Day Three: School

Today was the first time I left home without another set of eyes to confirm I didn’t have any food on my face. Power-walked to class (I was barely on time) and didn’t get any weird looks, though during a break I did notice that the top three buttons of my shirt had somehow managed to burst open. Awkwardly re-buttoned while standing in line at Starbucks, trying not to notice the interested glances my fellow students were shooting over their laptops.

I was thinking today about looks and privilege and all the things that would prevent some women from embarking on this sort of project: working in a corporate culture that equates professionalism with a full face of makeup; working in retail and waitressing jobs that expect mascara and bouncing curls; having “unruly” natural hair that attracts more controversy than might seem worth it. Our looks aren’t just about personal vanity, and I’m lucky to be able to move through the world with a “natural” look that is still deemed fairly acceptable (thin, white, straight-haired). Still, even my mirrorless “natural” is more contrived than, say, my boyfriend’s: I spent ten minutes blow drying my hair this morning (facing the back of the bathroom, of course), while he showered, air dried, and walked out the door without a second glance. At least I didn’t have to wrestle with a tie.

I’m still feeling fairly laid back about this whole project, though this afternoon I felt the first twinge of wistfulness: I suspect it was a “pretty” day.



2 thoughts on “Day Three: School

  1. You make a really interesting point about the expectations of appearance in retail. I’ve worked a few retail jobs, and I’ve always been told that we are expected to act as “walking billboards” for the fashion. We must wear the clothes (kind of understandable), and we must strive to look good in the clothes (a bit of a slippery slope…). I even had one job tell me that if I was the type of person who would wear makeup going out, then I was one hundred percent expected to wear it at work, and that if I were to show up to work with my hair in a messy ponytail and no make-up, I would be sent home. It’s crazy to think how much employers feel they own their workers’ bodies!

  2. Wow, CKoblun, that’s horrifying, though unsurprising. It frustrates me that appearance-related expectations remain so blatantly gendered — how is it fair that a woman and a man can work the same job for (hopefully) the same pay, but she’s expected to go through twice the trouble (or more) to do her hair, makeup, nails, etc. and don high heels? The heel thing in particular has always miffed me, since wearing high heels for long periods of time (standing regularly for an eight hour shift at a clothing store, for example) has actual physical ramifications. In any case, thank you for sharing your experiences. I’m so grateful to have a choice when it comes to these sorts of things.

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