Friday, December 11, 2009

Not exactly low-maintenance: why I'm not a typical Seattle girl

I have been pondering lately why it is that Seattle girls are so frequently low-maintenance. The stereotypical Seattle girl wears jeans, super comfy if somewhat ugly shoes, Northface or similar jacket and not a stitch of makeup. In my rotations the past couple of weeks I saw a lot of women wearing very (suprisingly) stylish, work appropriate clothing, had good hair, but still not even a swipe of mascara. This phenomenon fascinates me. One of my friends from grad school (who is originally from the East Coast but has lived a number of years in Seattle) said she thought I was probably from the East Coast when she first met me because I didn't look like a Seattleite.

I was getting into my mom's makeup when I was very little (though she's never worn much makeup either so I don't really get it from her). From the time I was in 6th grade I have worn makeup almost every day of my life. I've gotten better as there was a time I didn't go anywhere except the gym without at least mascara. I admit I have applied makeup in a campground bathroom, worn it hiking, skiing, to the beach etc. now I will often run weekend errands to the grocery store, library etc without it, and skip it for the beach but that's about it. In the summer when I'm a little tan, I do wear significantly less makeup (it melts!) but I still do at least mascara and lip gloss, and most days a lot more. I probably apply 9 or 10 things to my face in the morning. I use mostly natural mineral makeup and except for my mascara I try to avoid parabens and other chemicals (I can't find an acceptable natural substitute for Diorshow mascara, sorry.)

It's not that I think I look horrible without it, but wearing it is so much a part of who I am I feel uncomfortably naked not wearing it. It's like a fun art project every morning I get to wear, and as a bonus it makes me look better. I love hanging around in Sephora playing with all the fun toys they have in there. Now that I think about it other women must be wearing makeup since Sephora hasn't gone out of business, but I don't see these people often. Only one of my childhood girlfriends regularly wears makeup-- everyone else will maybe wear it to a wedding or similar event.

I do feel a little weird sometimes being the only woman in the room with a full face of makeup. I was sitting in rounds at SCCA this week and looking around the room full of doctors, physician assistants, nurses and dietitians and not a one had even mascara on. No one I saw in a full day at UW Medical Center appeared to have any on either. It gets to be like wearing a cocktail dress and finding everyone else at the party is wearing jeans.

This phenomenon is very much a Pacific Northwest thing. When I went to college in Southern California I had the shock of my life when girls in my dorm got up really early to do their hair and put on tiny outfits before their 7am classes. I didn't really fit in there either-- I wore jeans and t-shirts every where instead of short skirts and heels. San Diego was bad enough-- I can't describe to you the extreme grooming practices of women in Los Angeles. The older women get the more they seem to be going for a plastic Barbie appearance, so I know it can go too far.

I'm not judging my fellow Seattle girls-- I know they could no sooner be comfortable wearing makeup every day than I would be not wearing it, I just wonder why we have this cultural phenomemon, and how I missed the memo when I was 12? Is it the rain? The outdoorsy activities? Water proof mascara does exist! Someone explain it to me.


Stevie said...

You and I both know we're kindred spirits in this aspect. I've had my own makeup bag since I was oh, about 6. Back then it consisted mostly of my mom's old makeup that she threw out and some Tinkerbell or Bonnie Bell in the mix. I've since upgraded.

I absolutely LOVE makeup. And I think of it as an art project, too! I love trying new colors and using different looks for different times of day, different outfits and different occasions.

Oddly enough, the women around here who DO wear make up tend to wear A LOT of it!

I'm totally comfortable without make-up, but putting it on in the morning is seriously one of the highlights of my day. :-)

Kate said...

It's interesting indeed. When I was in high school in new england I would wear outfits, usually jeans, never heels, but I always wore liquid liner on top and mascara. In college in new england, my classes required "movement clothes" so it felt silly to wear make up other than the occasional mascara swipe with leggings and a sweatshirt. Then in san francisco, the hipster vibe was so strong that being "made up" was shunned, but not necessarily make up. Now in LA, I know exactly what you mean about the older women. I do tend to wear more make up now too. City trends exist for sure.