Growing up in New Jersey, I was surrounded by women and girls who put a great deal of effort into emphasizing their feminine attributes. These chicks were experts at using make-up, tight clothes, push-up bras (or fake tits), loooooong fingernails and big hair to demonstrate their ladyhood. The older Jersey Girls did Weight Watchers to keep their figures slim, while the younger Jersey Girls relied on hilarious-to-watch Tae-Bo or the slightly less entertaining (but still funny) step aerobics.
They used Nair to make sure their pubes didn't spill out of their bikini bottoms, and they got their eyebrows waxed to make sure they weren't mistaken for a Yeti. They climbed into tanning beds to darken their skin, and they paid hundreds of dollars to lighten their hair. They put rhinestones on everything, even their toenails. I grew up knowing that they were Girls with a capital "G," and that I was, well, not.
It wasn't that I was boyish or anything. That probably would've made more sense, because then I could've fit neatly into the "tomboy" category -- sporty, athletic, fresh-faced, fit and maybe secretly a lesbian but probably just really fond of cardiovascular activity. But I didn't display any conventionally masculine characteristics. I was just bad at the girly stuff.
And until recently, I maintained pretty much the same approach to beauty as I always had. I don't generally wax the garden that is my bush, because Jesus God made it the way he made it for a good reason (entertainment). Nor do I tan, because I'm prone to skin cancer. I leave my curly hair the way it is, getting occasional color touch-ups when my roots get long. I don't get my nails did, because I know I'm just going to bite them off anyway. I don't take trendy exercise classes. I don't wear makeup on a daily or even weekly basis. I don't use a daily moisturizer. I don't even wash my face every day.
But all that, dear readers, has changed, for I am a woman transformed -- into a girly girl!
My recent (temporary) departure from the office job world left me feeling a bit directionless. I still work -- I write for this fine website, and I'm also writing a young adult novel for the fine folks at HarperTeen (and my British publisher is called Electric Monkey!) But I needed a goal. And I found it, of course, at the XOJane offices.
It was my first XOJane editorial meeting, and I was pumped. So pumped, in fact, that I volunteered to do the unthinkable: become a girly girl for a Beauty Dare feature. I explained my utter lack of skills in the girly department, and the assembled experts agreed that an intervention was, if not strictly necessary, at least bound to be entertaining. Julie was game to help with her many beautification connections, and everyone seemed to think it was a pretty funny idea.
Little did I know the world of pain (and magic) that awaited me.
Inspired by Joseph Campbell's classic treatise on the archetypal hero's journey (this is a lie), we hashed out a list of steps I'd have to take in order to live my life as much like a girly girl as possible. (For the record, Julie and Emily call all this stuff "a very basic beauty maintenance routine," although Jane disagrees.)
This post serves as a record of my efforts, my triumphs and my failures. May it enable others who come after me to know the peaks and pitfalls of this noble quest.
So okay, I told everybody I was going to get a Brazilian wax, which I guess means that they wax your asshole. A full Brazilian is apparently when they take everything off of everywhere down there. But when I got to my beloved old day spa, Sensibilities in Asheville, North Carolina, something in me just rejected the idea of letting a stranger get all up in my business in order to pour hot wax on my junk and then rip the shit out of it.
Also, I heard that sometimes they actually hold your clit down so as not to tear it off. Is this true? You tell me, readers, because I decided against the total slash and burn method of clearing the brush. I went for a basic bikini wax with the lovely Alicia, who was Southern and sweet and everything one would want in a human, even if that human's job were to pull your pubes out by the roots.
And you know what? It wasn't that bad! It hurt, but not as bad as I'd obsessively worried it might. I felt kind of tough afterward for enduring the pain, brief though it was. And I really liked the way my ladyparts looked! This is evidenced in my reaction in the photograph below, taken after "the procedure." I appear to have a Botoxed forehead, but that is not a service I got at the day spa.
The spray tan
This was a fun one! I fulfilled the promise of my Jersey heritage and my Queens residence by getting a spray tan, although it was a toasty warm brown and not a Snooki-like orange.
I instantly liked the beautiful and talented Abby from BakeSpray Tanning, which was a good thing, considering I was about to get completely naked in her apartment, stand in a special tent, and get sprayed from head to toe with a cool light brown mist. I had a great time! She told me that during the summer season she does like 15 sprays a day. Then she busted out what looked like a blowdryer attached to a vacuum cleaner (it's actually the Infinity Sun Multi-Treatment System). The results? Delightful!
In looking for girly girl role models, I settled on the trifecta of elder Kardashians. They became, for me, like a three-headed spirit animal. I was going to buy something at Dash, the Kardayday sisters' boutique, but I didn't feel like schlepping to SoHo (I very rarely feel like leaving Queens. Manhattan is just too much hustle and bustle for this gal). Then somebody on Twitter or Facebook told me that Sears has a Kardashian Kollection and lo, it was true! I felt like the luckiest lady in my apartment (I live alone) when the tank top pictured above appeared at my door. I also got the bracelet pictured below, and the earrings in the top photograph.
I don't know if the above photograph properly conveys the power of my French manicure. It is a workmanlike job, which means, you know, not fancy or anything, but it works. I don't believe in spending a lot of money for a fancy mani/pedi, so I nabbed one for under $30 at cheap Cheryl Nail Salon.
The Kardashian-endorsed diet pills
And here is where my devotion to things Kardashian took an ugly turn. I've said all I'm going to say on the subject, and there will be no photographic illustration. Never. Fucking. Again.
You know what's fancy? The fucking Plaza Hotel. And that's where makeup and brow genius Maral Balian works her particular brand of cosmetic sorcery -- at the Warren-Tricomi Salon, where all these fabulous people go and get fabulous things done to their fabulous selves. It is a very high class New Yawk establishment, where you might run into a slightly aging supermodel or a ninetysomething toothpaste heiress or a foxy young soap opera star.
Maral looks about 10 years younger than her actual age, which is nuts. I mean, it's really remarkable. You should book an appointment with her for the sole purpose of witnessing her Fountain of Youth-like qualities. She's apparently a brow goddess and an integral part of Julie's beautaaaaay team, but I was there for makeup. I told her to ditch all subtlety and go over-the-top in a trashy fun way, the way all those Jersey Girls I grew up with looked. And boy, did Maral deliver.
You will note that there is no photograph to go with this section, as I was dripping sweat and flushed after class. I emailed Tara, the owner of PNT Fitness in Long Island City, to explain that I'm terrified of exercise and really, really don't like it but that I wanted to take one of her classes and write about it for XOJane. Bravely, she said I could. And you know what? I survived. I was the slowest one in the class (which is called Cycle Virgin, natch) and I didn't move my butt up and down for all the special parts like the sprints and the jumps and the whatevers, but I only started to cry once (subtly, so no one could tell) and I didn't feel nauseous at all, which was a first for me with a cardio workout. And I worked up an awesome sweat.
Here she is in all her glory, the creature I've decided to name Girly Sara. I rarely socialize, but when I do, I hang around with testosterone-laden male comedians. (Note: I am trying to change this by adding more girl time to my life). Here were the reactions I got:
"You look like every girl I went to high school with."
"You look hot."
"Holy shit, you look great."
"You look like a sexy version of Tan Mom."
"You should keep this look. It works on you."
"The eyeshadow is blended really well. You look gorgeous."
And, from my friend Eddie, "What's up? Why do you look nice?"
Online, the reaction was more mixed, which makes sense because the Internetz give us all the chance to Say What We Mean To Say, amirite? Or at least to shout senseless gibberish into a void. So here are some Internet reactions, all from dudes:
"I have a weird boner."
"Yeah, I'm aroused."
"Lose the tan."
There were many, many more, but these are representative of the rest.
As for girl reactions -- my lady bartender approved mightily, and many gals on Facebook and Twitter seemed to like it well enough. My best friend Katherine was horrified and, with the caveat that I "always look good," told me that she would punch me if I ever got a spray tan again. Various other ladies informed me that I looked "very Jewish," "very Persian," "so Armenian" and "so Italian." I would add "so Greek" to that mix. And thanks to my friend Nikkita, I learned the meaning of the term Hot Chani.
But I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge the ways in which I fell short of girly girlhood. For example, I did not put on high heels. They hurt my feet and I'm always afraid I'm going to fall over in them. I didn't get my asshole bleached, either. I think that's a thing girly girls do now, right? And I didn't get vajazzled (I assume the act of affixing rhinestones to one's pussy is the ultimate example of girly-girliness.)
I'd like to say that I had a great big realization that I didn't look like myself, and that I'm happier with a bare face and comfortable clothes, and that I'm finally at peace with the fact that I'm (physically) low-maintenance, but the truth is that I think I looked awesome! I felt like a pretty, frosted cupcake in a shop window. I wish I looked like that all the time. The problem, of course, is that it costs tons of money and/or time, and I don't have enough of either to maintain such a glam look at all times.
Alright, here's where I flip it to you -- whadaya think? Do I look better all plain-faced, or glammed up? And where do you land on the spectrum of girly girlitude?