Everything Dysmorphia

Or: Is it Cool if I Blame Modernity in General for my Stint as a Green Eyed Monster?

If you’re like me, you have confident days and self-conscious days. Sometimes I oscillate a few times between the two over the course of an evening. This condition is pretty average for a young woman in 2013. Add 5 Sadness Points for every hour per week you spend checking Instagram or Facebook, reading magazines, or perusing blogs. Subtract a point for each time you do something good for the soul (without bragging about it), and multiply by your level of jealousy towards anyone in your life. My calculations suggest that I’m not an adequate human, and if I read one more damn article about a skinny rich girl who’s become a wildly successful actress-blogger-DJ-model-philanthropist by age 19, I will need to be institutionalized.

Insecurity is rampant among Millennials, and I’m far from immune. See Generation Y depression explained with no shortage of patronizing stick figure illustrations here. In typical 90s kid fashion, I’m dissecting the problem from my own point of view.

As if on cue, the economy crashed as I graduated high school, and I’ve been struggling to find a path that remotely resembles the dreams I had as an Everyone is Special kid. Sometimes trying hard isn’t enough, and success won’t come without connections or dumb luck. This is a hard lesson for a girl who grew up in decent schools and a loving home. I thought following all the rules and making straight A’s would entitle me to wonderful things. It turns out I’ll have to keep grasping like everyone else, shoving resumes into bottles and throwing them out to sea. It’s made me the life of the (pity) party, and I could re-write epic poems about our bitterness: I saw the greatest minds of my generation delivering pizzas and folding t-shirts…

One night, as I was carrying garbage down 24th street to the dumpster at work, a frat boy told me, “You have a great job.” I nearly dropkicked him in the polo shirt. I didn’t, though, because 1) I’m not a violent freak in practice, and, 2) Reality will dole out that dropkick on his graduation day.

Moments of feeling like a failure are bound to disrupt 20-somethings mucking through this little era. I think it’s particularly hard on young women who are, more than ever, expected to “have it all” and look perfect while doing it. I think insecurity about my life’s trajectory and my bank account have spilled over into more petty categories. Being a control freak lends itself to that. I can’t will my journalism degree into being relevant or micro-manage the cockroaches out of my apartment, but damned if I can’t improve my own body. According to every fashion magazine, a three-step, DIY blowout is a hell of a lot easier than landing a job interview. My dream of moving to a different city is so distant, I might as well dip into my meager savings for Top Wardrobe Picks for Fall!

And yet, my superficial efforts can’t live up to my expectations, either. Keeping a constant eye on the digital highlight reels of friends, strangers, and celebrities makes me feel like I’ll never measure up. Sometimes I partake in the race to win others’ approval or envy, but it leaves me feeling ashamed. I could abandon the well-studied pressures of online life. That would likely hurt my social, professional, and creative pursuits. What’s the right balance?

I think I need a media and technology cleanse. It might be even harder than that juice cleanse I subjected myself to for approximately no reason. If only green smoothies and interval cardio could wash out delusions.

Recently I took my eyes off the 24/7 updates from women with nicer clothes and better lives than me for just long enough to consider my rank in my own world, not theirs. I completed the previous sentence and realized what a nasty word “rank” is. Unsurprisingly, I’m doing just fine in the middle. I’m slightly above the poverty line (applause, please.) Indeed, I have everything that I need, suffer no real injustices, and keep the company of some amazing people. I haven’t struggled to find male suitors and have been treated to the affection and support of a great boyfriend for the past year and counting. What’s a lucky bitch like me doing feeling sorry for herself?

The answer is dysmorphia. The word is usually found in the context of body dysmorphia, in which the affected develop negative body image that doesn’t match up with reality. I think the current climate for young people, plus modern media (social and otherwise,) put us at risk for Everything Dysmorphia. I’m compelled to worry about things that hardly apply to me and don’t matter. I hate leaving the house without makeup. I curse my hobbit-like height even though it has essentially no effect on my life. I fret about my hair being too thin, even though a couple of stylists have made unsolicited comments about it being thick. A close friend shut down my concerns about how I’m a bad socializer, saying I was way off base. My boyfriend basically laughed in my face when I identified my body type as “curvy.” I might be a straight up waif by average American standards, but that goes out of focus when you grow up in ballet studios and work in an environment notoriously populated with svelte girls. Selling clothes actually gives me a reality check. I’ve seen girls come in with bodies I’d kill for. I admire them, grumble about my own, and then… I realize they’re buying the same size pants as me. The good news is that I look just fine. The bad news is that I’m insane.

If that all sounded like one big humblebrag,  then I guess I’m using the internet right.

Yes, there are young women out there who have wonderful jobs. Some have tons of money. At least one is the human definition of “carefree.” Some eat nothing but junk food and still wear size 24 jeans. A lot of them are gorgeous. Many are hilarious, brilliant, or both. Some party every night. One is dating one of your ex boyfriends right now. Tons of them are in Paris, Rome, and Tokyo. A few are incredible at painting or playing guitar. All you can do is pat them on the back (or, more likely, hit “like”) and let them inspire your next goal. It’s almost certain that the people you envy are busy envying someone else, and that someone is wishing they could be you. It’s a food chain – eat your heart out.

One last thing: Let me go back to that anecdote about the frat boy snidely congratulating me on my garbage-hauling job. When I emerged from the putrid alley, he was waiting to apologize for how his comment sounded. He wasn’t being sarcastic. In fact, he’d seen me making trips all evening between the retail store and its off-site stockroom. He said my job was great because he actually thought I was being paid to walk around modeling the store’s clothing.

Suck it, sadness.

ACL 2013

It’s not a party until high schoolers yell at you, you lose your keys, sweat out all your body fluid, spend $8 for a tamale, get a blister, and there’s a massive flood and everybody gets a refund. Austin City Limits was a party.

First entry in our survival log: Heat stroke setting in.

First entry in our survival log: Heat stroke setting in.

I'm wearing a vintage sundress and my boyfriend is wearing my Albertus Swanepoel hat.

I’m wearing a vintage sundress and my boyfriend is wearing my Albertus Swanepoel hat. Thanks for the multicultural background, Rosetta Stone marketers.

Beauty note: I only managed to avoid looking wartorn by using Maybelline shine free foundation and NYC lip stain.

The dress above was much better festival wear than my Day 1 outfit. A chiffon maxi skirt with a destroyed sweater, wooden flatforms, and piles of gypsy jewelry looked chic, but it really weighed me down. I could hardly blame the majority of girls there wearing a few square inches of shorts and crop tops. I was just throwing shade because there was none.

Accessory energy level: Day 1.

Accessory energy level: Day 1. 

Accessory energy level: Day 2.

Accessory energy level: Day 2.

The cancellation of Sunday’s shows was a widespread bummer (No Divine Fits, Tame Impala, Neko Case, or The National!), but there were still a lot of great acts.

Here’s a playlist of some crowd pleasers, no poncho required:

On Finally Accepting that I’m Wifey

The first time someone described me as wifey, I flipped. Used colloquially as an adjective or a noun, many people consider it a term of endearment. I wasn’t one of those people. Wifey was a venomous word reserved for girls I considered an embarrassment to my underdeveloped brand of feminism. Wifey girls are desperate to keep a man by catering to his every need. Wifey girls don’t stand up for themselves or fight for their goals. Wifey girls would rather clean the kitchen than paint canvases or play guitar. Wifey girls plan their weddings on Pinterest before they even get a boyfriend.

Cara Delevigne in a Dimepiece top

Cara Delevigne in a Dimepiece top

For decades, women have struggled to not be defined by their traditional roles as wives and mothers. Most men’s ideals weren’t left behind in this process. As women gained strength and independence, it became the norm for men to respect and desire these qualities in a woman worth pairing up with for the long haul. Wifey, put simply, refers to someone who would be a good wife. The guidelines for being a good wife (or husband, while we’re at it) have changed. By most people’s definition, it doesn’t require subservience or a loss of self. It’s about being loyal, supportive, and under your partner’s threshold for annoying-ness. Making dinner for your partner isn’t a crime against feminism. Odds are good that it’s just one of the little things you both do to help each other get through this exhausting thing called life. Being a “good girl” helps, but I’ve been averse to this label as well.

Where’s the fun in being good for a man? What’s exciting about having something he could handle every day, ‘til death do us part? I didn’t want to be anyone’s glass of water. I wanted to be a shot of whiskey. My bad girl envy is not surprising, considering how pop culture glorifies this stereotype at every turn. In particular, this decade is all about “bad bitches,” which sounds like a doubly negative label for women, yet girls are striving for it. “Bad” has long been “good.” “Bitch” has been reclaimed by confident women to a huge extent. Obscene amounts of attention are rewarded to Rihanna, Miley Cyrus, and Nicki Minaj. On Wale’s song “Bad,” he complains that, “Bad girls ain’t no good, and the good girls ain’t no fun” before Rihanna’s chorus about being a commitment-phobe who’s great in bed. Popular music and movies are fond of casting bad girls, divorcing sexual prowess from morality as if the two can’t coexist. When good girls have sexual agency in pop culture, it’s usually fraught with conflict. Robin Thicke “always wanted a good girl” in “Blurred Lines,” but he wishes she’d cut the act and put out. Drake sings “You’re a good girl and you know it / You act so different around me” to the subject of his latest hit. Men will be confused by good girls acting bad and vice versa until they accept that all women have both qualities. It’s the ratio that changes from person to person and throughout life.

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Much to my chagrin, I’m more Sandra Dee than Sandy. Despite being a square, I had a proper wild child phase full of all the things one hesitates to publish on the internet. I checked off all the boxes on the Teenage Rebellion list pretty early in life, then continued on my goody-two-shoes trajectory of honor rolls, university, and a timely graduation. I drool over clothes from Nasty Gal and Unif that I would probably never wear in public, even if I had hundreds of dollars to blow on cutout mini-dresses and spike-covered platform boots. I wear short shorts when it’s warm out and I believe in fairness. Nothing boils my blood faster than double standards. I don’t think the point in (or before) a relationship when a woman chooses to have sex is an indicator of whether she’s “girlfriend material.” I think it’s a swell litmus test for women to weed out backwards, hypocritical men. I’m a product of the times and all the time I spend fretting about them. And I’m kind of wifey.

Being a serial monogamist in my teens and early twenties has made me question myself as much as a chronic first dater might. Talking to friend of mine (who also admits to being girlfriend-y) brought the issue into focus. What’s wrong with being the kind of person someone would want to be with for life? Some people just can’t take a compliment.

I’ve learned to accept it. Being “wifey” doesn’t mean you’re desperate for (or incomplete without) traditional gender roles. It could mean the opposite: You’re stable, whole, and mature enough to be someone’s long-term partner. Being a good girl doesn’t have to mean that you’re boring or uptight. It can mean that you’re mature enough to think before you act, and kind enough to consider other people’s feelings in addition to – not instead of – your own.

Style Shoot with The Beauty Jar and AzulOx

I first collaborated with The Beauty Jar and AzulOx on this creative shoot a while ago, but I figured I’d share some of my favorite photos. The work of a hairstylist who can tame my shape-resistant hair and a photographer who can make me look tough deserve extra documentation.

I had fun putting together a few edgy outfits and mean-mugging for the camera. The sweltering heat and public set (a mural-coated parking lot downtown) posed a few challenges, but it was worthwhile from the first heating of a crimping iron to the victorious Gatorade chugging as we packed up to leave.

Here, the little-black-dress-and-wild-hair combo done three different ways:



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Josh has a way of making his subjects feel super comfortable and getting the best shots out of them. It was hard to keep my angry model face because we were laughing half the time. Get a peek at his creative process on his blog.

If you’re in need of some primping in Austin, I definitely recommend The Beauty Jar. The whole staff is sweet and welcoming. Auralia works magic on hair. Seriously: she molded it into that architectural orb in like five minutes. Brizy does gorgeous makeup and individually applied lashes that will turn you into a living doll. Check ’em out.

Kathleen Hanna’s Back

Kathleen Hanna is back with a new album with her band, The Julie Ruin. I’ve never been the biggest fan of her music, but the couple of interviews I’ve stumbled upon were really inspiring. She was sick with Lyme disease for years, but emerged with an album. Rather than rehashing a certain 90s sound or clamoring to maintain relevance, she started writing again to feel like herself at a time when all she felt was sickness.

Photo by Joshua Bright

Photo by Joshua Bright

I didn’t educate myself on the Riot Grrl movement until I was 20. It was fascinating to me, and the fashion was alluring, too.

Photo by Linda Rosier

Photo by Linda Rosier

The Julie Ruin look and sound pretty good in “Oh Come On,” so Hanna’s songwriting might finally click for me the way many of her views on feminism already have. Here’s my favorite quote from her feature on All Things Considered: There are as many kinds of feminism as there are women in the world.

Break from Hiatus

I’ve spiffed up my blog again (i.e. changing the theme and adding a header with my anonymized quads by the English seaside). I was fiercely loyal to a fashion-focused Instagram account during the interim,  but quite simply got bored of looking at myself. Rest assured, this will still be a crevice of the internet for one girl’s style and the selfies that entails, but I’ll make it more of a variety show.

I had to take an Insta-break after exploring my own love-hate in an article I wrote for Thought Catalog. But in the interest of catching up, here’s a series of snapshots from this summer:

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Weirdest Shoes $30 Can Buy

I was browsing ShoeBuy.com, and now my eyes aren’t the same.


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L & C flower slides, $33.95

Make it stop.

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Dambino Himalayan cat slippers, $29.95

The cat head turns 360 degrees.

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Funtasma Crystal heels, $30.95

Is that a butterfly on the toe?! I wish these really were invisible. I don’t know what’s better: the brand name Funtasma or this customer review:

Reviewer: Mary from Near Boston, MA

“Actually, I bought this pair because I wanted to paint it purple, with a red heel (well, one of the 2!) to make a hat, if you can imagine. It will sit atop a rattan red disc, about 12” in diameter, decorated on the vamp with a red feather clip. The shoe will be surrounded by red and purple novelties; the “hat” will have crushed purple ribbon glued under it and a bit on top as well. Most elegant! And, oh yes, I’ll be glue-gunning a wide plastic headband underneath, so as to secure it to my head. So glad you had this product!
Wears this shoe: Will never be worn as a shoe, only as part of a hat; see comment above”

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L & C Runner boot, $32.95

Perfect moon boots! Assuming the environmental crisis leads us to use the moon as a place to bury garbage.

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Bettie Page booties, $25.45

No, you won’t look like Bettie Page in these. You will, however, look like a candy cane pirate witch.

I leave you with this hilarity:

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Pleaser boots, $127.95

Okay, so they’re considerably more than $30. SHOE-PANTS don’t come for free. There is probably also a fine for wearing them.

SXSW Trends

South by Southwest was lame for me this year, especially compared to last year. This time, over 30,600 paying attendees and about one billion random people who felt like basting themselves in free booze convened to turn the city into a loud, gridlocked, wonderful and terrible week-long party. One truth holds each year: SXSW is a great place for style watching. Here are a few trends I spotted on cool girls waiting in lines and looking lost:

1. Cutouts

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Nasty Gal Candy Cut dress, $58

Cutouts have long been the sexy detail of choice for dresses and tops, but they’re especially perfect for the premature swelter of spring in Texas.

2. Twee Minidresses

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Pop Boutique shift dress, $42

1960s styles are enjoying a thorough replay lately, and I love it. Peter Pan collars, straight cuts and short hemlines are going strong.

3. Prints

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MINKPINK shorts, $69

Usually I roll my eyes when prints are called a trend. (You know what else is in style? Clothes! And colors are having a moment!) But prints were the focal point if not the whole point of outfits. Festival goers wore them on tops, bottoms or both.

4. Open-back tops

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Asos knot tank, $37

I spotted this breezy style on several girls. Give your stomach a break from crop tops and try showing a little lower back instead.

5. Embellished shorts

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Rag & Bone Highclare shorts, $255

Spikes, patterns, patches, colors and fraying jazzed up the music festival staple.

Basically: Minimalism is nowhere to be found. Pile it on, mix it up, and maybe even power clash.

YSL Should Sue Everyone

Maybe Yves Saint Laurent’s legal team is feeling exhausted and amicable after that year-and-a-half long battle with Christian Loubuton over shoes with red soles.

But have they failed to notice that it’s become a bona fide trend to rip off their logo?

Exhibit A:

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Kill Brand You Seem Lost fleece, $55

Exhibit B:

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Forever Strung Y LSD tee, $29.99, and earrings, $28

Exhibit C:

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Luncchb0xx sweatshirt, $45

Exhibit D:

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Skreened Y So Lame? tee, $24.99

YSL’s logo was apparently updated last summer in a rebranding, but the fashion house planned to hold on to the classic logo as well. Even if the brand is trying to move away from the signature interlocking letters, their legacy might be tarnished by rampant associations with hallucinogens and promiscuity. Just sayin’.

Etsy entrepreneurs and high street brands alike are profiting off this and other recognizable logos, including those of Chanel, Fendi and Gucci.

I don’t think they’re as harmful as true knock-offs (oxymoron!), because they’re not diverting from the brand’s sales or putting out low quality merchandise under their name. It’s just supposed to be funny. The market for this stuff might include the Kreayshawns of the world, but the biggest buyers are probably fashion types who love the designers and can appreciate the cheekiness.