A few weeks ago, as tends to happen in the world of social media, I came across multiple appearances of the same post. It was asking women to rate their level of maintenance by the beauty routines or purchase they frequently made.
The thing that was really interesting to me was the comments that came after people revealed their score (I got 30 FWIW). Some were bragging if they weren’t on the chart at all, others were surprised that they didn’t score higher, while still others argued that having certain things from this list actually made them lower maintenance (cue conversation about permanent makeup).
After seeing it three or four times, though, I noticed the description of 100. It indicates that someone who scores that high is a queen of their castle.
I know our modern society likes to throw around labels – we like things categorized. But I think that, as tends to be the case most of the time, there is a necessity to understand the reason why someone puts themselves in a particular category.
As I indicated, my personal score puts me firmly in the high maintenance camp. A few weeks ago, when talking through a “How Well Do You Know Your Spouse” quiz with my husband, I asked him what I would never be caught wearing, and he said, “Pajamas out of the house.”
Friends who have known me for a long time know that when I’m feeling slightly under the weather, I’ll dress up more because the act of getting all the way ready for a day makes me feel better. I like to play with makeup, I like sparkly earrings, I like cute clothes, I love shoes. The way that I go through getting ready for the day and present myself is because I like the way it makes me feel.
And I have several friends who are this way: their hair is always done well, they like to have their nails done, they purchase nice clothes. They do it because of an appreciation of how it makes them feel.
I also have low maintenance days. I won’t skip the makeup or the hair (it drives me NUTS), but it may be air-dried and my makeup will be clean and minimal colors. I have knock-off Chucks in red and black I like to wear, I have several different t-shirts and sweatshirts, I love a good pair of comfy jeans, I have been known to declare it pajama o’clock before 8:00 pm because I’m ready to be done. You’ll never catch me in heels at a football game, I only curl my hair on rare occasions (it takes a lot of time).
Last year, when I went on a 10 day retreat followed by a work trip, I fit everything in a carry-on, selecting wardrobe pieces that could serve both functions.
Some of my friends love to wear yoga pants or basketball shorts with comfy t-shirts, rock the messy bun like no one’s business, and often go without makeup. The idea of putting on lipstick weirds them out, they rarely dabble in eyeliner, and are beautiful (these people usually also have incredible skin).
Which is Better?
Whether you are high or low maintenance doesn’t have any impact on the way I feel about you. Seriously. I’ll probably commend you for one thing or another.
What does matter to me, and what should matter to you, is why you are high or low maintenance. If you are doing it because you feel good, that’s perfect.
I have a friend who went a large part of her life never wearing makeup. She explained to me that she’d never been taught how to wear it, that the ways she tried on her own always made her feel clownish and unnatural, so she just didn’t. Then she started working with a company that offers tutorials and color options and now she loves it. This friend has been working through some complicated things in her life, and she says that taking a few minutes every day to really focus on herself, on her appearance, helps her better hold on to a good mood.
I have an association with a woman who, the second you look at her, you can tell she’d fit in the very high maintenance camp. I have overheard this woman more than once ask time and again for verification that she looks alright. I don’t know her super well, but my perception is that her high maintenance habits are because she is working on impressing someone else.
I feel grateful that I live in a time when people, and women especially, can talk about self-care. About 18 months ago, I received the diagnosis of depression (it didn’t surprise me at all), and I have become more mindful of what it means to take care of myself so that I can take care of others. I like to imagine my husband and my children and my co-workers and the people who need help from me at work and my writing as little cups surrounding me, and of me as a large pitcher. While the cups may have something in them, they also have a need of something from me.
I cannot pour from a pitcher that is empty.
Sometimes, a low maintenance person earns that badge because of preference. I also think there are women who earn that because they wake in the morning and start giving, and go through the day giving, and they are trying to pump air from their empty pitcher to the cups of those around them and everyone ends up exhausted and unsatisfied. Sometimes we pour praise on women who put their kids first ALL THE TIME, because we think we are complimenting them. Maybe we are. But maybe, that praise feels like a confirmation of choice to ignore self, to continue giving without the ability to give. Maybe our praise fills this woman with so much guilt that any thought she may have had regarding self-care gets tossed out.
Of course, there are times in our lives when we cannot put ourselves first. A friend of mine had triplets. Her options to “take a break” and “pamper herself a little” were not feasible to any great extent when they were infants, and if there were opportunities, the self-care at that point was sleep. But as the triplets have grown and become more independent, she can once again take some time for herself to better take care of them.
Now, it’s your turn. What do you think about yourself and others in terms of being high maintenance and low maintenance? Do you have any tricks for taking time for self-care? Suggestions on how to make it consistent? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this.