The Vengeful Polyglot

On Being “Girly”

Posted on: April 24, 2011

There is absolutely something magical that happens when someone does your makeup for you. At least for me. Everything turns out right. They know exactly what to put where, and everything that takes you half an hour to do poorly is done in five seconds, perfectly.

I know it’s a faux pas to admit that I don’t have much idea what to do with myself in terms of “beauty.” On the rare occasion when I wear make-up, I have pretty much one thing I do with my eyes that looks okay and maybe I can vary the color slightly from time to time. The foundation and blush are static, and the lipsticks are pretty standard, too. Eyeliner (usually crooked, never properly smudged) or false eyelashes (thanks, high school musicals!) are pretty much as adventurous as I get. I know, logically, that when I make myself up it looks like I’m wearing very little, but I wear it so rarely that I always feel like there’s too much on. There’s just no balance. It’s not something I intrinsically get.

My mother laments that I can and will rattle off specifications for a handful of Android phones, or the correct spec for a resto shaman, but that I had no idea prior to this afternoon’s mall excursion that you always try to match your blush to your lipstick. As much of a faux pas as it is as a woman not to know how to fix myself up, it’s just as much to be girly, or like pink things, as a nerd. It took me a long time to come to terms with liking cute things and also trying to infiltrate a traditionally male-dominated industry. I know it seems like a stupid consideration, but when you’re sitting in a computer science lecture hall with 300 other students, only four or five of which are also female, and your professor looks down his nose at you like you’re dressed like Computer Engineer Barbie and are probably about as smart, you just kind of want to be one of the guys. I wore witty, nerdy t-shirts. Jeans. Flip flops. Makeup was a myth. I stopped with the dresses about halfway through freshman year, when I had a professor give me twice as hard a time over getting an assignment regraded as he did the girl I sat next to in class. There was no difference between our work. I just looked ditzier.

I like to think I’ve come around again. It’s finally occurred to me that the professors who like me, will continue to. The ones who don’t, may yet come around (the professor above, for instance, now likes me after I got an A+ in his games project course and looked friendly at our class expo — it turns out, I’m a prize cow when you’re looking to prove that even girls would be interested your new games major). As shallow as it is, I think my gender or my appearance can be a benefit as much as a detriment. At this point, to be honest, I don’t much care. I don’t want to have to dress or act like a man in order to be accepted, and I don’t think I’ll have to. I think that was really a limitation I was putting on myself because I was insecure that I wouldn’t be taken seriously. Either I will or I won’t, and somehow I don’t think a dress will be the deciding factor.

Now I show up to Networks with my tiny little MSI Wind netbook (a solid value, but the battery has longevity issues) with its pink and teal hummingbird stick-on cover, and yeah, sometimes I get a few looks. It’s running the Netbook verision of Ubuntu, which ups my geek score,  but the background is tiny San-X baby seals playing with bubbles, which probably doesn’t. I like cute things. I wear skirts. Sometimes, being really girly makes me happy. I don’t want to be derided or drooled over; I want to feel safe in expressing myself while still being considered intelligent and geeky and funny. Hopefully I’ve pulled that off. I actually feel really conceited talking about this, which isn’t my intent. It’s not that I think I’m so attractive that I need to be fawned over. I just want to be girly without giving up my nerd cred. As my aunt told my uncle when he questioned my authority in selecting his new smartphone — it turns out you don’t need a testicles to understand technology.

Going back to the beginning of this, though, just because I’d like to be girly doesn’t always mean I know how. I grew up a tomboy, and I’ve always been vaguely uncool. I went out shopping with my mom today (which was a trek in itself, because malls back in the Valley are the size of small housing developments). Everything I think about buying, I run past her. While our tastes don’t always line up, I trust her judgement much more than my own. I’m entirely un-confident about picking things out. I have a hard time finding things that fit me, either physically or taste-wise. It all just feels so alien.

For these reasons, I don’t normally enjoy shopping, but today I was in high spirits. I had a gift card to J. Crew, Express Cash to redeem, and I was really for some business attire. I did wind up getting a few things, and also what for me was an embarrassingly large quantity of shoes (4 pairs! Blush patent pumps!), and on the tail end of searching for a new cleanser at Sephora’s we wound up with a lovely clerk at the Nordstrom’s make-up counter. I wanted a cheery, Spring-y, pink lip-thing. Lipstick, gloss, I wasn’t sure. And maybe a new eyeshadow. I was so embarrassed trying to explain what I was looking for. It’s like speaking an entirely different language. I sort of spouted off half-remembered brand names from an ex-schoolmates blog, which is the only way in which I’m ever current in news about fashion or beauty products (I don’t think they have an MMO-Champion type of site for those, do they?), but I’m really not confident I made any sense. It was really great, though. Even though I know I probably won’t be able to replicate the techniques quite the way she showed me, I really appreciated that she didn’t look down on me, and really helped me find the pretty things I was looking for. I walked out with a whole bag and a new look (after which I went nowhere… I hate getting all nicely made up only to stop and Trader Joe’s and head back home — it always feels like I should be going to do something more exciting than playing Portal 2 on the couch with my cat). I’m so excited to use them, even though they’re messier than most of the things I’m excited to use. I’m kind of lamenting the time-appropriateness of girly things like this. There’s a time and place which applies here that doesn’t likewise restrict the use of things like a new game, a book, or an Android tablet. If I’m sitting at home, regardless of the hour or, pretty much, who is around, I can use any of those things to my heart’s content. If I sit at home at midnight and put on some pumps and makeup, though, my roommates are going to look at me funny.

Basically, I guess what I’ve been trying to get at with this rambling mess is I’m really glad I’ve moved past censoring how I feel comfortable presenting myself. Even if I don’t know what I’m doing, occasionally I have fun trying to figure it out. Also, I’m probably never going to stop loving cute things. It’s pretty much my whole strategy in Pokemon White right now.


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Blog by a programmer cum linguist cum writer cum total geek. One who pretentiously uses "cum" in place of any other logical connectives. Direct questions to the Ask Lauren page!

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