not wear makeup or feminine clothes because you feel like you shouldn’t – it’s the same as not wearing skirts or showing your hair in public because men say you shouldn’t.

    That said, remind me to tell you about my wedding eyebrow fiasco some day. Yeesh.

    • I demand that you tell the story of the wedding eyebrow fiasco, post-haste. (I have one eyebrow. I’m also a giant baby about waxing, plucking, hair removal, etc. The combination is… sad.)

  10. I’ve been thinking about this quite a bit since you posted and I have two thoughts to share.

    1. I don’t know what kinds of pressure married/attached woman face, but I know as a happily single gal, I often feel like I’m being judged. Like people assume that my apparent lack of effort (no make-up, let my hair air dry, dress more on the pretty-but-casual side) is my reason for being single, when in fact my apparent lack of effort is because I have more interesting things to spend my time and money on, and my being single is a choice I have made. I could get a man, I know I could, but I like being single.

    2. I think that women are being pulled by two strong forces: the one that says we need to be girly and pretty and wear make-up and such to fit into what society calls “normal” and the one that says that if we support even one of those “normal” things than we’re obviously enemies of women and feminism. But, the truth is that it’s not black and white, beauty isn’t just about how you look and feminism isn’t about being anti-girly. Feminism is about being you and being allowed to be you because, damn it, you’re allowed to be whatever you want, even a dirty, make-up free space mechanic. The group of so called feminist who think that feminism is about not wearing make-up, not shaving, and hating men are, in my opinion, almost as anti-feminist as misogynists. Beauty and power are about choosing what you want. Do you prefer to wear make-up? Fine. Do you love pink Lego? Great. Would you rather spend the day in flip-flops? Go for it. Would you rather play in the mud than have your nails done? Have fun! Sometimes we are forced into a norm (example, I have to wear business casual cloths at work, but I’d be much more comfortable in jeans) or away from a norm (who in their right mind would run a day home in spiffy dresses and heels?). But, we need to stop beating ourselves up and just let ourselves be what we want as much as we can. (Disclaimer: I say that, but I don’t always practice that).

    Here’s a bonus thought. I think you’re beautiful, regardless of whether or not you have one eyebrow or you wear make-up. And, I don’t just mean that you’re beautiful on the inside (which you are).

    • Yes, you’ve expressed – much clearer than I did! – what I’m getting at. It’s like my nature is to be girly-girl, but I feel guilty for wanting that. In the same way that if I had a daughter I know I would feel pressured to keep her away from all things pink & princessy even if that’s what she was drawn to. And yet, I give my boys the freedom to explore both gender norms. So why the double standard inside my own head? Very confusing as I’m slowly unpicking this.

      And thank you for the compliment. That made me smile on a day when not much else did.

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