If you look amazing during a pandemic, that’s sick.
Every morning, I wash my face, apply whatever skincare sample I’m scraping the bottom of this week, and face a few truths. First, the roots. I dye my hair once every five weeks, but have yet to meet a shade that can come anywhere near my natural hair color which is like…brown, so at the moment I’m being treated to grown-out, way-too-warm, faded chestnut-colored hair while my actual color peppered with grays chases it like a pickleback. I am a human calico and I hate it.
Beyond that, there’s the skin on my face that looks stressed, uneven, and just basically not 27 anymore which is no shock because I’m a decade older than that. There aren’t enough sheet masks in the world, not that I’m giving up.
I can’t even call what’s left on my fingernails a manicure. It is shards, actual shards of gel polish hanging onto my nails like Mission Impossible-era Tom Cruise off the edge of a cliff. It has grown 1/3 of the way off my nails so by the time we get out of here and I can get back to my girl, it’s going to look like the world’s most inept french tip. I am so sorry Daniella, I didn’t mean to defile your flawless work in this way. Also shoutout to early March me who made the executive decision to get the palest pink shimmer polish money can buy. If I’d opted for navy blue I’d be scratching at my own hands like digging for treasure in the sand right now.
What’s happening with my body is even more interesting and by interesting I mean who is this bitch. I don’t know this body, I don’t like this body, this body hurts every time I come back from a long walk. My plantar fasciitis is flaring up, my back is getting tired of hauling canned goods around Brooklyn, and my left hamstring has quit its job without giving notice. By the time I get home from a six-mile round trip to Target, I’m not carrying my groceries so much as my own left leg, dragging it across my threshold like I’ve purchased a large side of lamb. I got on a scale yesterday, which is an activity I do not advise. I know body positivity is the move, but I grew up with dELiA*s catalogs and Brittney Spears’ midsection as examples of the female form, give me awhile to join the party.
Regarding fashion, if I don’t come out of this thing with an offer from Vince Camuto for my own line of clothes-that-don’t-feel-like-clothes with an approachable price point I will be so disappointed. Read Jessica Simpson’s autobiography, you will understand why I’m so motivated. Lord knows you need a new book right now, why not. I exist in clothing that drapes gently from my limbs not unlike ivy from a branch. If I can feel its presence, I take it off. Bra manufacturers have entirely new goals to reach for when this is all over, let me tell you. It is actually quite amusing to me how long we’ve all been putting up with wearing clothing we’re relieved to take off at the end of the day. Why did we ever live like that? If you think you’re getting me back into zippers after there’s a vaccine for this shit you have another thing coming.
High level, we’re all gorgeous. We don’t need to do anything, change anything, cover anything, lose anything—no. But if you tell me you don’t feel amazing with a fresh cut/color, full face of makeup, eyelash extensions, and brand new gel mani, you’re fucking lying. Get out of my house with that charlatan act and make sure you’re wearing a protective mask when you go. It’s okay to feel beautiful after putting in effort to feel beautiful. It’s okay to also feel beautiful after not doing a goddamned thing. Which I really hope is what we’re all feeling, because if you’re seeking out professional beauty treatments right now, you’re a total shit.
Quarantine is keeping us from any number of routines we enjoy. The one I miss most is perhaps leaving the house without having a panic attack, but there are others. Working with colleagues, dinners with friends, traveling farther than a 10-block radius, etc. The one I have a feeling we feel the guiltiest for missing in these trying times is everything we regularly do to look and feel beautiful. Insert societal beauty standards here, obviously, but we still participate in them so…? Fierce feminists are allowed to contour their face, shut up.
We have no access to beauty services right now. Absolutely everything is DIY, heaven help you if you have highlights. There are reasons people choose to go into beauty services as a profession. They’re good at it, they deserve to be paid for their talents, and there are perhaps some things we have no business doing to ourselves. (I will say however, that I’ve been trimming my own bangs and coloring my own hair for years for the sake of convenience and cost, and I’m a better woman for it.) At present, we can’t get the physical representations of beauty that we’ve grown accustomed to since the first time our moms let us wear makeup. It’s a long-held habit that’s suddenly not on the massage table anymore. I think it’s okay if we think that sucks. Just as long as we let it suck, without trying to do something about it that can’t be solved in our own bathrooms and kitchen sinks.
The thing is, it’s everybody. Ugly is happening to everybody. There isn’t some underground salon operating like a speakeasy, this is a time where it’s not safe for anyone, literally no one on earth, to go glam. Even if you happen to live with someone who has both the supplies and talent to make you look red carpet-ready right now, where the fuck do you think you’re going? Only so much effort shows up on Zoom anyway, so slap on some BB cream and call it a day.
I like it. I like that everybody’s ugly together. I like this complete 180 of societal opinion. Typically if you show up makeup free, messy hair, grown-out roots, no mani, and like half an eyelash, you’re ratchet! But in these wild times, you’re a goddamned hero. Look at her! She’s obeying social distancing like a pro! What an absolute pillar of society right now. I see your roots my sister, here: look at mine! We are in this hot mess together and I’m proud of us.
I’m of two minds. Part of me thinks we’ll come out of this adopting a new, minimalist approach to beauty and physical presentation, given that we’ve gone without it for so long and the world hasn’t ended. Well, at least not because we haven’t had a facial this quarter. Maybe we’ll get so comfortable doing less that we’ll just keep doing less forever. I often imagine myself as the living embodiment of a boutique hotel in Copenhagen, in calming neutral tones with just the slightest amount of effort and tons of Instagrammable cool. But the other part of me knows that once we’re allowed inside a Sephora again, it’s over for you bitches.
I’ve already decided that I’m reverting back to a full set of hard gel nails sculpted into perfect almond shapes cost be damned, and—for the first time in my life—I’m getting something done to these eyelashes. I have been on a lifelong quest for the world’s most potent mascara and have now decided that I can keep spending $30 a pop trying new product, or far more than that less often for lashes that give me fresh-out-of-bed eyes like Betty Boop. I’ve made a decision.
It’s okay to not feel cute. It’s okay to say that you don’t feel cute. There’s no guilt or shame in enjoying beauty services. There’s just a shitload of shame and irresponsibility in thinking you have any business receiving them right now.
We have an opportunity here. We can band together in low-maintenance solidarity for once. We can start to see evidence of services long-due as badges of honor and community, where once they kind of just meant you looked hungover. I say we embrace this time, this globally glam-less moment, and celebrate each other. Not celebrate each other’s “natural beauty” or whateverthefuck, because obviously we are beautiful in our most stripped state, and deserve to be loved and adored in it, most importantly by ourselves. I’m talking about also celebrating each other’s distance between beauty services, and acknowledging how proud we are of each other’s DIY attempts. I say we go full mat-talk from Cheer on each other right now.
I see your shitty eyebrows and I’m proud of you! I think you did such a good job at cutting your own bangs and your eight-year-old’s hair! I absolutely applaud you for giving home-highlights a try! Press-on nails?! YOU VIKING.
This is a time to come together as a world separated—from our beauty routines. Let us emerge from our cocoons and robe-only wardrobes someday looking back on everything we did—and did not do—with pride, respecting ourselves for not feeling shame, and for recognizing that now is not the time for flawless. I’m not happy I can see my roots, I’m not happy you can see my roots, but the root of our connection to each other as human beings who lived through a pandemic was that we did it together, and so did our bad hair.
We are all ugly right now, and that my friends…is beautiful.
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