It starts with a few swipes of lipstick.
Actually, that’s not true. It usually starts with some other nagging feeling of inactivity, of laziness. I feel a little down on myself, a little out of shape, a little less strong than I want to be. And so after Max has walked out the door and I’ve watched him walk to his car and drive away, I put on a tshirt I love, I do my makeup, I crank some music, and I dance and jump around until I feel better. Sometimes the dancing and jumping is interspersed with more workout-like activities, like squats or lunges or push ups or whatever. But I also spend a lot of time sitting down to take a break, scan Tumblr or Instagram, look up something I just remembered…
Because it’s never so much about actually working out as it is about feeling pretty. Feeling strong and powerful and tough and cool, being vulnerable and parsing my version of “feminine” while asserting myself, while using my body. These are, in a way, some of the only private rituals really available to me through culture – makeup, light exercise, pop music – but somehow embracing them when I’m alone in my own way feels like embracing myself.
After watching the new documentary about Kathleen Hanna, I feel more strongly than ever (and it’s been growing for a while now) that I need to step outside of the very safe little cocoon I’ve spun for myself over the last few years and be as big as I really feel. My self-imposed reclusiveness and unambitiousness was primarily self-protective; after being hurt and sad and expected to hold up so much for so many other people, all I wanted to do was retreat into a little nest with the one person I know loves me the most, and take some time to reshape my dented armor.
It’s worked, in a way – my life has been intellectually low-maintenance, with far fewer external demands and expectations from others than I was being crushed by my last year of school. But it’s been its own struggle, too: the ugliness of 20-something job hunting for jobs that I have to do the most impressive carnival program of mental backflips to convince myself I even want or am qualified for, all for the privilege of making less money than I did when I was 18; financial crises one after the other after another after another, seemingly forever, preventing me from traveling or going out or eating or having dignity. And it’s also made me a little too sedentary and a little too unadventurous – actually, I guess that might be the broke-ness more than my own hibernation.
But! I want to bring more of what I feel when I am alone dancing Beyonce and wearing an adventurous shade of lipcolor out into the world now and then. The private, protected self that I keep tucked away in behind closed curtains on weekday nights, the more confident, less inhibited, girl power loving, maybe even a little bit of a diva self – my better self, probably.