Beauty, Guilt and a Makeover: Day, Evening…Porn? Just What Needs Made Over?

Traveling Marla Makeover
Makeover before

I had a “normal” before photo, but I just get so annoyed with those makeovers that to me exaggerate how “ugly” a person is before the makeover, by showing them as morose, slumped, Debbie-downers. This is my version of a “before” Debbie-downer photo. So, no matter how decent my “after” photos look, just remember this photo, THIS is always the seriousness with which I take myself internally. (It’s an uphill battle, sorry.)

Last weekend I went to Sephora for a makeover. I thought it would be a fun blog and they were great to let my nephew (who I tortured into coming with me) take photos of the process. I told them I wanted (a) a day look; (b) an evening look; and (c) a porn look. I thought since they were located in the upscale Shadyside area, they might be reluctant on the third request, but I think they found it a fun and entertaining mission.

This “porn” look thing has been an odd request of mine lately. I also asked it of my hairdresser. It’s not even like I’m an expert on what a porn look is, or should be (because I, um, er, don’t watch it?) But I’ve noticed as I’m starting to shed my younger, insecure skin, I’ve been going after some strange ideal of what I was conditioned to both loathe and envy: irresistible, drop-dead gorgeous, blow-up doll-looking, man-slaying women. It’s like as I begin trying to carve my own path of what I’m “allowed” or not allowed to be, going for the most extreme will somehow allow me to find a middle ground more comfortable.

It’s both the most humorous and ridiculous parts of my self lately, and as with anything new I learn, I like to call myself out on it, publicly, with photos, so I hope you enjoy both the photos and the insight…

I thought the makeover would be entertaining, because I have no clue how to wear makeup. I’m uncomfortable with beauty for a couple reasons: (1) My self-awareness is often still stuck in photos of myself in the “awkward” years (example here);

Marla school picture

This is how I see myself most of the time. Well, this and that “before” photo above. It’s what I both love and hate about myself: an ability to find humor in all aspects of my life; an inability to take myself seriously when success in any area seems likely.

Traveling Marla makeover(2) I’m one of those people who feels guilty about everything—whatever I was born with, whatever I’ve accomplished, whatever I have materially; (3) I’m married, and I have those protestant church-lady voices in my head that say things like “That lipstick makes you look like a whore” or “You don’t cut bait if you aren’t going fishing” and a few worse ones having to do with what women are “asking for” by painting their faces or dressing in anything but buttoned-up tops and leg-hiding skirts.

Of course the logical part of my brain has moved beyond #3 (mostly) and I’ve been working on #1, but #2, the guilt factor, is the most difficult battle. Guilt, in fact, is probably the most powerful motivator when it comes to every decision in my life. I feel guilty that I was born white, guilty that I went to college, had a good career, got to change to a better career, married a nice guy, and yes, guilty that I’m conventionally pretty.

How Arrogant!!

Guilt is colossally arrogant! It has taken me a lot of years to understand that feeling guilty for something you haven’t done “wrong” comes from a place of ego: it’s presumption that the rest of the world runs around envious of one or more of those “special” qualities you’re afraid of possessing.

Traveling Marla Makeover

My supportive and patient nephew, Brandon.

The irony of that guilt is that it simultaneously resides with envy. I envy women who were able to have children. I envy people who have one or both parents, who have grandparents. I envy blondes and red-heads and people with jet black hair. And of course, I envy women with those porn star looks I was taught to be disgusted by.

I even have “black/minority” envy. Yep, you heard that right. Ever since I was little and my dad constantly sang “Out in the west Texas town of El Paso, I fell in love with a Mexican girl…” I wanted to be anything but white. I wanted desperately for our three drops of Seneca blood to boil to the surface of my skin and bronze me like a goddess. His penchant for Native Americans, Mexican and Spanish women instilled an envy of all things brown.

When I was in Viet Nam, I was surprised to learn that those gorgeous women with their sun-kissed skin cover it all up in order to try to be more white. They wore masks and gloves and long-sleeves and long-pants, in 100+ degree weather.

I was thinking about this a couple days ago when reading one of my favorite blogs, “The Dancing Professor.” She was referencing the ridiculous extremes of beauty in reference to beautiful black women who are being air-brushed to fit a different notion of beauty. Please read her great blog here. It’s much more powerful than I could try to explain it.

But my point is that if light women are trying to be dark, and dark women are trying to be light, when do we ever embrace being ourselves? (I don’t know the answer. I’m only asking the questions.)

Traveling Marla Makeover

Working on “day” look

My new trainer actually just called me out on my ego. He might be even more trouble for me than poor Gary (meow!)

It started because I admitted that I’ve worked on my physical body a number of times in recent years, but that each time I get to what starts looking attractive to others, I self-sabotage, or quit and hide behind dowdy clothes and weight again. I stop wearing makeup, throw my hair in a ponytail and hide behind an ice cream cone and several pounds of chocolate.

Traveling Marla Makeover

There is a surprising amount of work that goes into “Day” look.

When pressed for why (I know, I know, my new trainer appears to be annoyingly and possibly salvationally psycho-analytical) I said it’s because I don’t want to be attractive to other men. Since I’m married, I don’t want random guys hitting on me, and worse, I feel that I get along better with other women if I’m fat and “non-threatening.”

Traveling Marla Makeover

Almost finished…

His response was something like “Wait, so let me get this straight: You think if you get in good physical shape that suddenly every man in the universe will sniffing at your backside, and every woman will want to be you or intimidated by you?”

Traveling Marla Makeover

My “day” look by the fabulous artist, Laura

Isn’t it amazing, when your words are rephrased back to you in snarky hyperbole, how quickly the chaff is stripped away until you see the grain for what it is? And what I saw wasn’t the ego I thought I had.

Traveling Marla Makeover

A little more eyeshadow and lipstick takes the look to “evening.”

I realized it was still all about fear. I am afraid that if I work hard at my body or apply makeup to my face, men won’t notice me anyway, that it will still be me who is envious of the women who are sexier (whores! 😉 ) or more fit, or younger. In other words, I’m afraid of my “self” – the self who still hasn’t learned to be comfortable or confident in who I am, who hides behind dorky photos and self-deprecation because I am afraid success won’t be “good enough” for whoever it is who determines what is “good enough.”

Traveling Marla Makeover

Laura quickly transitioned my eyes and lips to evening by simply enhancing existing makeup for lower lighting.

Maybe “fear,” “guilt” and “shame” are all different words for the same issue of self-acceptance.

Traveling Marla Makeover

The beginning of conversion to “porn” eyes

In analyzing my own guilt, I realize it’s hiding behind layers of misplaced shame. But there is no shame in being attractive or white, or middle class.  There is no shame in being able to travel or have a loving husband or have an interesting life. But the guilt, the self-sabotage, maybe, the fear, comes from feeling I didn’t earn them and therefore don’t deserve them.

And I realized that moving beyond that fear masked as ego will actually address this other issue of “earn” and “deserve” from the perspective that I don’t feel I do enough in this lucky life I have to be worthy of any of it.

And I read a phrase yesterday in one of the regular blogs I follow that I want to begin to internalize:

“As women we are born people pleasers and for a time I may have lost my way; spending too much time trying to make others happy at the expense of my own hopes and dreams. But this life is too short and way too precious; and I have realised that you are cheating yourself if you waste a single moment feeling wretched.” – A blogger friend of mine known as “Crazy Train to Tinky Town”

She has given voice to my internal inhibitor. I waste so much time feeling wretched that I never enjoy or celebrate the life I’m in. Success is only selfish if I fail to use it to make the world better, and to elevate the good people around me. Beauty is only wasted if I over-celebrate it in vanity, or hide it in shame.

Traveling Marla Makeover

I know. The words are easier than the actions, and I have a long way to go before I really internalize the notion that success can be healthy, being attractive isn’t being a whore and that my life isn’t more or less special than any other. Each person has something unique, beautiful, healthy or intelligent to contribute. Not wasting what I’m given can remove guilt or fear. Not presuming I’m given anything “luckier” than anyone else gives me a healthier ego.

Traveling Marla Makeover

Eyelids and lashes are apparently key to a good porn eye.

The makeover was fun, and I would love to do it again sometime, maybe even push my boundaries on that final look even further, pair it with a plunge bra and some cleavage (whore!) But more importantly, I realized the real makeover I still need is internal.

Traveling Marla Makeover day evening porn

Are we the sum of our pretty parts?

Traveling Marla Makeover

Or can we talk about something more than physical?

And now (at least, until my next neurotic break or break-through) back to your regularly scheduled blogs.

Love, Marla

Traveling Marla Makeover

There you have it: my mug-shot looking before and my final porn-eyes. And maybe the real “me” is somewhere in between.

29 Comments on “Beauty, Guilt and a Makeover: Day, Evening…Porn? Just What Needs Made Over?

  1. Pingback: Making Sand Angels in the Arabian Desert, Traveling Marla-Style | Traveling MarLa

  2. Pingback: Fear of Success is NOT the Same as Fear of Failure…But Fear is Still the Point | Traveling MarLa

  3. Pingback: De-Sasquatching and an Apology | Traveling MarLa

  4. Pingback: Beauty, Guilt and a Makeover: Day, Evening…Porn? – Traveling MarLa | Beauty Blogs

  5. Like I said in another blog comment…..we are alot alike. Reading this gave me a little look into me as well. Sometimes it’s good to hear other peoples view (even your Lurch trainer…lol) of what we are actually saying with our words. Puts things in a different perspective. It’s good to know that we aren’t alone in some of our crazy thoughts anyway. Thanks for this blog.

    • You know, my mom always made a joke that she wished she had sent us to finishing school, because she had encouraged us SO much to be tomboys when we were little, and she never braided our hair or put bows/ribbons etc. In fact she kept our hair cut short until we were old enough to make those decisions ourselves. By then I was used to it.
      So my “natural” state is just that outdoorsy, no fuss/no muss girl who can jump into the leaves and not worry about it.

      But as I’ve been trying to put a little (emphasis on LITTLE) effort into it, at least when Kurt’s going to be home or we’re going to go out, it does make me happy to see that he likes it.

      Kurt loves me unconditionally, and I think for him it’s more of knowing I want to look a little more girly or frilly or sexy for him.

      I guess. Ha, if I could figure out the male mind I’d be a bazillionaire.

      But yeah, I know my gussying will be for occasions and natural Marla will stay low maintenance, hahaha.

  6. Something about human nature… we’re never happy with what we have. My little girl (even at age3) wants to look like her sister. And the big kid wants to look more like her. Hard to understand that beauty isnt just what people seeon the outside.

    • Aww, it really is something, isn’t it? Those Vietnamese women are so beautiful. Each culture has its own defining qualities that are so appealing. When I taught ESL at Chatham, I interacted with students of many nationalities. I was so sad to see several of the beautiful Chinese girls putting in those round-eye contacts. The eye surgeries and the roundeye contacts are so common now that it just breaks my heart. I think you are doing such a good job in recognizing and working with your girls to love themselves as they are.
      It does start young, and despite what people sometimes think about parents “f’ing” up their kids, it’s some awful and sad part of humanity to just always, as you said, never be satisfied. Of course, maybe that lack of satisfaction is what always drives us to become better achievers, innovators, thinkers.
      I guess we’ll always have the yin and yang of it?

      I dunno. Great comments on this post. Good thoughts.

  7. BTW… It’s “The West Texas town of El Paso” and he also sang “The streets of Laredo” nice combo though. 😉

  8. Hahahahaha!!! That’s awesome!! Have to admit I knew it was coming from a long description from Brandon. Still this was a highly anticipated blog on my end! Heard you guys “did the town” with porn face afterward. Wish I could have been along for that! Love you sis, and your plain old “regular face” is still my favorite. That had to be a lot of fun though.

    • Aww, you’re the best brother, ever! Thanks for the comment. It definitely has been a popular post. It was fun. I don’t remember everything she taught me about how to do it myself again, but it was fun!

  9. Love both the words, story and photos. I think the day look is beautiful and the evening look is gorgeous. The whore look is a bombshell! One day I’m going to try false eyelashes too!

    • Aww, wow. Thank you for that comment They were really neat to wear. I would try it again, although I don’t think I’d ever try to put them on myself. Of course that might make an entertaining blog by itself.

  10. This is one of those sentences that shouldn’t ever be taken out of context, but: your porn face is totally arresting and gorgeous – and unreal! Like you, I don’t tend to wear makeup, and don’t really know what to do with it, but it is a really interesting and powerful tool. And I think it’s worthwhile to think about it, and why we use it, and what it does for us. Thanks for another thoughtful and entertaining rumination!

  11. The “evening” look is drop-dead gorgeous on you! And, the “porn” look doesn’t look so whory. The “day” look seems to be everyday beautiful. I understand the part about being a woman and a people-pleaser. I’m working on it myself. I have realized that it’s okay for me to work on myself physically and to look smokin’ hot at times. Just because I’m married doesn’t mean that either of us doesn’t get bored. I like to think of it as a gift for my hubby when I work out, wear a nice outfit, make myself look beyond presentable and do something fun! Just because he married me doesn’t mean the work is over for either of us, a good marriage takes constant work (even if it’s just a new way to get him to look at me!). Enjoy doing what you love, even if it benefits only you at times.

    • I also thought the porn look wasn’t as extreme as I had expected. And I got more and more used to it the logner the day wore on.
      I like your thinking. I’ve been trying to think of all the training and the maintenance as something for my husband too. I just need to get out of my own way sometimes and relax, enjoy, live.
      Thanks for reading and even more, thanks for commenting!!

%d bloggers like this: