The Beauty Experiment

Neon Optimism

by on Feb.19, 2013, under time


I have some, you have some, we all have some and probably want a little more on the soles of our shoes, around the inner edge of our eyeglasses and lining our purses and handbags. Maybe it’s simply the end of a trendy trend pegged to the eighties fashion throwback, but I think it’s something more. I had a little run-in with color psychology during my beauty experiment so I’ll share what I found.

“In the final quarter of my experiment, I decided to try out deliberate badness in dress. In preparation for my daughter’s  playdate, I dressed myself in an olive-green shirt and a pair of pants in a browner shade. I wore sneakers; I left the shirt untucked. I felt uncertain as we left the building and fretful in the cab. Later, my friend Corinne asked me “Are you sure you’re feeling all right today? You look a bit gray.”


            When Hattie and I got home and spotted ourselves in the elevator lobby, Hattie’s bright-purple romper prompted her to smile. I squinted at myself with a bleary clinical eye, wondering whether the woman-zombie before me needed a blood-transfusion, some sun, or an antidepressant.

I’d known that color psychology was a big part of marketing and package design (fast food wrapped in appetite-enhancing red and orange; ecofriendly detergents bottled in morally pristine white) but I’d not realized how much it affected me and everyone I encountered. Did I want to feel like Nauseous Kermit and present myself thus? Or did I want to present something, anything, sunnier?”


I think we want sunnier, and not just because it’s winter. I think we wear neon to convince ourselves that we can be faster, hotter, brighter and louder, and that we have enough superpowers for whatever we’re facing. This year, there’s a lot to face, so I’m grateful for the neon-loving closet optimists. They may blister retinas, but secretly they’re trying to save the world.

Note: this post was also featured on actress Liz Banks’ website. Check out her crazy neon kicks here.

2 Comments for this entry

  • Karen Masterson


    I was hoping to connect with you about some shared interests around women/culture etc. I own a restaurant in Lexington called nourish and also founded a small non-profit called This Is My Face about women & aging and redirecting resources from a self obsessed experience of aging to women in crisis here and abroad. Currently sitting on an advisory board to begin a transition home for women coming out of a life of sex trafficking. Would love to connect!

  • alberto carvajal

    I AM BUYING THIS BOOK FOR ALL THE FEMALES IN MY FAMILY IN HOPES THEY AT LEAST READ IT IN PART. My dad was the first feminist I knew, still all of my sisters were bent on feminine perfection to the point they cannot publicly acknowledge the fact that they may have ever screwed up even once in their lives. It is like they have an everlasting supply of that gook called concealer, and it is used not only for bumps and pimples but life itself. My daughter a high-school principal is a complete slave to this feminine perfection to my chagrin and total despair. I am censored cut off and banished for pointing out that being a slave to a non-existent ideal of perfect beauty is very unhealthy. I thought this program was the best. The only thing that is silly is that the author only tried it for a year.

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