February 22, 2010

The Female Gaze

Today on the bus I was not feeling it. It was a bleary-eyed hazy-brained Monday morning and all I did to appear put together was fill in my eyebrows nice and dark. My eyebrows have become the only place on my face that I care about anymore, and lately the only makeup I'm wearing is brow shadow and a tan/mustard colored eye shadow. Nothing else. I'm finding mascara too tedious and false. I have half-Asian lashes. They are long, but the ones on top near the outer corners want to point downward at the floor. Those Asiatic lashes touch my skin under my eyes and leave black smudges when I wear mascara. I do not own an eyelash curler and do not intend to. I find them to be too much like some mini torture device created to waste the time of the woman. Just like so so many other things. I have to make cuts. There is only so much appropriate femininity I can apply to my body on any given day. And today was a real I-don't-give-a-shit-er.

Of course, on these days, we get on the public transport to find some gorgeous creatures that seem to never be there when we are looking fresh. But they come out of the woodwork on our lazy, frumptastic days to remind us that we look rather shit. Buried as I was in my mound of L.L. Bean mom coat and Dr. Martens fur boots, I was primed to observe an unspoken female exchange that I know all too well. For I am usually a prime participant in such activity.

Female 1 was wearing an adorable faux fur leopard print coat. I sat down behind her, because I liked her coat and fur ear muffs. I said nothing. It was too early to go talking to strangers. The vibe was not right for breaking the necessary morning commute silence. Next stop, enter female 2. She is also wearing a lovely coat; it's black, dress-length, with perfectly fitted sleeves. Her makeup is flawless, as are her golden locks. Not only is she sporting a nice thick brow (filled in like I like to see), but her lashed are super long, thick, coated in mascara, and all of them are neatly curling up toward the heavens. She has brown equestrian boots and an assortment of brown leather baggage. She sits directly across the aisle from female 1. (On purpose as well?)

Withing a few short moments of settling in, I observe blackandbrown sneaking glances repeatedly at leopardcoat, giving her a thorough up-and-down look over. I see her eyes fixate on leopard coat's shoes (which I cannot see but later - much to my great surprise - discover to be Uggs) and then look up directly at her. Leopardcoat must feel the gaze that is taking in her entire outfit from this girl only a foot to her left, but she stares straight ahead as though nothing were happening. I know she knows it's going on. We all know it and feel it when a stranger notices our shoes or outfit, whether it's a split second dart of the eyes or a more prolonged meditation on our bodies when we "aren't looking," and we love to guess at the thoughts of our observers.

If there is anything to be said for a totally frumpy bland boring outfit day, it's the possibility to hide in the background and watch these unspoken dialogues take place. I'm pretty sure this is an important way that style matters and affects our lives at the level of our psyche.


Taj said...

This is one of the truest and most amazing-est posts ever!!!love it!!

Hard Liquor, Soft Holes said...


Lily said...

I can't really explain how happy it makes me to have discovered your blog. Naturally I went back through your entire archive. This post makes me just appreciate that I am not alone in my observations (that I must admit,I sometimes think are too hyper-aware for my own good).