Give us this day our daily routine

This is how I get ready most days, at the start of 2016. At 28 years old, I am in possession of some pretty good skills at hair and makeup. I wear this look almost every day in one incarnation or another. Braids. Winged eyeliner. Blush. Here’s a before and after for you!

beforeafter

Before and After 

The lighting isn’t changed and both photos have the same filter. Makeup and hair makes a huge difference in my opinion. I don’t do them for anyone else, especially since my husband finds me to be a beautiful person overall and not just physically! I like the way makeup and hairdos make me *feel*.

It’s really important to me that as I get older, I continue to have this time to make myself feel pretty. It’s part of taking care of myself.

Today, my hair style is quite complicated. This is because I didn’t have to work on New Years Day, and I had a little time on my hands. Check out the process!

hairstyle

Shanghai-Proof, 12 hour teaching hairstyle:

  1. Start with brushed hair, with a little lemon juice in it to try to brighten it.
  2. Using a rat tail comb, section the hair into three parts on your head with parts running parallel to your face. Put the two sections at the back up, and comb the front one forward.
  3. Now, begin a Dutch braid (tutorial here) starting at your ear. Pull the braid up and over your head to the other side, gathering hair as you go. Braid the remainder when all of this section has been added, and secure with an elastic.
  4. Let the second section down and brush it out to get rid of tangles. Do the same type of braid (or a different one for more texture)  on the other side, starting at the other ear. Secure with an elastic.
  5. Tug on the braids to make them bigger. You can find a tutorial for this awesome trick that I recently adopted here.
  6. Braid everything into a single, large braid. Secure with an elastic, and pin it under to make a chignon. Pin the living crap out of that bun, to make it secure. Criss-cross the pins so that they lock together.

Tada!

With a little practice, this hairstyle could be done in ten minutes or less. I wear braids precisely because they are some much quicker than blow drying or straightening. Braids are feminine and secure for a long day of work, too.

Take a break for some tea.

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TEA

Next is makeup. Follow these steps.

makeup

  1. Moisturise. Dot some foundation under your eyes and on the chin. Don’t put it on your whole face, because this can look cakey. You want as much of your natural skin to show through as possible.
  2. Add some peachy blush. Sweep it all on your cheekbones and up to the edge of your hair. Focus on the area just below your temples for a vintage look (tutorial here from 1948).
  3. Add some shimmer with a few dots of highlight. Put them on the top part of the cheekbone and just under the eyebrows. I use Benefit’s High Beam, which I bought for my wedding and is only about half gone more than a year later.
  4. I swear by NYX Milk as an eyelid primer. Smear it all over the eyelid and in the corner of the eyes to brighten. Blend it really really well, or you will look as silly as my picture up there.
  5. Blend some light brown eye shadow on the outer parts only of the eyes. Blend with a brush. Blend. Blend. Blend again. Think you’re finished? Blend again!
  6. Using a liquid liner in a dark brown, draw on a wing. Use it carefully and incrementally. It’s easier to add more than to remove the liner once it’s on. I only draw my eyeliner to the middle of my eye or just beyond the midline on the lid, because I want the white corners to stay as white as possible.
  7. Two to three coats of black mascara. Check for stray bits of anything that inevitably fall onto the cheeks.

Ready!

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Winter look! 

How do you like to do your makeup and hair? What are the tricks you use to make it faster/easier?

I’m Sick of Curated Online Personae

I’m from Louisville, Colorado. It’s not unique to L-Ville, but a great many people from my hometown are super into making their Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, and general online persona look as perfect as can be.

Many people I know get professional photography done, in just gorgeous lighting, with all the derpy faces removed. For like, every single occasion imaginable. Anniversary? Better shell out a couple hundred dollars to get those portraits. Pregnancy? Time to pose pensively with a large belly.  Grocery shopping? Here I am with the canned beans, just chillin’. Wedding? Don’t even get me started.

At our wedding, the photographer didn’t believe me when I told him again before the ceremony, ‘Thanks, but we only want shots from the ceremony itself. We will not be available after the ceremony.’ He did a fantastic job and the photos he returned to us that very day were beautiful. But there was no posing after the ceremony. There wasn’t a professional photographer in the room while I got ready to be a bride. There were no professional photos of the rehearsal dinner, much less the reception.

I have an online persona. I generally curate it well. I post well-lit, well-exposed, heavily-processed shots of myself when I put them on the blog, and they inevitably end up on Facebook these days. But I think the desire to have a professional take one’s photos and post them on social media, as if they are just how you look all the time, is deeply flawed. It’s as if we are trying to project an image of our lives that is perfect; it is what we wish life were instead of what it is (BOOM subjunctive in English hahahaha). I find in my bare-bones psuedo-ethnographic analysis of the women of suburban Colorado that the pressure is huge to maintain a certain image not too dissimilar to that of our early-20s selves.

Many of the women I know have all but disappeared from social media as their bodies have changed in motherhood and aging, such that I don’t even know what they look like anymore. Women are constantly told that if we aren’t young, ‘unspoiled’ by pregnancy, and perfectly beautiful…well, we simply aren’t worth looking at at all.

I know that my great-grandchildren will probably be able to see a lot of unflattering photos of me online (assuming that it hasn’t become an existence like The Road by Cormac McCarthy). There are photos of me on the web being a dork, pulling stupid faces, and doing things like drinking in the Campo of Chile. I will have to be more open about these things than any previous generation. I think that’s a good thing. Why take the path of hiding everything I did that’s normal?

Recently, I decided to take a bunch of the most unflattering photos of myself from the last couple months and put them into this post specifically. In one place, I hope to dispel the notion that my life was perfectly lit and always well-posed. I hope to show that I didn’t always look nice, and that I sometimes had the misfortune to be caught mid-blink by the shutter. This blog is a self-portrait in progress, after all.

Thus explained, here I am. In all my glory. Laugh along, friends, and appreciate that life isn’t that perfect picture we all might wish to put on Facebook.

This is What a Feminist Wedding Looks Like…Or: Just Do What *You* Want

Revelling in Being MARRIED

Revelling in Being MARRIED

We started this year boyfriend and girlfriend. We’re ending it husband and wife. 2014 has been a ride!

Getting married is so fulfilling to me. I have spent so much time and effort in my life imagining the day, the dress, the man, the veil…and two Saturdays ago I got to have the very best day of my life (so far!). I still feel charged up with the amazing love and warmth that permeated that day, and we haven’t even been able to take a honeymoon yet.

But there is another side to weddings that isn’t always obvious to guests, but which comes all too clearly into focus the moment a woman gets engaged. Traditions. Etiquette to be considered. Opinions. Opinions. Opinions. I was only engaged for four months, but that was PLENTY for me, thank you very much. If you’ve recently gotten engaged, I feel for you. Especially if you happen to be a woman. Especially especially if you happen to identify as a feminist.

People you don’t even really know will volunteer their opinions of everything from flowers to name-changing, often with the very worst of timing. The Wedding Industrial Complex (WIC) is far more real than I would have ever believed before I got engaged. There are enough ‘rules’ about weddings to make you truly worry that your marriage might be doomed before it even begins if even one DIY mason jar or totally-sustainable vegan flower petal is out of place. I mean, your Beloved totally cares who sits next to whom and will totally not love you if the cake doesn’t have the most perfect, personalised, DIY topper. Not to mention that you should totally listen to people like the Duggars and believe you’re doomed to impure wedded corruption if you live together before marriage. Duh.

Ugh. I admit, I fell prey to some of the toxic thinking that floats around in the wedding ether. Little girls imagine their weddings for years and are encouraged to buy into the WIC from a very young age. In my community in Colorado, ‘purity’ before marriage was taught in schools from a very young age. Sometimes, I felt like I didn’t have a good grip on what being a wife is…so I started to fall into long-out-of-date traditions and ideologies. Never in my life have I been so conscious of my gender and how it is perceived by others.

I know that patriarchy plays a big role in weddings, around the world and throughout time. At other times, I felt like rebelling completely and refusing to be traditional. I read articles like this that made me question the very traditions I was seeking to incorporate. I’ve identified as a feminist ever since I knew the word, as far back as second grade. All these contradictory feelings and ideologies made for a lot of headaches and more than one smudgy makeup teary day (thank you for always being there, Russ!). I wanted to live up to my promise that I would not marry until the GBLTQ community was free to do so in my own country. That got a big boost in the form of the Supreme Court decision that led to a majority of US states now proceeding with same-sex marriages. But so many still cannot marry the partner they’ve chosen. I felt conflicted.

So what’s a feminist bride to do on her wedding day? Whatever the hell she wants. And whatever the hell her partner wants. Together, we made decisions about the ceremony and shared the load of planning.

Veil over the face. A 'bad feminist' move.

Veil over the face. A ‘bad feminist’ move.

Feminism is the ability to make choices, and do what you like as a woman or a man, or any other gender identity. I like a veil over my face. I like a long white dress. I like my rings. I like changing my name to a double-barrelled one (a surprise to me!). I decided to keep some traditions. I decided to bin others. I felt ‘meh’ about some, and they happened or didn’t happen without me desiring to control every single detail of the day.

Like a set, drawn from two centuries

Like a set, drawn from two centuries

Having a feminist wedding is as simple as doing it the way you want, resisting the WIC and all its crap-infused gender bullshit. This is part of why I wanted to DIY much of the wedding, to claw back from the industry the things I was able to make with my own hands. But we also had a packaged wedding at a hotel. I wanted to make sure that we did not include ‘obey’ in the vows or have a true ‘giving away’ at the end of the aisle. We made this explicit with the wording of the ceremony:

“In many cultures, including our own, it has long been a tradition for the father of the bride to ‘give away’ his daughter, but I know that Coleen’s father, Mark, is not here today to relinquish any form of ownership and nor is the groom here to claim any!  But I know that  Mark was delighted to walk Coleen down the aisle today and that both families were delighted when Russell and Coleen announced their engagement.”

But I wore my veil over my face, only removing it when I reached my husband at the ceremony table.

Veil at the ceremony!

Veil at the ceremony!

We spent the night together before our wedding, against traditions in many countries including both of our own. It was a night like almost any other in our life together, a bit of assurance that we had already made the choice to live in a relationship long before, and that no ceremony could cement what more than two years together already had.

The most important part of a feminist wedding? A caring, equal partnership that is already established. The rest is just the celebration!

Much of our wedding was traditional. Much of it wasn’t. The most important part was that it was what we wanted to do. Our love will keep growing, and we’ll keep changing as our lives together go on. The celebration was important, but more important was the established, equal, loving partnership that it sealed. I love being a wife, and I can’t wait to find out more about marriage!

How to Buy an Antique Engagement Ring (in London)

Immediately after, with my leaf!

Immediately after, with my leaf!

We’re engaged! Yay!

Pleased as I am with my engagement leaf, we chose a ring together. This is a statement about our relationship in terms of equality in big decisions, but also the most practical option. There is nothing to stop a couple from deciding to buy the ring together in 2014. This way, I got exactly what I wanted (which also happened to be the least expensive option). Of course, if you’re a more traditionally-minded partner you may wish to surprise them with an antique ring. More power to you, as long as you know that’s what they want! 

This article will help you to buy an antique engagement ring in London, and beyond. It will also tell you about why you don’t want to buy from the regular shops, and why alternatives like laboratory stones can be great.

I always knew I wanted an antique ring, in part because of my consignment-only experiment and subsequent lifestyle changes (currently on a no-new-clothes until Spring kick after gorging in the US on our holidays). It makes me uncomfortable to think of such an important purchase, and one that symbolises my relationship and love, as having an unethical background.

Blood diamonds are real. The impacts of the mining industry are widespread and nasty both in human and ecological terms. Worst of all, nearly all jewellery can be certified ‘non-conflict’ under the industry standard Kimberley Process. This is because the definition of ‘conflict diamond’ is too narrow by far; the only ones that are included are those that fund internationally-recognised rebel groups like Kony’s LRA. Human rights abuses do not typically fall under the category, and this allows most mainstream jewellers to sell ‘ethical’ diamonds without recognising the violence and exploitation at their origins. (Don’t believe me? In 2011 the advocacy group that helped start the Kimberley Process quit the group, citing exactly this problem.)

The decision was taken together, and early on; we would buy an antique (second-hand) ring, or we would have one made with a laboratory stone. Yes, it’s true that second-hand rings might also have unethical origins, especially since they were made in the age of imperialism. But by buying an antique ring, you mess with the thing that matters most to diamond sellers and companies…their wallets. You decrease demand for new diamonds, and don’t buy into the cheap and easy ‘ethical’ stances they take.

First off, we looked online. There are a lot of lab-based purveyors of engagement rings, and even companies that strives for ethical practices like Brilliant Earth. Unfortunately, their beautiful rings are simply not in our price range.

So beautiful! But holy shit the price!!!!

So beautiful! But holy shit the price!!!! Courtesy of Brilliant Earth

Etsy has beautiful rings, and many are made from diamond alternatives like Herkimer Diamonds. A lot of them have a great handmade feel to them, but looked a little…rough…for our standards. We wanted to incorporate trees or leaves into the ring when we first started looking, but found that harder than we’d thought.

Herkimer Diamond engagement rings, courtesy of Etsy

Herkimer Diamond engagement rings, courtesy of Etsy

I’m lucky enough to be living in London, where there is a thriving antiques trade. The ancientness of the city makes it easy to find things in flea markets, but there are also dedicated shops. Hatton Garden is well-known around the world for its diamond and jewellery trade, but it was unclear whether this meant a second-hand ring was possible. Several blog posts on dodgy sites from years ago suggested that you could get an antique ring in Hatton Garden for around £450.

We went on a Saturday before my night shift at the bar, not expecting to buy anything.

It was so easy. Maybe I’m just an atypically decisive and frugal bride, but we literally went to two shops. Up the road, past the glimmering bespoke jewellers and the inflated price tags ‘cut in half’ by SALE signs is Greville Street. There are several shops specialising in second-hand jewellery, but by far the most magical is Andrew R. Ullmann, Ltd.

It just fits the part perfectly. Family owned and operated, full of antiques that are not simply engagement sets. Prices ranging from a few hundred pounds to many thousands. We went through and found some beautiful rings, and the daughter of the owner helped us out by telling us the details of each. They had so many Art Deco, Old Mine, Mid-Century, and even older rings from the 1800s! They have unique things like antique Russian wedding bands, and a huge selection of beads.

We looked at a few, and tried a few on. The one I ended up picking is an Art Deco (1920s-1930s) daisy, with older cut diamonds. It might be indelicate to broadcast on the internet, but even with the resizing my antique engagement ring cost only £280 ($472)!

Ullmann box.

Ullmann box.

We asked them to resize it, and within two days we had my ring. After we left the shop we went for craft beers.

So how does one buy an antique engagement ring in London?

Step 1: Decide you want an ethical ring. Decide your budget. 
Step 2: Decide the ethical ring you want is an antique one. 
Step 3: Check out online sources as your budget permits. Many of the Etsy shops that sell antique engagement rings are based in London, and you could arrange for a meeting. 
Step 3: Go to Hatton Garden and look for second-hand jewellers. 
Step 4: Try on some rings. 
Step 5: Get the ring re-sized as necessary. 
Step 6: Get nice beers to celebrate! 

I realise that my wedding choices are not going to be the same for everyone else, but I want to provide a necessary counterpoint to the silliness that is all over the internet and in your face as soon as you get engaged. Practicality, frugality, and easy-goingness are virtues. Not all brides want to be a princess. Not everyone wants to spend 20K on the wedding. Do your thing, and be who you are. It’s just a day.

Tell me what you think! Did you have an antique engagement ring? What do you think of buying the ring as a couple? Is it acceptable to propose without a ring?

I’ll be writing more about the wedding process here!