I was reading this article on Jennifer Lawrence and Cool Girls, which got me thinking about this.
Between twelve and fourteen I went through this tomboy phase thing. I wore only oversized T-shirts and jeans, with track shoes (much bigger and bulkier than sneakers) that made running around easily. And for the longest time, I always bought clothes too-big for me. My mom didn’t like me to wear anything tight and I didn’t like showing off my fats either. (I was chubby when I hit puberty.)
After leaving a girls school and heading to Junior College (that’s kinda like high school) there were finally guys in my life. And in those two years I guess it kinda tells how my closest friend at each point in time would be a guy.
This was the period where my hair was always in a mess (I still can’t tie a ponytail neatly), where my uniform didn’t fit right (the skirt was too long and the blouse too big). But it was always the period where I was finally getting comfortable with my body and slowly growing out of puberty. I was smiling more, I still moved awkwardly but I wasn’t as self-conscious about it.
I don’t know why I always ended up talking to a guy (in a completely platonic fashion) even though I was from a girls school. But even when I was in a girls school I never really knew how to talk to girls.
Don’t get me wrong, I love the friends I made there and they definitely didn’t do anything to deliberately exclude me. We could still talk about books and schoolwork, but they were in the music, TV shows, celebrities and makeup phase then and I wasn’t.I hadn’t gotten into makeup or clothes at this point. We wear school uniforms in Singapore so there was never really a point to owning many clothes, especially since I didn’t have much of a social life anyway. These weren’t things I saw as important, and I couldn’t really talk about them. I never knew what to do whenever the conversation would turn to topics I did not know or understand. I remember crying to my mother that I felt like I was weird because I didn’t know any of these things, and didn’t have an interest to find out, but that also meant I would inevitably be left out.
I have two brothers so I’m fairly familiar with computer games even if I don’t actually play them. Then there are the games I play. I had a thing for manga, and not the girly Shoujou types. I preferred the Seinin and Shounen genres. I liked anime and comic books and video games and basically I was a geek.This meant that I could talk to guys a lot easier than girls. Conversation just comes easier when you have common interests.
I guess this sort of made me a cool girl. Even today, I only have to talk about video games and I get lots of weird attention from guys, not all of it flattering. At one point I stopped saying that I liked video games, or that I was into comic books because the attention just made me uneasy. Someone joked about how I fulfilled the gamer girl and geek trope (I think the term used was ‘fulfill all the fantasies’ which is not. Very nice to think about.)
Leaving Junior College is like this big coming-of-age ritual for all the JC students. It’s most embodied when we go back to school to pick up our A-Level results three months after. The guys are in National Service, and will be mostly bald, probably in their army fatigues and be covered in a really patchy tan. The girls on the other hand will have probably permed or dyed their hair (sometimes both). They’re in beautiful but inexpensive outfits, courtesy of local blogshops. One of my guy friends was complaining about why couldn’t the girls be that hot when they were in school.
I didn’t buy that many clothes online at that point of time though. Instead I dug through my mom’s old wardrobe and pulled out her best outfits that still fit me. I splurged on slightly more expensive clothes, the ones that are better quality than blogshops. I think I dress better now, but leaving school was the beginning of me being a little more self-conscious with my clothes. Before that I’d like to dress up, but only for special occasions. And of course, it was in university when I started wearing makeup more.
Wearing makeup and nicer clothes have changed my image a lot though. I give off the impression of some atas (high-class) princess who looks down on public transport, coffee shops and inexpensive food. Or I come off as a girl who’d be an extremely high maintenance girlfriend, who’d demand expensive branded bags and makeup as frequent presents. Whatever it is, it’s like I’ve been taken out of that ‘cool girl’ category and placed into something more stereotypically feminine and girly.
The funny thing is, my family is thoroughly lower middle-class. We aren’t destitute, but we definitely aren’t rich or even all that comfortable either. I don’t think I was particularly spoilt or demanding as a child. I got my jobs (was working three at one point before university), I saved up and bought a lot of my own things, and even today, I worked and paid for my own makeup, my clothes, my iPhone. I don’t expect a guy to treat me. I think I’m fairly independent.
And I guess that as much as I may complain about it, I’m definitely not changing my clothes to fit people’s expectations of who I am better. I guess the makeup and fancy clothes filter out those who only look at superficialities (as unintuitive as it is) and leave only the people worth knowing.
In what ways has makeup changed your life? Share your experiences in the comments!
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