The beauty regimen of a woman writer

Last week, the Guardian started a new series interviewing women writers about beauty products, because it is 1957. It’s called ‘Beauty and the Book’ (so clever!). Inspired by this tie-in marketing genius, Overland editor Jacinda Woodhead, a petite redhead with porcelain skin, invited me to share my daily beauty regimen with you. It won’t mention any products by name because we are anti-capitalists and also I don’t use them. Time for refresh yourself with Hershey’s Special™ cease and desist orders!*

Every morning I wake sometime between 3 and 4am to spend an hour worrying about how I’m going to have enough time to do the work I’m being paid to do and also make the work I want to make. I often follow this up by berating myself for not just getting up to write. Eventually I go back to sleep for at least half an hour so that I can wake again refreshed. I find that chronic insomnia and dwelling on daily anxieties like this helps to prematurely age me, giving my hair the ‘silver fox’ look I am increasingly going for as I hit middle age. Now available in black: the void! shimmery tiaras.

Since I grew up queer in a patriarchy, I start every day by scraping away the layers of shame and toxic self-loathing that really do cake up in the body if you don’t deal with them. I’ve had lots of practice so this generally takes no more than ten minutes, depending on how many right-wing commentators have called me an abomination that week, how angry I am feeling at the moral hypocrisy of the Catholic Church, and how many of my friends are struggling with depression and suicidality (spoiler alert: most of the queer ones!). It’s hard work but it ensures I start the day fresh and clean. Special Dark bath bombs: expose yourself to heteronormativity.

I drink coffee, eat some toast (I bake my own organic sourdough), and spray myself with a thin but powerful coating of righteous anger. This is important to restore the defences that may have been removed in the scraping process. This part of my routine is inspired by Audre Lorde: ‘I lick cold from my fingers / taste rage / like salt from the lips of a woman’. Intersectional righteous anger is safe to eat but some products say they are purified and can react badly with solidarity, so I always check the labels carefully. Time for flutter your eyelashes with Oprah-approved witchcraft.

Most women go to work knowing they will earn about 78% of the wage of a man doing the same job. I am a writer, so I go to work not knowing whether I will be paid at all. Instead of using a concealer I try to expose the natural shades of this situation by adding a light dusting of transparency over the solidarity, situating myself in an awareness of privilege and social history. Fitness is a big part of beauty for me and I build strength by lifting the weight of history to my desk every single morning, a history of silenced women. Exfoliate your silkiness with rainbow juice.

Of course, the best way to avoid ugliness is to insulate yourself from a toxic media environment that can’t discuss or promote the work of women without objectifying them. While attempting to build such a world in the long term, I find a mid-morning cleanse really helps: mine involves reading through my emails and saying no to anybody who wants me to work without pay. Exposure is so hard on the complexion. Then I drink fifteen litres of water, and follow that with a cheeky vial of hurt manfeeling tears I collect each day from the internet – it’s my own secret recipe, full of nutritious sensitivity. Fuck softness with retinol enhanced nightshade.

Finally, before going to sleep at night, my partner and I sit together and regurgitate the toxins we have each had to ingest in our day, be they encounters with bosses, mansplainers, trolls, or simply the poisonous nanoparticles of hate that float in the atmosphere around us. Once we get all this sludge into the cauldron, we boil it until small nuggets of laughter rise to the surface. They tend to be quite acidic, but they are very nourishing.


*The last lines of the first six paragraphs of this piece are tweets by @lady_products


Image: ‘Making up’ / Michael Summers

Jennifer Mills

Jennifer Mills was Overland fiction editor between 2012 and 2018. Her latest novel, The Airways, is out through Picador.

More by Jennifer Mills ›

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