Friday, February 8, 2013

Playing With Fire

Last night, swaddled in the enveloping warmth of a tightly-wrapped blanket, perched on the topmost step, staring into the vast white beauty of a winter's night as the stars twinkled above and calm settled over the earth; I clicked my lighter and let the flame tease my fingertips. The flakes of tobacco began to glow in the flame as its heat accelerated upward through the tunnel of my cupped hands, like a gust of wind over a mountain highway. At the peak of contact between ignitor and ignited, I gasped suddenly at the overwhelming heat rising from within its confined space. Breathing once more, I relished the rest of my evening ritual and returned inside. Gazing into the mirror as later I scoured the surfaces of my teeth, I noticed something:





What the fuck, element of fire? After all that we've been through -- all that preparing of food, all those quiet reveries during a smoke break, all those THOUSANDS OF YEARS surviving as a species -- this is how you're going to repay me?


Granted, it's not so bad as to be immediately noticeable -- Laura only noticed this morning when I pointed it out -- but the difference in length from one set to the other is definitely there. Before mascara, the singed tips on my right eye curl under like a used-up newspaper. Devastating, some might say. My abnormally long eyelashes are a genetic gift from my father; one that attempts to make up for the round face and large backside they also bestow. No matter how much pizza-weight my face gains, my eyes will always be shaded in their heavy black curtains (hopefully, IN MY OLD AGE), keeping the attention away from less desirable attributes. They're the kind of things girls that grew up chubby and still haven't accepted their new bodies cling to.


It should be said that immediately after noticing my current situation of Eyelash Cyclops-ery, I considered taking needed money out of my non-budget to have fake ones installed. I continued considering it until thoughts of the falling-off moment overwhelmed all desire to synthetically modify my appearance. Because those things might eventually fall off into your morning coffee or something. And that's fucking disgusting.


The kicker in the end was the money, though. Non-budget or otherwise, I can't very much afford to go dropping 40 bucks on new eyelashes (because I killed mine), brow shaping (because once I'm there I might as well), and upper-lip threading (because shhhhhhhh...).


But seriously? Someone please come examine my closet and slap me for the above statement. How much time, energy and money do I spend consuming appearance-altering cloth ware that, even if I managed to burn holes in half of it over the same process, I would not need? How any times have I obsessed over a new pair of shoes, only to find them growing roots at the back of my closet months later? How many of us -- men and women alike -- worry more about the way we look than the substance beneath the Mac and H&M?


I'm guilty of all the above in varying degrees. On one side, I've been using lipstick as blush for a week simply to avoid having to go to the store. On the other, I spent grocery-money on thrifted dressed the other day. For what? To have that many more ways of looking like a walking cupcake?


I remember when looking good meant graphic t-shirts from Kohl's. I remember my first hooded sweatshirt when $50 Billabong from Pac-Sun was practically mandatory (I lost that one in a bathroom shortly after purchasing it). I also remember tying a red shoelace around my wrist, wearing Converse sneakers when girls didn't do that kind of thing yet, thinking black eyeliner could never be heavy enough and that my ass looked really good in smiley-faced pajama bottoms. I may look back at photos of these occasions with an expression similar to The Scream, but I remember them well enough to know that at the time I felt like The Shit.


But look, here's the thing: at this point in my life I do spend more time than I ever have on how I look. I believe firmly that to take time and care on yourself means you value yourself -- or if nothing else that what you present on the outside reflects how you feel on the inside. I dress well because I feel well, and if maybe sometimes I don't feel all that well I can draw on the exterior to enhance the interior. We're not all perfect beings. We're going to be superficial sometimes.


Most mornings I wake up with approximately half the amount of time I actually need to get ready. My hair usually makes its way to the top of my head because for fuck's sake it's easy, and I tend to think it brings some of the roundness out of my face. Sometimes I wear a dress and sometimes I wear jeans. Sometimes Buddy Holly exasperates on the couch when I get ready and sometimes I don't shower for a week. Either way, I usually feel pretty good about myself. I do believe that our outsides should be a reflection of our insides. But I assert that when the outsides detract from what's going on inside, it's time to take a breather for a minute. Far too often we let everything that's outside of us take over -- the accumulation of stuff and things and more and more and more -- and no matter what you want to call it, it's essentially just a distraction. A distraction from everything we don't want to feel or admit to that is suffocated by as much stuff as we can cram into our tiny, individual spheres.


It's a toss-up. I know where my simple desire to look nice ends and obsession begins. I toe the line frequently enough to warrant a good eyelash-singeing reminder. I count it as making up for all those years spent in unflattering jeans and graphic t-shirts. Today boiled down to priorities. My eyelashes will grow back. And if anyone notices in the interim? Hell, I'm all about a good story.


Happy Friday, folks!


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