Culture

High maintenance or off-beat: Which bride are you?

Author: Elle Canada

Culture

High maintenance or off-beat: Which bride are you?

I am full of contradictions when it comes to girlie-girlness. I wax my legs but then go hairy months at time. I tweeze my brows yet rarely worry about my armpits. I get my hair colored but only wash it twice a month and barely brush it. I'm like a poodle with fancy sculpted leg puffs and a sh**-stained, matted tail.

Self-indulgence
This incongruity was only magnified by wedding preparations. I planned to do my hair myself, winding it up in two buns to anchor my headpiece. And yet I got a facial and full-body wax (yes, even pits). The facial actually sort of sucked; the salon receptionist squealed at me, "You know what tomorrow is, don't you?"

I was stupefied.

"The Nordstrom semiannual sale!" She whined on, "I'm so superficial! It's my favorite day of the year! Shopping, shopping, shopping!" I was clearly not among my people. I almost ran out of the salon, which was appropriately named High Maintenance. But I stayed and had my pores squeezed, feeling guilty and overly self-indulgent the whole time. It felt like I'd signed a contract when I walked in, vowing to represent the salon's name, care deeply about Nordstrom's sales, and obsess over the color of the gunk in my pores.

I felt, in other words, like a sellout. Like I'd bought into the disgusting princess industry that exploits women by manufacturing vanity and anticipating every possible beauty need that blushing brides could possibly (not) need. Facials! Waxing! Manicures! Massages! Pedicures! Elaborate up-dos! Professional makeup jobs! Weight loss! Body buffing! Botox injections! Bridal breast augmentation! Where does it end?

It can be rough to reconcile. Laura Thomas said, "I have a strong anticonsumerist streak, as well as a feminist distaste for societal expectations of women's appearance." But she admitted to worrying about how white her teeth were. She herself described her concern as "petty" and remembers how she felt guilty for indulging in a little vanity. She worried that she was buying into "just one aspect of the whole Beauty Industrial Complex that also pushes breast implants and anorexia." She's right, of course. She also still paid someone to do her hair for the wedding. Was Laura a victim, or was she a well-educated woman who chose her own path through the thorny forest filled with tested-upon animals?

I chose to believe the latter -- but there's no denying that I could simply be justifying my own behavior to myself. The issue for most offbeat brides isn't wanting to feel like a celebrity or a princess or somebody else's image of beauty. It's wanting to feel your most lovely, whatever that entails.





Copyright 2007 by Ariel Meadow Stallings from Offbeat Bride: The Taffeta-Free Alternatives for Independent Brides. Reprinted by permission of Seal Press (www.sealpress.com), and imprint of Avalon Publishing Group, Inc. All rights reserved.



InBloom Contest!
This season is all about glowing skin and luminous eyes. ELLE Canada Online wants to help you copy these trends with our first ever Spring Makeover Contest! Submit your photo to makeover@ellecanada.com and explain why you think you are most deserving of a makeover. Five lucky winners will win a beauty basket full of Cover Girl, Pantene and Olay products, courtesy of LookFab, and more.Most photographed day of our lives
Let's not kid ourselves: For most of us, a wedding is the most photographed day of our lives. And goddamnit, who doesn't want to look good for that? Hence, I have to pay someone a day's worth of my salary to squeeze my zits and pull hairs out of my follicles. As Leah Weaver said, "Somehow, many otherwise perfectly reasonable women become convinced that if you don't have a personal makeup artist, the perfect veil, the blue garter, etcetera, you won't really look like a bride."

Bulls**t. All you need to look like a bride is to be standing next to someone you love deeply, someone to whom you're ready to commit. But even the most humble of us have thin streaks of vanity.

The biggest conflict Andreas and I had with our whole wedding was over whether I should wear makeup. It's remarkable that of all the arguments we could have had, the only one was over vanity.

The makeup issue, how much is too much?
I typically don't wear a lot of makeup. I have some amateurish drugstore goods that I smudge on (glittery eye shadow, candy-pink lipstick, other leftover raver sparkles) when I go out for a night on the town, but if I remember to use blush on my pasty Seattle skin before I head to work, it's a fancy day. I haven't ever owned powder or foundation. Andreas appreciates this, because as a man with a non–lipstick lesbian mother, his opinion of makeup ranks somewhere along a spectrum of loathing that includes female genital mutilation and underwire bras. Makeup is murder!

However, we had a guest coming up from Los Angeles -- and she happens to be a professional makeup artist. She does amazing work on actors and MTV stars, and she once testified (supposedly from firsthand intelligence) that Justin Timberlake didn't shave his chest (he waxed). She wanted to do my makeup as her gift to me, and I was beyond excited. I used to do musical theater, and what's a wedding if not a mini-performance? And f*** it! I wanted to look good for my personal paparazzi. With this friend's brushes and magical powders on my face, it would be an honor as much as a celebration of my own pathological narcissism. Go vanity! Bring on the whorepaint!

Upon hearing this plan, my "free to be you and me" fiancé went stony and cold. He remembered how I'd looked after a friend's wedding when I had my makeup done at a salon. He was frightened by the plasticized foundation and the dark blush and could barely look at me all day. He told me it would look like I was wearing a mask to our wedding, so he requested a no-foundation-makeup rule.

Well, my skin's pretty clear, I thought. Maybe that's not a problem.
But a makeup artist isn't like a sandwich artist. When I passed along
Andreas's proposed rule, our friend made it clear that, as a professional, she needed to have freedom to do what she needed to do for her best possible work. I respected that. I wanted to look good for my pictures, and I know that foundation can make that easier. My own internal froufrou glamourpuss and dirty-hippie-child sides were now externalized, with our makeup-artist friend playing my princessy side and my fiancé acting as the voice of down-home, progressive logic.

Andreas sets new standards when it comes to not being controlling (trust me on this one), so I knew the makeup issue was important, and the respectful, accommodating partner in me wanted to abide by his wishes. But my outfit was theatrical, I wanted to wear some dramatic makeup, and for god's sake, just like I wouldn't ever let someone force me to wear makeup, I wasn't going to let someone forbid me from it! Keep your laws out of my body and off my face! Postfeminist rebel? Snotty brat? Who knows. I make no excuses for my behavior; I only offer possible armchair explanations. Really, it probably just came down to a toxic combination of stubbornness and vanity.





Copyright 2007 by Ariel Meadow Stallings from Offbeat Bride: The Taffeta-Free Alternatives for Independent Brides. Reprinted by permission of Seal Press (www.sealpress.com), and imprint of Avalon Publishing Group, Inc. All rights reserved.



InBloom Contest!
This season is all about glowing skin and luminous eyes. ELLE Canada Online wants to help you copy these trends with our first ever Spring Makeover Contest! Submit your photo to makeover@ellecanada.com
and explain why you think you are most deserving of a makeover. Five lucky winners will win a beauty basket full of Cover Girl, Pantene and Olay products, courtesy of LookFab, and more.Andreas argued his case with well-crafted nuggets of romance, saying things like, "I want to be able to see the woman I'm marrying! I want to be able to see your face, the face I fell in love with. Not some sort of plasticky fake face!"

How could I argue with that?

But of course, I did. Or rather, I let our friend the makeup artist argue for me. (See, the whole externalizing-internal-conflict thing works great!) She explained to Andreas that she was known in the industry for her work with skin tones, and by god, she'd show him that in Los Angeles, the standards are world class high and she's not some small-town Seattle salon aesthetician, and have a little faith! Mouthy makeup-artist friends are awesome

I prevailed in the makeup argument, and the end result was to everyone's liking. Andreas was pleased with my subtle skin, and I was happy with the dramatic eyes. Our friend the makeup artist gave Andreas a hearty ribbing, scoffing, "See? I told you so!" And I had the gloaty knowledge that the gold eye shadow I was wearing had supposedly been Britney Spears's favorite on her last tour. I take my celebrity gossip in double shots, straight up with a rim of coarse salt. It's a vice.

To each his own
While it's up to each offbeat bride to decide how much she wants to rage against the princess-industry machine of hair, skin, massage, and nails, there is something to be said for the stress-reducing powers of pampering. Leah Weaver had a spa day with her bridal party and reported, "It wasn't something I would've done on my own (I'd never had a facial or a massage before)! But it was fun and relaxing, and it was a nice time with my friends. We got to hang out, relax, and enjoy each other's company for an afternoon." If the structure of paid pampering allows you to have some quality relaxation time before your wedding, do it. You need as much relaxation as you can get. More on that in Chapter 26, "Staying Sane."

The best is when brides find ways to feel pampered that work perfectly for them. Brittany Wager shared this serendipitous beauty regime: "I have naturally curly hair, which tends to take a lot of product to straighten or not look frizzy. Since I was having an outdoor lakeside wedding in humid August, I planned on using a lot of hairspray and gel to get it to cooperate, something I don't normally bother with. I spent the afternoon of my wedding day floating on a raft and hanging out in the water. When I left the raft to get ready for the wedding, my friend I had recruited to do my hair took one look at it and told me not to wash it, as the combination of lake water and sunshine had dried it in perfect small ringlets, and no frizz! She pinned it up as is, and it was magically the best hair day of my life. No products needed! The afternoon in the lake also made my skin look radiant and glowing -- no spa needed!"

To me, Brittany had the best updo possible, not just because it was so low maintenance, but because it was a natural extension of her day and her life: She didn't borrow a vision (or a hairstyle) from someone else.





Copyright 2007 by Ariel Meadow Stallings from Offbeat Bride: The Taffeta-Free Alternatives for Independent Brides. Reprinted by permission of Seal Press (www.sealpress.com), and imprint of Avalon Publishing Group, Inc. All rights reserved.



InBloom Contest!
This season is all about glowing skin and luminous eyes. ELLE Canada Online wants to help you copy these trends with our first ever Spring Makeover Contest! Submit your photo to makeover@ellecanada.com
and explain why you think you are most deserving of a makeover. Five lucky winners will win a beauty basket full of Cover Girl, Pantene and Olay products, courtesy of LookFab, and more.
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High maintenance or off-beat: Which bride are you?