In any case, I've finished the first draft of my book, and spending several months focused on essentially one task—which is a luxury I've never had before—has brought up a handful of thoughts related to what I write about here. And so, allow me to ease my way back into blogging with a smattering of thoughts, if you will? (As for returning to blogging, I am—I promise—but I need a short break from computers altogether, say, a week. I just didn't want to go for too long without updating!)
• For better or worse, I started wearing makeup to write. Not as a rule; it happened more by accident, as I put on makeup to go out for a coffee-shop writing session and then changed my mind at the last minute and stayed home. I found that then, when I'd get up for bathroom breaks, when I'd look at myself in the mirror I felt more...like myself, or like the image of myself I have in my mind. I felt less distracted by noticing little things that I usually "fix" with makeup, like being pale-cheeked or having a constellation of acne scars. It wasn't like previously, I'd look in the mirror in the middle of a writing jag and then fixate on my image, but really, when I'm in the headspace to write, it's so easy for me to get off-track that I figured anything I could do to minimize distractions would be a good thing. I tried it again the next day and found that I focused a little better, that I felt more "on."
I've argued before that makeup functions as a sort of signal of public life—zones outside of the private sphere require a different protocol than private spaces, and makeup can be one of the ways we delineate the two. I'm wondering if the end goal of the writing I was doing—a book, which will have a somewhat different audience than my blog, and which feels like a more public and permanent collection of What I Think About Beauty than my blog, which gives me plenty of room to change my mind—meant that I benefited from being in a more "public" space via makeup than I would from blogging?
• My biggest motivation to not restrict my caloric intake is keeping a clear mind. Moving in with my boyfriend has been great, but it's also eliminated the 20-minute walk between our former domiciles, and our mutual fondness for sweets has meant there's more candy lying around than I'd ever have living on my own. Take all that and the fact that I've spent the past couple of months basically doing nothing but sitting in a chair and writing, and it's inevitable that I'd gain a couple of pounds. I'd resigned myself to this and knew that writing a good book was more important than a number on a scale, so I'd promised myself that I wouldn't freak out if that happened. I also knew that if I gained more than "a couple of pounds" while writing this book it would be bad for me—it could trigger my history of disordered eating, it could make me have to spend money on new clothes, and it could affect my level of comfort in my own body. I'm not talking being artifically slim; I've found my "happy weight," and when I began writing the book, I was at it. (Speaking of "happy weight," I found an interesting calculator that asks a handful of questions and then crunches out a number. It's hardly super-scientific, but it's the first weight calculator I've seen that takes family history and lifestyle beyond exercise into account. As always, grain of salt.)
Point is, I knew that my meals were generally healthful and a good size, so when I started working on this book full-time I decided I'd keep my snacking in check and see how it went. And what I found was that if I didn't have a snack in the morning—which is my prime time for thinking and writing—I could neither think nor write. Thinking as hard as I can makes me seriously hungry—not mind-hunger, but actual stomach-rumbling, limbs-shaking hunger-hunger. (Which makes me wonder exactly what kind of "thinking" I've been doing for the 37 years up until this point if I'm only now discovering this, but that's another post.) Normally I wouldn't be hungry until around 1 p.m., but I found myself lightheaded if I didn't have a snack at 11, after writing for just a couple of hours. I tried drinking more coffee, I tried taking brisk walks, but they didn't help: I was genuinely, physically hungry, my brain wanted more glucose to do its thing, and there was no way around it. I knew that my biggest priority was to write the best book I could, while staying sane. Restricting calories would mean I wouldn't be doing either. And so, I didn't.
Like washing one's face, this is common sense to plenty of people. But it wasn't common sense to me, or to many people who have a history of disordered eating. I try not to get too into ED stuff on here because I'm wary of strengthening its connection to "beauty" in anyone's mind, including my own, but this was a serious "aha!" moment for me, so I'm sharing it: I knew that when I was seriously restricting calories, I was fatigued and lightheaded all the time, but that was because I was drastically undereating. I hadn't considered its corollary: If you're genuinely hungry, even if it's been just a couple of hours since you ate a full meal, not snacking is undereating. Simple to so many people, an "aha!" to another many altogether.
And two thoughts not related to book-writing, except that the latter explains why it will take me just a bit longer to get back to full speed here:
• Sometime beauty products can help even us skeptics. Or: You should really wash your face. This may seem to be basic truth to many! Not to me. When I stopped shampooing my hair for a spell a couple of years ago, I also stopped using any sort of cleanser on my face—I'd just rinse my face with water, morning and night, and then put on whatever treatments or makeup I wanted. I exfoliated a couple of times a week with baking soda, that was all. But on a whim I bought an exfoliating cleanser to see if it had any benefits not offered by baking soda, and sure enough, my skin started looking...cleaner, I guess? Which is what you'd expect with a cleanser. But also brighter, tighter-pored, a little more even, so while I don't use it every day, I use it probably 4-5 times a week. In typical contrarian fashion I'd decided that most basic products like face wash were basically hogwash and a waste of money. A sense of skepticism is a good thing when it comes to beauty, I think, but one can take it too far. So: Wash your damn face.
• My doctor told me not to wear makeup. Well, sort of. Tomorrow I'm having a minimally invasive medical procedure. (I'm fine, it's just uterine fibroids, which 20-30% of women have, but most of the time they're not symptomatic; mine are. And so, embolization.) I'll be under local anesthetic but also sedated. And as a part of prepping me for the procedure, the medical team advised the general—no eating or drinking after midnight, have someone to escort me home—but also the unexpected: no makeup! Apparently when you're under sedation, the medical team monitors your pallor as one sign of your overall well-being. If there's a problem with the anesthesia, your skin color is one of many signs that alerts the team that there's something amiss. Alas, I have nothing sociologically interesting to say about this, other than that I think it's a sign of progress that anesthesiologists recognize that women are half their patients and are expanding their pre-testing procedures accordingly. It wasn't so long ago that women weren't used equally in clinical trials for fear of fertility side effects. I don't know how much that extended to things like patient prep for anesthesia, but I thought it was interesting.