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.
Soooo…..Big weekend coming up for those who love football and those whose eyes reflexively glaze over when they hear the phrase “first down and ten.” But everyone loves the ads, right? I mean except when they portray women as objects for consumption and men as unthinking dolts.
To bone up on what makes advertising sexist, take 12 minutes to listen to Caroline Heldman’s TED talk in SanDiego recently. It’s a great help in pinpointing exactly what irks us when we see these things, but don’t always know why we’re irked.
And then, keep your phone handy during the game. By tweeting #NotBuyingIt to any advertiser with a sexist commercial, we’ll be keeping them in line and responsive to the real American audience. Read more about the genius of this plan on the MissRepresentation blog.
If you are one of those media mavericks who don’t have a screen to watch or who might actually step away from yours to read a book or take a hike or cook a soufflé…rest easy in the knowledge that everything you miss will be endlessly analyzed and highlighted in all the other media outlets later.
Enjoy your weekend hot wings/nachos/french cooking/pages.
Forty minutes before I’m slated to arrive at the CBS studios of Live from the Couch in NYC, I get an email message from the segment producer: Would I consider skipping makeup for the live broadcast this morning? It would be a powerful message.
Half-dressed, toothbrush hanging out of my mouth, I quickly reply “sure” and tell her I’ll forgo the mascara I’d planned on using, but won’t give up my chapstick because it’s 10 degrees outside. It’s not a huge deal, partly because I am on the fence about the mascara anyway, it does give focus to my eyes since I have blonde eyelashes, but I’m an eye-rubber, so it invariably ends up smudged.
This decision seems fairly insignificant to me, the ordinary person, as I finish getting dressed and head over to the studio, but it quickly becomes magnified in what is resolutely a show-business world of television. The security man, the production assistant, the camera-men and producer herself all look, more or less, like me: people who have groomed themselves for work outside the home. Everyone is wearing clean, seasonally appropriate clothes, and shoes made for walking around in. Some wear a small marker of individuality: a long-sleeve Giants T-shirt, waist-length hair in a braid, a bright patchwork scarf atop an all black cocoon meant to keep out the frigid cold.
But those on camera look different. They look like actors, wearing costumes, with facial features artificially enhanced for better visibility under bright lights. I know what backstage actors look like because I was a theater nerd in high school, and I know that people in the last row of the theater need to connect with actors not only through the emotions in a voice, but by watching the emotions on a face they can see.
So what is it am I being asked to do by going on stage without stage makeup? And what are the female hosts of The View, and Katie Couric and all those celebrities who tweet pictures of their un-made-up faces doing when they go on camera thwarting this theatrical convention–one that applies to men and women alike, although not to the same degree? Part of me believes it is an aggressive act of facial ownership–”if the show must go on then it shall include the unadorned me as well as the prettiest I can be me.” I like this message, am happy to support it, and have in most of my TV apperances.
The other, smaller part of me suspects I am (or have) participated in a giant hoax– the one in which we all are meant to believe that what we see on screen is reality and not a vetted, market-researched, highly-scripted, advertiser-approved show-biz kind of show. This is the same hoax that would have us believe that stories of real life are the same as lives in the moment of being lived, and that the beauty of art and artifice is not a labored-after human expression, but something some of us simply exude effortlessly. On this count I cry bullshit.
Because this issue is not so simple, I’ve come up with a few responses.
1. Agree to skip the makeup, because it’s not hard for me to do and saves time so I can think about my clothes (can’t skip) and my answers (important)!
2. Ask to be make up like a male host.
3. Ask to wear the makeup I’d ordinarily wear for an important event in the public eye: my own clean, green, mascara and lipstick.
Esteemed readers, what would you do?
My memoir, The Beauty Experiment: how I skipped lipstick, ditched fashion, faced the world without concealer and learned to love the real me is available at your local bookstore or one of these online sources:
As of today, 249 women have taken my survey! I can’t help but be excited by this, especially since the results and comments have been so interesting this far. Also cool is the geographic distribution of respondents, seen here in a chart supplied by my friends at SurveyGizmo.
The east coast of the US is really well represented, but the Midwest and California are looking a little weak. Come on Mountain and Pacific time! Come on Alaska, Greenland, Australia, Russia, Indonesia, and all of South America! Show us your hair maintenance preferences! If you live in a geograpically unique place and are wondering if I can tag your survey responses to your location, the answer is no. I turned on the anonymizer at the beginning.
While this geodata chart is inspiring (and a little creepy, for me), the point here is the survey. For a look at the current responses to three specific questions check out the results page:
Reactions, rebuttals and other comments on this data are welcome in the comment box below. I’d love to get a conversation going.
Finally, 249 respondants is still very far short of 1000, and the men’s survey has only 59 so far. I’m starting my second big recruitment period and any help at all– facebook postings, word of mouth, ideas, would be greatly appreciated.
Thanks and have a lovely day.