War Paint Reconsidered

It seems that whenever I take a firm stance on something, I come across other articles and blogs that sway me and make me question my position.  For example, since writing War Paint, I’ve come across a number of articles supporting the  notion of women going makeupless.   I support those women who feel empowered by it, and I wish I could be one of them, but I fear the risk is too great (for the reasons I cited previously).  However, I think it’s important to look into the makeupless trend anyway and ponder it a bit.  I came across this article entitled, “Why I Won’t Wear Makeup Again…Ever,” which can be found here: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/maria-rodale/why-i-wont-wear-makeup-ag_b_5591235.html.  I find it interesting that the author wore makeup while working her way “up the ladder” and only when she got to the top (as CEO) did she stop wearing makeup.  Would she have had the same result if she decided to stop wearing makeup while she was working her way up the ladder?  Based on other studies, I fear the answer to that question may quite possibly have been no, but I also fear that we may never know.  Wearing makeup seems to be so indoctrinated in in the minds of young girls that I don’t know if there will be a true revolution of all working women going barefaced into the workforce.  However, there certainly have been some recent attempts.  There’s the rise of the barefaced selfie and celebrities posting photos of their “natural” faces, whether with minimal makeup or none at all – of course, most people would probably deem such celebrities “successful,” akin to having already climbed to the top of the corporate ladder.  And sure, plenty of working women do go to work without makeup, but how many women CEOs and partners at law firms and public figures are going makeupless on the regular?  This is my struggle – I find it so silly yet so critical.

I’ve already given up wearing heels regularly (as in every day – yes, I did that for a couple of years even through a knee injury). And at only five feet, sometimes I wonder whether I’m also risking my career development  by embracing my natural height.  I dare you to google “do taller people make more money” and you’ll see… the vertically challenged are screwed financially relative to their taller counterparts.  At the same time, I’m not going to kill myself to conform my entire being into what is socially more desirable and more promotable, but I do give in from time to time (i.e. a couple times a week).   I keep two pairs of heels stashed under my desk at all times.    And I have to disclose, I’m not one of those 5 inch heel wearers… because if the heels are too big, well, then it’s simply “too sexy” for work and people start to think you’re just a sex object with no other potential.  It’s a fine line and a time-consuming line to walk sometimes.  Maybe I’m over-analyzing my work appearance, but from what various studies seem to suggest about appearance, and from experience, image seems to be incredibly important in the workforce.

Would I dare experiment wearing flats and no makeup at the same time to my job for an extended period of time?  I don’t know.  It’s tempting.   My colleagues and my supervisors are very happy with my work.  Would they really care what I look like?  In my former job at a law firm, I once went to work wearing just mascara and concealer.  My boss told me I looked sick and tired.  (Thanks).  I didn’t really think I looked that bad, but I never did that again!  So, I commend the women who are posting their barefaced selfies and wearing little to zero makeup when they are out and about.  Maybe as I get older and wiser I will care less, or maybe when I make my way up the ladder, I too will go makeupless.  But I wish I could be a better role model now, and though I claim to choose to wear makeup and heels as a tool to advance my career, I know I’m also giving in to what many would consider to be sexist and stereotypical social expectations.   I’m conforming in my own way, but I’m far from done figuring out how to reconcile what science tells me I should look like and who I really am.

Striving for Perfection – Additional Thoughts

The day after I wrote Striving for Perfection, I read an article in the Huffington Post entitled “Why I Couldn’t Have it All.”  The article can be found here:  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/megan-b-baldwin/why-i-couldnt-have-it-all_b_5563728.html

In essence, this article is the exact opposite of everything I’m seeking.  It concerned me.  It was written by a woman who, like me, is an attorney who is married to an equally ambitious husband.  Unlike me, she has two kids.  She talks about having it all at one point, where she’s balancing work and family life, but making sacrifices in all aspects of it.  She writes, “When I tried to do it all, I cut corners everywhere. I made sacrifices with everything: my work, my kids, my marriage, my home. And I was miserable. Our crazy, hectic lifestyle wasn’t working.”  Ultimately, she decided to give up her career and focus on her family.  I commend her for it and I appreciate that she recognizes that not every family has the ability to do this.  Some women who want to stay home and care for their families simply can’t.  But this woman was fortunate enough to have the choice and chose her family.

So why does this concern me?  To each her own, right?  Well, this woman sounds a lot like me.  I am trying to have it all – the career, the husband, kids, friends, and an active and healthy lifestyle.  What if once I have it all I’m miserable just like she was?  She seems to think there is no such thing as having it all.  But… maybe “having it all” is just about finding what fulfills you and makes you happy.  Maybe I will be able to have a career, husband, kids, friends etc… and not feel like I’m sacrificing anything at all.  Or maybe I’ll find a different combination that works that is not all of those things.  Only time will tell.  However, I believe that we can have it all, because having it all quite possibly may be different for everyone.

A Day of Prep for a Stress-less Week

Today is Sunday.  Tomorrow a new week of work begins, and so today, although it’s beautiful outside, I’ve chosen to stay in and clean, do laundry, and prepare what my husband and I are going to eat for the week.  If I don’t spend at least one day on the weekend doing this, the week will be disastrous.

Anyway, right now, I’m planning our meals for the week.  I consider my ability to do this only partially adequate, but I’ll take that over being completely unprepared and unsure of what to eat come tomorrow morning.  I’m out of the house for a guaranteed 12 hours a day for work, so it doesn’t leave much time for cleaning and cooking on weeknights.  Also, my husband and I are trying to eat healthy.  I’ve been working out a lot more (at least 4-6 days a week now), and I’m not seeing the scale go down (although I would like it to).  So, I’m trying to plan healthier meals.  I’ve created a list of some essential items that I need to pick up to cover breakfasts and lunches for about 5 days, and at least 2-3 nights of dinners.    Here is my list in the order that I pick things up in the grocery store:

Fruit – probably peaches and maybe some plums (for snacking on)
Bananas, Lettuce, Garlic, Cucumber (2-3), Peppers (2-3), 1 yellow onion, baby carrots (for snacking on), 1 lb. ground chicken, 4 cups low sodium chicken stock, 1 can (14-16oz) white kidney beans, 1 can (7oz) roasted green chilis, Yogurt, Eggs, and Whole Milk.
Other things that I will probably need but already have include: quinoa, maple syrup, peanut butter, cashews, coffee (k-cups), feta, shelled edamame, and brown rice.
Here’s the plan, in terms of prep:
I’m going to hard boil 8-10 eggs so that my husband and I can grab these throughout the week for either breakfast or to supplement other meals or snacks.  I can always make some more of these later in the week if we run out.  Then, I’m going to make some quinoa breakfast bars, which are awesome!  I found the recipe for these here:
I like to use maple syrup and bananas in my version and I don’t always add dried fruit because it is a weakness of mine and I end up eating half the bag as I’m making these.  (This week I opted not to buy any dried fruit).  Also, I double the recipe lately because my husband and I can go through these in just three days, but it will last for the whole week for both of us when doubled.  These are so good and very filling!  After that, I’m going to cook what should last as dinner for tonight, tomorrow night and maybe even Tuesday night.  I know, it could get boring, but who has time to cook a new meal every night?  I don’t.  I’m planning on making Chicken-White Bean Chili from the Cook this Not That book.  However, I found the original recipe a little bland so I’ve doctored it to include more of a kick.  We like spice.  Here is my version, which can be doubled for a bigger family:
  • Olive oil
  • 1 Yellow Onion
  • 2 cloves of Garlic
  • 1 lb Ground Chicken
  • 1 can (7oz) green chilies
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
  • 2 cups low-sodium chicken stock
  • 1 can (14-16 oz) of white kidney beans
  • 1 Jalapeno pepper (chopped)
  • Sprinkle in: chili powder, garlic powder, more cumin and more cayenne to taste
The recipe is simple.  You heat the oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook for a few minutes.  Then add the ground chicken, chiles, jalapeno pepper, and seasoning.  Saute until the chicken is mostly cooked through, then add the chicken stock and beans and turn the heat to low.  Let this simmer for at least 20 minutes and add additional seasoning to taste.   And that’s it!  I usually serve this over brown rice.   I love one pot meals because there is less clean-up, it’s super easy, and it usually makes a lot of food.  You can even freeze this if you don’t want it for three nights straight.  But, if you have a big family, one pot meals are also great.  I will literally just cover the pot with foil and stick it in the fridge when I’m done.
My husband is off on Wednesday and Thursday so I was figuring I’d send him to the grocery store to pick up some steak to grill and pair that with some frozen veggies that we already have.  That will probably only get us through one or two more meals so after that, we may just order take-out one night – but something healthy of course!
For lunches during the week, I usually cut up peppers, cucumbers and then create “mason jar” salads to take to work.  Instead of mason jars, I actually use BPA-free plastic tall cylindrical containers, which are much lighter than glass mason jars and serve the exact same purpose.  I.e. the dressing goes on the bottom, and then you layer items from heavy to light and you’re good to go.  When you are ready to eat, you just shake it up and your lettuce isn’t soggy!   My salads usually consist of lettuce, pepper, cucumber, edamame, feta, and quinoa.  Sometimes I add hard boiled eggs, avocado, and/or fresh sliced turkey.  For dressing I just mix lemon juice and olive oil.  I try to keep it pretty clean and simple.  My husband tends not to take salads with him, but the offer is always on the table for him.   We have yet to nail down the perfect lunch for him to take to work.  He’s a police officer so it’s not always easy for him to just bring, store, and eat his lunch.   However, that’s one reason the breakfast bars and hard boiled eggs are so great.  They are easily transportable and relatively easy to eat on-the-go.
I’m definitely a believer of things in moderation.  I do not, however, believe that everything in moderation works.  For example – soda.  There is absolutely no legitimate reason to have soda.  It’s basically carbonated sugar and chemicals.  There are zero health benefits to consuming that.  Candy – I love candy, but there is absolutely no nutritional value in candy!  Swedish fish is actually my favorite candy.  But, I do not believe that any amount of swedish fish in moderation can ever be good for me.  Does it make me happy momentarily because I love the taste?  Sure. But when I think about what’s actually in it and that I’ve just put it into my body, I feel pretty terrible.  So, I don’t see a need for it, even for that slight moment of happiness just to taste it.  I don’t think it’s worth it if it serves zero nutritional value.  Plus, for those who do not consume such things in moderation, the health consequences can be devastating.  Consuming large amounts of sugar can cause obesity, diabetes, liver disease, the list goes on.  Why bother risking it?   However, I digress.  Bread.  My husband and I love bread.  We love all kinds of bread and pasta, but we do seem to lack a bit of self-control when it comes to aiming for moderation.  Therefore, it’s easier to consume bread and pasta in moderation when most of our meals do not consist of it.  If we can plan meals without bread and pasta, consuming it a little here and there won’t be so bad for us.  That’s my goal in creating healthy and simple meals to carry us through the week.  In a nutshell, it involves cutting out sugar and eating real food such as fruits, veggies, meats, fish, dairy and whole grains in moderation.  And now it’s time to prep!

War Paint

I wear makeup almost every day.  Granted, it’s fairly minimal and my “going out” look is pretty much the same as my “day” look, a major faux pas, but I do it anyway.  I refer to my makeup as my war paint for a few reasons.  I first started wearing eyeliner when I was fifteen.  It became a regular habit when my boyfriend at the time told me I looked better with eyeliner.  Jerk.  And there it was – the beginning of societal pressure to beautify.  Over the years I added a few extra things like mascara, eye shadow, concealer, and a little powder (like I said, fairly minimal as far as all the makeup options out there go).

Fast forward, I’m now thirty.  I started out my legal career in a litigation firm and I regularly dealt with a lot of clients and a lot of obnoxious attorneys on the opposing side (sometimes even on the same side)!  They all thought I looked so young.  I would attempt to use makeup to erase the 12-year old face that I was “blessed” with.  My makeup became my war paint – a way to attack the day and put on a face that made other people, for one, not think I was 12 anymore, and two, to sharpen my look so that I looked more lawyer-like.  Of course, most people still think I look rather young (especially on weekends when I wear even less to no makeup and dress down).  This is annoying to me.  I get that when I’m 60 or 70 or maybe even 80 I’ll appreciate it, but looking youthful at 30 means that you will encounter others who think a) you are inexperienced, b) you lack influence, c) you’re not as capable of success. While my looks may be deceiving, there’s a lot I have to offer, but unfortuantely it means I have to try a little harder to show what I am capable of.  And that is certainly where makeup can come in handy and eliminate some of the extra work.

When you think about it – it’s nice perk that it’s socially acceptable for women to wear makeup because we can completely transform our looks with what in essence is a paint palette.  And let’s face it, people do really judge a book by it’s cover.  It’s obviously socially less acceptable for men to wear makeup and so the options of transforming how people view them from a distance really just comes down to their clothing, which is also less versatile than women’s clothing.  But I’ll save that for another day.

Do I wish I could avoid wearing makeup altogether?  Absolutely.  I don’t think it’s really all that healthy for my body.  There are statistics out there that the average woman absorbs 5 lbs of makeup per year!  That’s pretty gross!  Where does that weight go?  Does it go to my hips?  Yikes.  I’m sad to say it, but I think I’m addicted. I would never ever allow myself to go to work without makeup on.   I would never allow myself to go to a party without makeup on.  I will go to the gym without makeup, but I’ve also gone to the gym WITH it!  It’s gross, I know.

I’ve read some interesting articles over the years on how women who wear makeup are more likely to be successful.   For example:

http://www.forbes.com/sites/jennagoudreau/2011/10/14/wear-more-lipstick-to-get-a-promotion/

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/10/13/fashion/makeup-makes-women-appear-more-competent-study.html?_r=0

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-2464409/Two-thirds-British-bosses-say-women-wear-makeup-want-successful-career.html.

I’ve had moments where I’ve thought about not wearing makeup at all anymore and then I fear that the experiment alone will negatively impact my career and my success.  It seems so silly.  And yet, I believe it.   My makeup has become a big part of who I am and how I seize the day. I consider it a mechanism to change how people perceive me, and it’s apparently also a mechanism to my success.   It is my war paint, and just may be until the day I die.

Striving for Perfection

I never really thought I would get married, not because I don’t believe in marriage or had serious relationships, but just because I’ve always focused heavily on my career.  I always did well in school, and always knew that when I “grew up” I would work.  My mom never worked.  She was a stay-at-home mother, and was really awesome at it.  She raised four girls, two of whom were born with disabilities and required much time and attention.  Her work was her family, and I respected it, but never wanted it for myself.  No one told me outright that as a woman I would be scrutinized if I did not have a significant other, settle down and take on the majority of domestic roles that are stereotypically expected of women.   Granted, I push back plenty.

Now, peer pressure is not why I got married either.  In fact, I met the man of my dreams.  I started working in the real world (as a public interest attorney), I realized that I needed and wanted more in my life than just my work.  He is everything I ever wanted in a partner and he respects that I work, and that I can’t “do it all.”  But, he works too.  We both work, we both have long commutes  – over an hour and a half…each way!   Sometimes he works longer hours than me, sometimes I work longer hours.  Yet, despite it all, I’m the better cook (at least that is what he tells me).  As a result, I tend to cook more nights than he does, I prepare food for us on the weekend for during the week, I clean our apartment, and buy random things that we need when we run out of them.

We live in New York, where the cost of living is out of the control.  I would say that we both have respectable jobs that pay decently, but we aren’t loaded by any means.   We are currently renting, but we want a home, a place that we can truly call our own.  I really want a home because I want to feel settled, but there are other benefits including using our rent money towards a mortgage, having more space, being able to entertain, the list goes on.  I don’t need a white picket fence per se, but having a home, a husband, starting a family, and having a great career is the epitome of the white picket fence to me.  BUT… can I really have it all and put my best self forward while juggling it all?  Some of my married friends are homemakers while their husbands work.  Sometimes I feel like an outcast among them because I work. They ask me when I’m going to start having kids.  I’ve thought about it, but I’m nervous because on the flip-side, I’ve known working mothers who will stay at work late, and take a painful call from their young children who miss them and just want them to come home, only to be rejected, again.  I don’t envy either of these women.  I don’t think any of it is easy.

I made a decision.  I want my career and I want a family, but through the process I need to find the right balance.  I know that know matter what I do, I will be judged.  As a modern woman living in America, there’s almost no way I can’t be judged.  There may be times when my job pulls me away from things that I need or want to do with my family and vice versa.  However, as a perfectionist in an imperfect world, all I can do is try to attain the perfect balance for me.  My goal, and hope, is to learn from others how they manage to balance it all, and share my own experiences along the way.