Saturday, August 1, 2015

FOTD: Professionalesque

In the last month or so, I've been pondering the future of this blog. I started Auxiliary Beauty halfway through my fourth year of my PhD program, at a moment when I felt like I might actually be in graduate school forever. I had written one chapter of my dissertation, but the end was nowhere in sight, and nothing seemed more appealing than escaping my academic concerns through beauty writing. It's almost impossible to describe the bizarre state of being a doctoral student in the humanities. It's like having a job, in that you receive money in exchange for work, but neither the salary nor the work seems quite real. Your life settles into a stasis that feels interminable. You have coffee with a friend you see only once or twice a year, someone who decided not to pursue academia, and she tells you about all the dramatic changes that have taken place in her life since you last spoke. In return, the most you can say about yourself is that you finished your Hobbes chapter and started your Donne chapter. It may sound like I'm complaining, but I'm not: stasis doesn't necessarily imply boredom. It's just that you get tired of not feeling like a real person.

Recently, though, my life has taken on a faint air of reality. I'm about to enter the sixthand, if I'm lucky, lastyear of my program. This fall, I'll be teaching for the first time in two years and applying for academic jobs and postdocs for the first time ever. The prospect of an end has made me contemplative. Auxiliary Beauty grew out of grad-student malaise; will I feel like blogging when the malaise is gone? My boyfriend and I joke that ABD ("all but dissertation") grad students always take up time-consuming hobbies in order to put off dissertating. Ultramarathon running, weightlifting, baking, obsessive news-followingI've seen it all. My own time-consuming hobby is this blog, of course, and I wonder how I'll feel about it once I no longer have a dissertation to put off.

I also wonder if it's a good idea for a job candidate to have an unapologetically un-academic public blog. In an ideal world, it wouldn't matter: everyone has hobbies, and blogging about makeup is a harmless one, except to my bank account. But given the academic prejudice against makeup and other signs of "superficiality" (i.e. femininity), this blog might come off the wrong way. Maybe this is mere paranoia. I've always tried to keep my blog separate from my professional and personal lives, and I think I've done a reasonably good job: only a few grad-school friends know about Auxiliary Beauty, and it doesn't come up in a Google search of my name. Also, I'm not exactly Temptalia: most makeup consumers don't know I exist. Still, it's hard to shake the worry that someone on a search committee—or, God forbid, one of my students—might recognize my face from my posts.

This is not to say that I plan to quit blogging anytime soon. It brings me a great deal of pleasure, and I like belonging to the dwindling number of beauty bloggers who aren't corporate shills. But I've been thinking about what it means to present oneself as a "professional," something I haven't really had to worry about in the past. It would be nice if we lived in a world that allowed us to wear MAC Candy Yum-Yum at job interviews, but we don't, and that's not the particular hill I want to die on. I also like the idea of having different makeup for different occasions and personae. As Prufrock says, though not about makeup: "a face to meet the faces that you meet."

So today I did a version of "professional makeup," which ended up being a lot of NARS. I don't think that's a coincidence: among mid-range brands, NARS seems the most balanced between wearable and eccentric. Taken as a whole, it feels less stodgy than Bobbi Brown or Laura Mercier, but less wacky than MAC or Illamasqua. Along with my usual concealers, mascara, and clear brow gel, I used three NARS products that you've seen on this blog many times: Mata Hari blush, Lhasa eyeshadow, and the plum side of the Habanera eyeshadow duo. Lipstick was Revlon Lacquer Balm in Coy. I applied the shadows over NYX primer: Lhasa all over the lids, and the Habanera plum on the outer third and the lower lashline.


The result was casual but, I think, polished. It's nice to feel polished sometimes. Soon enough, I'll need to look professional; for now, I'm dabbling in the professionalesque.


Is it me or do I do more metablogging than actual blogging? Don't answer that.

22 comments:

  1. I love your writing and this look... and I'm glad you're not giving up this blog because I love it.

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  2. As a PhD student also hoping to join the professional academic route, it's been really great to experience a world of makeup through your swatches as well as your writing. I'm usually a lurker, not a commenter, but I wanted to cheer you on your blogging journey! I definitely hope to see more of these "professionalesque" posts (I'll be teaching next year for the first time), and good luck in the meantime!

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    1. Thank you for coming out of lurkdom to say such kind things! I wish I knew more academic beauty junkies in person; it's actually surprising that I don't, considering how many of us there seem to be. Good luck with teaching; I'll be teaching this fall for the first time in two years, so it almost feels like the first time ever!

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  3. What I love about your blog is that you write about the pursuit of beauty in human terms. You talk about makeup in a way that is not disembodied from your emotions, your thoughts, your aspirations, and the events that are unfolding in your life. To me, you don't "post" as much as you write short stories (this one might even be the opening chapter in a novel where the protagonist is embarking on a life transition) and I find that so compelling. I remember with fondness the story of how you were in a museum when you decided to buy Top Shop Rio Rio to celebrate a victory.

    I appreciate that your blog is not about the dogged acquisition of new product releases, nor a stream of press sample reviews, nor exhaustive swatching, nor being just another promotional arm of the corporate world. This is a whole other ball game and it's so refreshing! -Joy

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    1. Wow, this comment is incredibly thoughtful and kind, and you've really gotten at what I'm trying to do with beauty blogging. I do like writing straightforward reviews, but I think I prefer using beauty as a lens through which to view other things I care about. At the risk of sounding horribly pretentious, I'd like one day to become the M. F. K. Fisher of beauty writing. I read all of her essays when I was in high school, and I loved how she used food as a kind of secondary language: at times it was the subject of her writing, but at times it was a means of communicating something else. Having a themed blog prevents me from losing too much focus (my greatest weakness as a writer, as anyone on my dissertation committee could tell you), but I'd feel suffocated if I wrote nothing but product reviews.

      Anyway, thank you! <333

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  4. I'll be starting teaching to freshmen for the first time in september, and I have make-up related concerns too !! I have a very baby-like face, and I'm afraid that a "professionalesque" make-up might enhance it a bit too much and make me look like I'm 17...

    Anyhow, I'm glad you're not giving up on the blog yet :)

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    1. Aww, it's ok to look young when you're teaching! I had the same fears when I started (I had just turned 25, and some of my students were 22), but they really will think of you as an "adult" if you're the one in charge. For what it's worth, though, I actually think makeup makes most people look older. And it will distinguish you from your students if they don't wear a lot of makeup (they certainly don't here in the States). Good luck!

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  5. During my first year on the job market, I removed most of the photos of my face from my blog, for similar paranoia reasons. Partly the "superficial/frivolous" thing, but also I thought it would bad to have evidence that I was spending time doing ANYTHING other than my research. I know that seems extreme, but there are lots of academics who think you should devote 100% of your productive time to work, at least at this stage. Now after two mostly unsuccessful years on the job market, I don't care so much. My blog is also unattached to my real name, so anyone who found it would have to be searching for makeup in the first place.
    I think you will enjoy having the creative outlet of the blog when you are on the job market too. I would rather write another dissertation than apply for jobs. It's not fun. (And selfishly I want you to keep writing it so I can keep reading it.)
    But I hope you will be one of the lucky ones who doesn't linger in job market purgatory as long as some of us! And when you get tenure, you can wear Candy Yum-Yum every day.

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    1. I've encountered that all-or-nothing attitude in academia, too. One professor (from another institution, thankfully) even told me that he advises grad students to stay single for as long as possible, because having a personal life can take up valuable research time. No, he wasn't joking. I can't overstate how much I hate the prejudice against outside interests. In this job market, you can't expect young people to do nothing but academic work for the better part of a decade. That's just cruel. Grad students need backup plans and social connections, neither of which they can develop if they spend all their waking hours on research.

      That said, I went to a workshop on the job market last year, and a younger professor advised us to develop non-academic interests because search committees want to see well-rounded candidates, not monomaniacs. I hope that's true. I guess we'll see. Best of luck with your own job search!

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  6. This is something I've worried about as I plunged into the world of academic librarianship - my blog doesn't come up in a search for my name, but if you know me in real life and stumble across my blog, it's easy to figure out who I am. My partner, and a couple of friends who found my blog Instagram know about it (though I haven't asked those friends how they found said Instagram). I am private about what is a public hobby.

    But librarianship is a female-dominated profession, and for the most part, a fairly casual one, so I don't really have the same level of concern - my current position is in a conservative environment, and I can still get away with things that push the bounds a bit, but are ultimately okay because I occupy a different role than everyone else in the office.

    I very much enjoy your blog, and I think that you've always conducted yourself with an air of elegance here. Should anyone come across it, I would hope they recognize that.

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    1. "I'm private about what is a public hobby": you couldn't have said it better. It's strange how few people in my real life know about this blog, when thousands of people I've never met have read it. I suppose that's just the nature of the internet.

      I do try not to post anything that wouldn't humiliate me if, say, my professors read it. I'm not ashamed of having a beauty blog, but unfortunately we can't control the prejudices of others.

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  7. If it can't show up on a google search, I doubt it will be an issue in the actual hiring stage. That lack of interest in such things expressed by other faculty works in your favor, there. When I taught, I did have that same brief thought - holy shit, what if a student recognizes me? - but a lot of faculty members have personal blogs that have all kinds of disclaimers on them - blogs about more polarizing things, like politics. So I wouldn't worry about it too much, although you can certainly keep a little more brief until you actually have a position secured.

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    1. That's reassuring to hear from you, since I think you've spent more time in academia than I have (you already have your PhD, right?).

      I know quite a few grad students who have academic blogs under their real names: literary criticism, musings on the digital humanities, etc. Personally, the last thing I feel like doing in my leisure time is blogging about my academic work (though some of it does find its way into this blog), but maybe having a Serious Thoughts blog is a good way to build up your scholarly brand? Who knows.

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  8. In my case, I take pauses once in a while when major life changes happen. I think that the pauses aren't obvious because I don't do the hi-im-sorry-i-havent-been posting routine.

    Sometimes I cringe whenever it crosses my mind that someone I know could stumble upon my blog. Once, an HR personnel at a company I worked at asked me if I write in this particular blog (my blog!) that she found while googling for Lush shower gels. At the time, I wasn't posting photos of my face yet. I could easily deny it, but I felt like burying my head in the ground. My face was so red in embarrassment which made me question if I'm ashamed of what I'm doing.

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    1. Yeah, I also try not to do that "forgive me for not posting" routine. I really don't think anyone cares about my posting frequency as much as I do! I'm not sure how often I'll be able to blog in the coming school year, but I hope I can manage at least once a week.

      Yikes, I'm sorry that happened to you! I'd never ask a colleague about a personal blog I'd found unless we were good friends. I don't think having a beauty blog is anything to be ashamed of--but then again, no one I know has ever randomly found it and asked me about it! I'd probably turn red too.

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  9. Pan on Lhasa! And yes please to more metablogging in the future.

    I echo everyone's comments here - you offer something different and fresh in the "bblogger" sphere and anyone who comes across this space will see that in an instant. Hopefully your students will be busy scouring Temptalia for swatches (or working on their own blogs), but I don't think you have anything to worry about should they stumble here. I would have thought it was pretty cool if my lecturers ran beauty blogs.

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    1. I actually hit pan on Lhasa back in December! I wonder how much longer it will last.

      Come to think of it, I never read non-academic writing by people I know professionally. Quite a few of my professors have written poetry or memoirs, but I can't bring myself to read them because...I don't know, I guess I'm just prudish about other people's emotions? I'm hoping my students will feel the same about my blog, if they stumble across it!

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  10. I can relate to much of this post. I never dud finish that PhD, but going through the job hunting process was a very strange time of my life that, coupled with moving to a new country, meant a lot of soulsearching about "what I really wanted to do with my life" and "who am I?!" Part of me wanted to go down a completely different direction, one where blogging would actually be seen as an asset, so I put it on my LinkedIn! It's now not so prominent on there, and I'm toying with the idea of taking it off, but I just don't know. Part of me is proud of my blog, despite how little I've actually worked on it, and the other part is constantly concerned with what other people might think, how it might come across, etc etc.

    I do hope you'll stick around for a long time to come. Most of the blogs I read are more personal and introspective in nature, and those are as you say few and far between these days. Keep on keeping on with the metablogging and prose!

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    1. I think your blog is definitely something to be proud of! I'm proud of mine, too, even though I won't mention it when I apply to academic jobs. Who knows, maybe academia won't work out and I'll end up in a field in which my blog will be a professional asset.

      I used to read so many more blogs, because there used to be so many more non-commercialized blogs. These days I'm so pathetically grateful when I come across a blogger who doesn't seem to be sponsored by a corporate entity. Not that I object to commercial bloggers earning money, but it's a shame that so many bloggers have tried (often unsuccessfully) to turn their hobbies into careers. I like keeping those things separate!

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  11. I'm just getting into serious academics (I'm young, shh) but I keep my professional life and my personal life so far apart they might as well be in different star systems. A big part of this is that my field (religious studies) and my hobbies (makeup, heavy metal, lingerie blogging) pretty much demand separation. My personal twitter and my instagram are both private; one of my research team coworkers recently requested to follow me on twitter and I panicked and almost blocked them. Ultimately though it's very night and day and more than a little strange to maintain a totally sanitized appearance. Maybe we just need to own up and form the International Society of Academic Beauty Bloggers or some such.

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    1. I am 100% in favor of forming that society! And I agree that trying to maintain a sanitized appearance is odd and unnatural. I know a few grad students who have both public and private twitter accounts and tweet about academic stuff on their public accounts, but I don't think I'm capable of maintaining such a divided online persona. The thought of using social media to make professional connections (e.g. live-tweeting academic conferences) is distasteful to me for some reason, though I know that lots of people do it. I'd rather reserve my social media accounts for fun stuff and make my academic connections in person or by email, as old-fashioned as that might sound. Maybe that will change in the future.

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