Saving the world through shopping

I want the world to be a better place but I also want to sleep in. That’s why I love doing things that let me feel like I’m making a difference without exerting myself.

I have a very beautiful friend who also wants the world to be a better place and actually puts in the effort to do so. She’s a great person to know because she finds out which organisations are worthy and then plans events so lazier people like myself can join her in saving the world. This month, she organised a clothing-swap fundraiser that resulted in everyone getting new outfits while also raising money to support peace in Syria (the organisation that received our donations is “Preemptive Love Coalition“, if you’re curious).

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After having everyone clear out their wardrobes, she collected and organised the unwanted clothes and had everyone round to her house for a Pop-Up Op-Shop. We left a donation and then found new outfits from other people’s no-longer-favourites, so I got to spend an afternoon basically shopping and left feeling like I’d made a difference in the world. All the unclaimed clothing was donated to refugee families so I got to feel doubly warm inside.

We live in a beautiful world (yeah we do, yeah we do) but also there is a lot wrong with it that needs fixing. I also know that it’s a lot easier to take part in worthwhile causes when someone else actually does the bulk of the work for you. I hope you all have a friend like mine (if you are that friend, bless you), because people like her allow the multitudinous sleepy people like me to make a difference.

Am I a good person or am I just lazy?

While catching up with a friend I hadn’t seen since before I left for Canada, I mentioned that I was now a vegetarian. When she asked me why, I explained that my flat in Vancouver didn’t have any decent appliances to cook meat so it felt like an unnecessary expense. Eventually, I found I didn’t miss it so fully embraced the vegetarian lifestyle.

It made me realise that a lot of the decisions I’m proud of and that I associate with my identity are not necessarily because I’m a good person or intent on breaking societal expectations – they’re mostly due to laziness.

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I’m a vegetarian – because animals are cute, but mainly because I hate the way raw meat feels and cooking it is a lot more effort than cooking veges. You won’t get sick if you undercook a carrot, but that pink chicken on the other hand…

I don’t shave my legs – partly because I think the societal expectation that women need to shave their legs is ridiculous, but also because I really hate shaving. One time I shaved my legs after 6 months of not doing so, and it took me half an hour to achieve dolphin-level smoothness. I’m now going on a year and a half of leg-hair growth and I really don’t have the time to spend forty five minutes removing it (not to mention 5 minutes every week keeping it at bay).

I use a Diva Cup – because it’s better for the environment, but really its major upside is you don’t need to change it multiple times a day. Put it in in the morning and take it out 10 hours later – that’s it. Plus one menstrual cup lasts several years and you better believe I’m too lazy to buy pads and tampons on the regular.

It extends past those examples. I often catch the bus because then I don’t need to spend time finding a carpark. I don’t wear a bra much because putting one on adds about 30 seconds to my morning routine. I prefer hanging washing on the line because I don’t really know how to use the dryer. I go barefaced 90% of the time because I hate taking makeup off in the evening when I’m sleepy and want to go straight to bed. I’ve had the same phone for close to 4 years because the effort involved in getting a new phone feels like a little too much.

I love knowing that my choices are good for the environment and I love feeling that I’m not subscribing to all the beauty rules women are tacitly told to follow. And while I’m proud of these little decisions I make in my life, I’d be lying if I said it took a lot of effort. When it comes to school or work, I put in all the effort, but in my everyday life I crave laziness and downtime. Sure, I’m motivated by the thought that my choices make a difference in the world, but I think I’m equally motivated by knowing those choices are actually easier for me than the alternative.

Here’s to living a sustainable, defiant lifestyle with minimal effort – and if you have suggestions for more ways I can be both lazy and efficient, let me know!

On body positivity

First off, let me be clear – I am all for the body positivity movement. I am a feminist and I have a body – there’s no way I could be against it. How could I not support a movement that aims to lift people of all sizes into the spotlight and show that not only proportionate size 6 blondes are beautiful? I think it’s wonderful that social media has given people a platform to show off the fact that beauty doesn’t have to come in the narrowly prescribed ideal.

I have a lot of privileges: I’m white, I’m young, I’m able-bodied, I’m middle-class, I’m fairly average size-wise. In most ways, I see myself represented all around. The body positivity movement faces criticism for not including more people outside of these categories – for example, disabled people are constantly left out of these conversations. I can’t speak for them (though here is a good article on that subject) but I can speak about my own experience of something I feel that body positivity is ignoring.

Acne.

People see pimples and either assume hormonal teenager or unhealthySomeone who eats too much chocolate and drinks too much soda. Someone who doesn’t wash their face properly. Someone who doesn’t take care of themselves.

Like most people, I had acne as a teenager. And when I left puberty behind, my skin cleared up. Aha, I thought, I’ve finally grown out of it! Which, sadly, was not the case. I was blessed with a couple of years of calm skin, only to have my hormones freak out on me at age 20 for no discernible reason. It is incredibly frustrating thinking you’ve outgrown acne, only to have it rear its head again as an adult. Now, at age 23, it’s calming down again, but I’m still left with scars and hyperpigmentation that make my bare face far from clear.

I see body positivity videos and articles proclaiming titles like I finally feel good at my size – and you can too! And I am truly so happy that they exist, and that the authors found beauty in themselves. But it’s hard to take the message that I too can overcome my insecurities when I cannot think of single example of a person with acne portrayed positively. Having a pimple is either a punchline or plot device in tv shows. Characters with acne are coded as ugly in novels. The only people who get any kind of public acknowledge of having acne seem to be YouTubers who offer tutorials on how to cover it up. I’m not saying that those tutorials are bad (totally the opposite, I love me a beauty guru who gets my skin). All I’m saying is that it’s hard to feel comfortable – let alone beautiful – when society tells me my skin is ugly. If flawless skin is smooth and even, I am flawed.

Maybe it’s selfish of me to want more space for myself in a movement, because it’s obvious that society has already carved out plenty of spaces for me to exist in. But I still don’t think that there is a space for this particular part of my identity – my acne and my scars – to exist openly. I want to feel like it’s okay to have skin that doesn’t look perfectly airbrushed. I want a world that doesn’t tell us there is only one way to be beautiful.

*In case anyone is wondering – I am not unhealthy. I promise you that I take excellent care of my health and body. This is just how my skin is. I really don’t want any recommendations for what I could be doing, because that’s not the point of this post and honestly, I’ve probably already tried it and it didn’t work.

On politics and social media bubbles

Fair warning: this is a mostly a musing but also about the US election, so if you’re well over reading about it, you might want to ignore this post.

Like most people, I spent last night in front of a news channel feeling increasingly bewildered at the results of the 2016 election. I feel like I’ve been in a state of shock ever since.

As someone not from the States, my main US-news source is virtual. I don’t have a TV and I haven’t read a newspaper since March, so I get my news from social media. The past few months, my newsfeed has been a constant stream of Hillary Clinton support, of videos explaining policy, of celebrity endorsements, of articles about her actions. And I let myself believe that, because saw nothing but support, she was clearly going to win. Everything I read made it seem like her winning was inevitable (plus the odd conspiracy theorist commenting that the election was rigged in her favour).

But obviously, that didn’t happen.

It made me think about the danger in believing that your world is representative of the actual world. In my little bubble, it feels like everyone believes in the same things I do, so it’s hard to see that the real world is not quite as tolerant and welcoming. Social media is an amazing way of sharing knowledge and opinions, but on the flip side it can act as an echo chamber where your own thoughts are reflected back to you, warping your idea of what’s actually going on in the world.

I don’t know what the future will hold for the US – and how that will affect the world at large – but I know that I’ll be reading my “suggested articles” with a grain of salt from now on.

New eyes

I didn’t know what to do with myself today. It was Labour Day so I didn’t have work, but I also didn’t have anything to do. I did my washing, I watched (far too many) episodes of Gilmore Girls, I played the ukulele until my uncalloused fingers cried out in defeat. I still felt restless and listless, so I decided the only thing that would save my brain was peach rings (I’m currently ignoring the possibility that they’re made with gelatin because I am too in love with their sugary goodness). On a spur of the moment, I decided to take my polaroid camera out with me and take some pictures of the walk to the store.

I go this route at least three times a week, so I’m well used to it. But there was something about having the intention of taking photos that made it feel different. I’m not saying the walk was magical or that I was overwhelmed with the beauty of mundanity – I’d like to think I’m not that pretentious. But it made me look harder at the things I often noticed but never gave much thought, and to pause when I saw something I thought was beautiful. You can’t capture the moment when you’re always on the move.

I really believe in having reminders of the everyday, of the mundane; maybe that’s why I’m doing my photo-a-day challenge. Taking pictures of a well-trodden path helped remind me how lucky I am to be living in such a beautiful neighbourhood, and (hopefully) will stop me forgetting that fact once I’m no longer here. Life may be a bunch of sequential transient moments, but those moments turn into memories, and memories don’t need to be transient too.

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It’s not the end of the world

IMG_7317Sometimes my head gets too full and I find myself mentally falling into a hole that I don’t know how to escape from. Negative thoughts will start swirling around my head and I’ll panic, thinking for sure that there is no way I can deal with all of my problems. When I fall into one these stress-spirals, it’s hard for me to think straight. Everything seems huge and everything seems terrible. Sometimes the only thing that can get me out of it is to sleep it off. Usually peace comes with the sunrise, but it’s not exactly a quick fix or something that actually solves the problem in the first place. After experiencing a couple of those episodes recently, I’ve realised that the most useful thing I can do for myself in those situations is to breathe deeply and tell myself over and over again – it’s not the end of the world.

Years ago, I remember my mother saying those words when I was distraught over something that seemed huge at the time. It didn’t change the fact that I was upset or that I had to deal with whatever consequences ensued. But it gave me the reminder that I could cope with whatever happened. Because even though losing a friend or failing a test or getting rejected hurts, it’s not the end of the world. My problems aren’t inconsequential or irrelevant, but they aren’t so powerful as to ruin everything that exists. It may seem obvious, but when I’m in that negative place it’s hard to see anything else. This mantra helps me put things into perspective and talk myself down. And I hope next time a stress-spiral attacks me, I can starve it of its power with those words.

Unless you’re performing risky experiments that could potentially start the inevitable zombie apocalypse – relax. It’ll be okay. It’s not the end of the world.

Unshaven: a tale of hairy legs and self-reflection

Once upon a time, a little girl in NZ hit puberty and her legs suddenly began sprouting soft hairs. Without a second thought, she asked for a razor and began a cycle of constantly removing her leg hair. It just seemed like the thing to do. In the changing rooms at school, she heard girls whisper about the hair on other girls’ legs, laughing about how gross it was. It never bothered her: she was the owner of a razor and therefore also the owner of happily hairless legs.

In case that cliché writing device didn’t make it obvious enough, that little girl was me (although I don’t think that that story is uncommon). When I was that age, everyone I knew was either already shaving or waiting til their parents let them buy a razor. It was never a question whether you would, the question was simply when.

I was no exception. I experimented with different methods of hair removal. Once I had netball trials and knew I couldn’t show up with hairy legs. I tried an Epilady and bit back tears as I ran it over my legs. I showed up at the netball court sporting legs with angry red bumps all over them. But at least they were hairless.

As I got older, I started a series of laser hair removal treatments. Every few seconds I felt a sharp zap and my legs stung afterwards, but it was worth it when I could see the patches of leg that were now hairless. The company doing the treatments weren’t the easiest to get in contact with so I stopped and resigned myself back to my trusty razor.

My life never revolved around shaving. It was just a mundane chore that I did without ever really thinking why.

In my late teenage years, I unintentionally found myself exposed to feminist texts and essays. I realised many of the things I was doing in my life were actually kind of terrible – like making fun of young girls for applying eyeliner crookedly, thinking female musicians were nowhere near as good as their male counterparts, and thinking that women with hairy legs were gross.

After reading about the history of body hair removal (which I recommend doing!), I began another phase of experimentation: this time, I stopped religiously removing my leg hair. 5 sessions of laser hair removal didn’t do much for permanently removing my hair, so after a while my legs reverted to a soft, hairy state I hadn’t seen since I was 11. I went through phases of shaving and not-shaving, but every time I shaved, it further solidified for me that I didn’t like it and preferred my legs natural. So eventually, I stopped completely.

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ft. awkward foot tan lines

I could pretend that I was being super brave and revolutionary by not shaving, but the truth is that it was winter – I wore tights or jeans everyday because it was cold, and nobody bar Lox even saw my legs. Now summer has rolled around and hemlines have rolled up, and I can no longer hide behind jeans. I hate shaving, I hate the way my legs look shaved, but I’m scared. I’m scared of how people will react when they notice my legs. I know now that I absolutely do not shave for myself – it’s for other people, regardless of whether they actually notice or care. I feel the pressure to be hairless so strongly. The only time I ever see unshaven women in mainstream media is usually mocking, or scandalous, or about how she’s “not taking care of herself”. When I shaved without thinking, I never noticed this. Sometimes I wonder if it would be easier if I was one of those people who actually enjoyed the shaving process, because then I could say that I did it for myself and not because society told me to.

None of this is to suggest that I think that everyone should throw away their razors and embrace the hairy legged lifestyle. This also isn’t about how being ~natural is the ideal state (my hair colour and the fact I’m rarely seen without red lipstick is testament to the fact that I’m not living that kind of life). My feminism had always been about choice – I think that people should be able to choose how to present themselves without fear. I have friends who like shaving, and that’s awesome. I absolutely do not like shaving, and that should be awesome too.

Since starting this piece, I’ve cautiously ventured out a few times without hiding behind a maxi skirt. So far, no one has stared, no one has commented, I’m pretty sure no one has actually noticed. Getting over my own thoughts feels like overcoming the biggest barrier (though if I didn’t have fair hair, I feel like my experience would be quite different). I hope this is a step away from self-consciousness and a step towards “I really don’t care what others think”. I truly think that if we all challenge our (previously unquestioned) ideas about how people should look or behave that we can work towards a better world – where girls don’t feel gross for their bodies changing and grown women don’t feel terrified about going out unshaven.