April 01, 2019

Why My Nose Stud is a Love Letter to My Nose

If I were a betting woman, I would bet that you don't like your nose.

Funny thing is -- I don't have to see your nose or even know who you are to probably be accurate in that guess. Odds are, you don't. Our noses are this weird thing in the center of our faces that help us taste our food and amplify the sounds we hear and yet, quite a few people don't like the version sitting on their face.

I'm one of those people.

Again, if I were a betting woman, I'd say right now you're thinking, "What? Your nose!? Why? There is nothing wrong with your nose!" But if I were to say the same about your nose, you'd disagree and be able to immediately pinpoint all of its perceived wrongs.
I don't recall a time in my life, ever, that I was consciously aware of my nose's existence and didn't hate it. You see, I share my rather distinct nose with other members in my family and extended family. And in the family, it has always been deemed an "unfortunate" nose.  Wistful words about rhinoplasty around the house were not uncommon and it didn't take long for me to join in the lament.

My negative nose self-talk really didn't improve based on my school experience either. In addition to my "unfortunate" nose, I had rather prominent dark hair on my arms and legs. And since I was not allowed to shave my legs until 6th grade, school bullies had taken to calling me "Woolly Mammoth". One particular bully, Bryce, decided to up the torment when I was in 5th grade. He proclaimed that my nose was so pointed, it looked more like a beak than a nose and decided my new nickname should be "Woody Woodpecker." On days that Bryce and his friends were feeling particularly vindictive, they called me "Wooly Woody." That still stings a bit if I'm being honest.

With time, I shaved my legs (and arms -- yes arms!) and the Woolly torments eventually died down. But the Woody ones never really did. In fact, the day I graduated high school, I recall Bryce slinging his arm around my shoulder and saying something to the effect of, "Well, we made it Woody."

Needless to say, I became very self-conscious about the point and sharpness of my nose. I've never liked it. I've always said I would "fix it" as soon as I had the money. I was adamant on this point.

Until... I had my daughter.   

After Holland was born, I took a reevaluation of my negative self-talk generally. I started to worry how it might influence her. I of course, want her to be happy and healthy, but I don't want her growing up with a mother who is constantly trying to lose 10 pounds or thinks that her thighs look terrible in shorts. I made a conscious decision early in her life, that in order to encourage her to love her own body, I must love mine. That took work and yes, some days I eat a whole pizza and start to doubt my own self-love. But for the most part, I'm happy with my body knowing that it has served me well and that I'm mostly, good to it.

But making peace with my nose has proven to be a much harder task. I often wonder how I will feel if my daughter grows up to have my nose. Will I think it is unbecoming on her as well? Surely not. Like everything about her, I'm sure I'll think that it is beautiful and amazing. So why then do I have a hard time accepting it being in the middle of my own face?

But if my child, in her early years of life, hears my own negative-nose talk, I'm afraid that she too is likely to learn by example that her nose is ugly. It breaks my heart that she might one day be as hard on herself about her nose as I have been, and continue to be about my own, on a daily basis.

That's why, last Friday afternoon, I got my nose pierced.

When I was a teenager, I got my naval pierced. Afterwards, I started making plans for tattoos and other piercings I would get once I was grown up and could decide for myself. One day, I said aloud to someone that I loved (and who loved me), that I would get my nose pierced. That person, full of doubt and hate for their own nose, wasted no time in telling me that was a bad idea. They said, "Kate, you don't put fancy treatments on an ugly window. It just draws attention where it shouldn't be."

That person loved and continues to love me deeply. But they were blinded by the very nose on their face and likely generations of people telling them that this nose is just not good enough. Regardless, their words have stuck with me. I think about them every time someone catches a photo of me in profile -- something I try to always avoid. I think about them when I put my makeup on each morning. I think of them each time I get a zit on or around my nose. "You don't put fancy treatments on an ugly window."

Maybe we should though. 

Maybe, we can dress that window up enough that we'll look at it more often. And maybe, instead of avoiding it, all the attention put on it will slowly turn our disdain for that window into acceptance of it. And maybe with time, that acceptance will become admiration. And perhaps, if we are truly lucky, admiration will blossom into adoration. Maybe. Just maybe.

I've spent 32 years of my life locked into a pattern of avoidance and disdain towards the very nose on my face.

No more.
I'm done.
For me.
For Holland.
For future kids or grandchildren who might also share this nose one day.
The time has come for me to break the cycle. To break up with the self-hate.

I'm not there yet. Not even close. I still cringe at photos of me in complete profile and I find myself occasionally looking up plastic surgeons in my area.

But each time this tiny jewel catches the light and draws in my eye, I see my nose a little more clearly. And I have high hopes that one day, I'll be able to admire the window for itself. With or without the fabulous drapes.

February 20, 2019

Ending my Addiction to Fast Fashion

Overall the years, I've given up a lot of things in pursuit of a more ethical lifestyle that would also reduce my carbon footprint.

First, I gave up meat. Technically, I first gave up beef and pork. Then, over a year later, I finally gave up poultry as well. I had discovered the true cruelties of the meat industry, the terrible impact of meat on your physical health, and of course, came to terms with what I'd known my entire life as something that felt "wrong" to me. At first, giving these up seemed a little daunting but I soon realized that there were, in fact, pretty easy to do. My fear and comfort zone held me back more than anything. And making the changes made me feel better than ever -- physically, mentally, spiritually.

Next, I gave up all of the beauty and household products I had even known. I went from loving Clinique and pretty much everything that P&G sold to understanding the horrors of animal testing and just how dangerous many of the ingredients in those products are thanks to the US's super lax standards. I of course, replaced these items with brands that were cruelty-free and eco-friendly (including favorites like Dropps and Grove).

Then, I started parting with money by regularly donating to organizations that I believe are pursing worthwhile causes to support ethical endeavors around the word. This too felt good.

After that, the universe started to impress upon me the importance of sustainable and ethical fashion. It began when Adam randomly played "The True Cost" on Netflix one day. That led me to feeling reaaaaal crappy about my fashion choices and out of guilt, following a few key people in the sustainable fashion movement like Livia Firth online. But then --- Old Navy, GAP, and Target hit up my e-mail y'all and I bet you can guess what they offered me:

Cute clothes
Real cheap
Decent(ish) quality
Credit card that offers in-store rewards
And I bit. Hook, line, sinker. I continued supporting the fast fashion industry. Of course, I'd still get frustrated when a top fell apart after a first (or fifth) washing but I'd roll my eyes and think, "At least I didn't spend THAT much on it."

Then Marie Kondo told me to clean up my act. Not once. But twice. First with her book back in 2017. Then again with her Netflix special in 2019. Both times I threw out copious amounts of cheap clothing that I either never loved, no longer loved, never fit properly, no longer fit properly after washings, or that was worn out completely. Both times I vowed -- "Nope. Not again. Not me. I shall break my fast fashion habit."

Narrator: "She did not break the habit..."

I had good intentions. I did. I always DO. But I've been groomed my entire life to not only expect a bargain but to practically crave them. Each time I hit "Buy Now" my brain is flooded with feel good chemicals that softly whisper, "Sssh.. it's okay if it isn't exactly what you want or need. It will do for now. And you got such a great deal on it. Don't worry. You'll love it!" This is reinforced when tracking information is sent. Oh, I get a high from a watching a tracking number that is somewhat embarrassing to discuss. And don't get me started on the joy I feel opening the boxes that arrive on my front porch. It is... so freaking satisfying. It's a treat to myself from myself that, at least temporarily, makes me feel good about myself.

But like any addict - I know that my high is always temporary. And soon, I'll have to search for another promo code, another deal, another item to ship and track and open. The cycle repeats and as the highs fade I'm left with closet full of things I don't necessarily love.

Using the skills I've recently learned by reading The Power of Habit, I want to CHANGE when those feel good feelings flood my brain and what message they relay. And I'm proud to say, for the first time ever, I think I'm taking some concrete steps to override my addiction to fast fashion.

What's the plan now?

Well... first I raided my "sales" e-mail account. You know, that e-mail account you keep solely to provide to sales clerks when they ask if you are on e-mail lists or that you type in when you get to a website to get an initial promo code. Yup. That one. I raided it. It received, on average, roughly 60 messages a day from my favorite fast fashion retailers -- Old Navy, Gap, Banana Republic, Kohls, J. Crew Factory -- and I did the unthinkable to each e-mail: I opened them and I unsubscribed.

Then I went to my Instagram account and did something just as hard: I unfollowed nearly every single blogger in the feed that pushes products from these places (I will admit -- I left one or two on the follow list but only because I really like them a lot outside of them peddling cheap, fast fashion).

Next, I went on a mission to replace these things with quality, sustainable brands and ambassadors. If bloggers and promotions e-mails were fueling my fast fashion habit, then perhaps the best way to build a love for sustainable and ethical fashion was to find brands and influencers I loved. As online analytics picked up what I was doing, I was pushed ads for ethical, sustainable brands I'd never heard of before. I started to look forward to logging online and scrolling through Instagram just to see which new brand would advertise to me. By doing this, I also discovered tools like Good on You (supported by Emma Watson) that would further help me explore better options for clothing.

Then, I picked up Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion from my local library. I'm still reading it, but with each page that I turn I become more and more resolved to finally overcome my fast fashion addiction. I'm making plans... Plans that, in years past, would have raised my blood pressure.

Plans to cut up in-store credit cards altogether (Ek!)
Plans to stop looking at Target's clothing each visit (Gasp!)
Plans to never step foot into Old Navy again (*RIP Kate*)

Plans to, after YEARS to lip service, finally curate a sustainable, eco-friendly, ethical wardrobe that is versatile, somewhat compact, and that meets all my needs. 
Plans to treat each and every piece of my wardrobe as an "investment piece".

This is hard. And yes, I realize that these choices I'm making are heavily influenced by my economical privilege. People can't treat every item of clothing they buy as an investment piece if they are worried about putting dinner on the table. But regardless of where you fall on the disposal income scale, you can make choices that will reduce your reliance on fast fashion. The best thing to do is to thrift -- give old pieces new life. Another great idea is swapping. Instead of trashing old duds, get together with friends and trade them. And if you have to venture into H&M for a piece of clothing, engage in some basic quality tests to see if it might (at least somewhat) stand the test of time.

Out of all the habits I've broken to reduce my carbon footprint on this planet, ending my love affair with fast fashion has to be the hardest yet. But I'm determined this time to see it through and I feel confident that I've already made more progress than in any of my prior attempts. I plan to keep updating here including sharing many of the brands, influencers, and resources I've discovered.

So tell me.. have you reduced your reliance on fast fashion?
What are your favorite sustainable brands and influencers?