Saturday, May 17, 2014

Caturday, Anti-Rants and Talking About How You Look

The weekend wouldn't be complete without a cat meme, so let me start by saying this:

On a related note, please never dress your dog up like that. I won't bother to tell you not to dress up your cat because most cats will rip your arms off and eat your toes before you can.

Moving right along...

I was surfing the vlogbrothers Youtube channel* and cracking up at Hank and John's chosen topics of communication (totally worth a gander!) when I came across Hank's discussion of What Boys Look For In Girls. Click the link to watch the video; it's worth hearing what he says at the end.

Aside from his gratifying comments about how women are viewed and valued by society, I also loved his comment: "Of course, there's nothing wrong with wanting to express yourself through physical appearance."

I've tried to communicate that single sentence-worth of meaning to several people lately, and they didn't understand, probably because I'm a lot worse with words in person than I am on the page. There are self-worth issues that need to be addressed, but sometimes a woman wants to wear make-up just because; not because she's insecure about her face but because it's like an art project.

This is the usual reason I adorn my body the way I do--which granted usually just means brushing my hair and putting on chapstick. But some days I like to play around with bobby pins and mascara, and I hate the backlash of our culture that says because you're putting effort into your appearance, you must not think you look good. Lies. I think I look great. There's a thing or two I don't like, but I don't think I'd change it because it's me. I'm adding color to my face today because hey! blue is pretty! I like blue!

There's nothing wrong with wanting to express yourself through physical appearance.

This applies to how you dress, too. Sometimes a girl (or guy) dresses well because they're compensating for low self-esteem, but sometimes they dress well because that's their personality. They're expressing the kind of person they are and sending an easy message.

Don't pass that off. All humans make a snap judgment about someone in the first few milliseconds of meeting them. Those snap judgments--the "first impression"--are unconscious and very hard to undo. Your brain is cataloging people without your permission. It only makes sense that people dress in such a way that the brain can catalog them properly.

The way we look is a part of our conversation with the world. It's your About Me page. What you choose to mention or not mention shows what's important to you, what you're ashamed of, who you want to rub shoulders with. My Twitter page says I'm a writer. That's one of the most important things you need to know about me. My life revolves around my writing.

But Twitter doesn't tell you I live in Virginia. I don't like Virginia. We'll be leaving VA in a year or two--i.e. as soon as possible. This is not going to be our permanent residence; I can't survive the culture.

In the same way I pay attention to my Twitter page, I pay attention to the way I dress. It tells you who I am and who I want to be around, because people will gravitate towards me based on what kind of person they think I am. When I was a nanny, I wore mommish outfits because I wanted to hang out with other women caring for kids 10 hours a day. When I started working for myself, I dressed business-casual because I wanted people to know I'm a professional and I wanted to fit in with my other young working friends. Now that I live in Virginia, my hippy style has become my everyday style because I want people to know I'm not a Virginian. (Virginia doesn't have hippies, at least not the same kind. They have hillbillies, not hipsters.)

Appearance matters. It doesn't matter for our worth; you're always worth it. But it does matter for who you want to be around, because of what people are going to assume about you before you even say your name. I like to think of my appearance not as a requirement but an opportunity. I can remake myself to emphasize different aspects of who I am depending on the setting.

Does that mean I'm lying about myself? Absolutely not. In nerdier settings, I wear my Where's Wooldo t-shirt. In classier settings, I wear a banana-yellow blouse. Both of them scream with my personality, but my personality is too complicated to be boiled down to one shirt.

Which Liz do I want to show today? The world is my oyster.

Word count: 799.

*For those of you who are 100% confused what I'm talking about, the vlogbrothers started as a project between John Green (author of The Fault in Our Stars and Will Grayson Will Grayson which I reviewed here) and his brother Hank to keep in touch with each other by vlogging (video blogging) to each other every week about topics of interest. They now have a huge following, an online community called "nerdfighters."