A Woman’s Right to Choose Her Face

About five years ago, my right eyelid started to droop. It probably happened gradually, but one day, I looked in the mirror and it was all I could see. Before long, it was the first thing I spotted in every photo. I looked tired, or drunk, or stoned, or just plain weird. Most people in my life assured me it wasn’t noticeable, but to me, it was my most prominent feature.

For a while, I tried to just accept myself the way I was, just like we women are supposed to. But as time passed, I found myself stepping aside when a camera was pointed in my direction. I kept cute group shots stored on my phone instead of posting them on Facebook. I avoided looking in the mirror later in the day, when the droop was at its worst. (And for the record, I’m a person who used to love being photographed and looking in the mirror. No shame.)

Before you tell me you’ve never noticed it, please consider the fact that I’ve made every effort to hide it from you – for example, posting the selfie on the left instead of the one on the right when I wanted to show off my new haircolor…
Glitter and Goat Cheese - Hiding ptosis in selfies
And only posting a tiny version of this photo in a larger collage …
Glitter and Goat Cheese - More ptosis in a photo with my husband
Those are nowhere near the worst – I still can’t bring myself to post a photo where the droop is really bad.

Finally, last spring, I was at my annual optometrist appointment, and my doctor noticed my eyelid. He said, “I see you have ptosis in your right eye. Had you had it checked out?”

Ptosis. The scourge upon my self image was a real thing, and it had a name. It wasn’t in my imagination and it wasn’t just a cosmetic imperfection to be accepted and ignored.

My eye doctor sent me to a surgeon, who did some tests. She determined that my ptosis was affecting my vision and that repairing it would most likely be partially covered by my insurance.

Even so, I felt ashamed to even consider it. I mean, I can see. My vision is fairly decent when I’m wearing my contacts or glasses, and I’d most likely need them regardless of the droopy eyelid. Though ptosis is a medical condition, the procedure would certainly be elective. And as women, we’re told that elective procedures to change our appearance make us vain, and shallow, and inauthentic.

So, when the surgeon ordered blood work to rule out a few potential causes for the ptosis, I took it as an excuse to drop the whole thing. Having blood drawn has always made me nervous; I once nearly passed out at a blood drive. Avoiding that kind of situation seemed to be a valid excuse.

But over the past year and a half, I haven’t found myself any closer to accepting my facial asymmetry. I still cringe when I see myself, and I’m starting to realize that it’s not OK to feel that way. This isn’t an issue with my inherent self-esteem or self-worth. I’ve been to therapy – this isn’t the kind of thing we discuss. This isn’t a problem with my mind. It’s a problem with my face, and I can fix it. So I’m going to.

There’s been a lot of discussion about altering one’s natural appearance lately. Maria Del Russo at Refinery29 has written about whether #NoMakeupSelfies are throwing shade at women who choose to wear cosmetics and followed up with a piece on makeup bullying. BuzzFeed recently posted two social experiments: one that featured an editor going sans makeup for a week, and another with a usually natural staff member trying the opposite. Both posts had mixed responses, with readers criticizing both sides. And of course, we’ve all got something to say about Renee Zellwegger’s new face.

Personally, I love makeup. Every morning, I apply my HAC like warpaint, following up with a filled-in brow, perhaps a subtle smokey eye, maybe a bold new lipstick shade. It’s one of my favorite daily rituals, and when I miss it, it affects me deeply.

This isn’t because society has taught me that I have to be aesthetically perfect (or as close to it as possible) to be a worthwhile person. I don’t have poor self-esteem when it comes to my physical appearance in general – in fact, I rather like my face (minus the droopy eyelid). I just like it more with makeup on. When I’ve done a good job on my makeup, I feel like the best version of myself. And when I feel like that, it makes everything else a little easier.

I’ve seen the studies that say both men and woman prefer a more natural look on others. The problematic implication is that women should consider how other people will respond to their face before they decide what to do with it. Similarly, after I got married, I had several male coworkers ask me why I still put so much effort into my appearance, since I’d already snared a man. I won’t even get into how vastly offensive that sentiment is.

The fact is, there are many women who wear makeup or style their hair or dress up for themselves. For the most part, I’m one of them. I want to like what I see when I look in the mirror. Now, don’t get me wrong: I love my husband and his opinion matters to me. But I don’t wear makeup for him. I do it for me.

Every woman should have the right to choose the best version of herself. Whether that version colors her hair purple or lets her gray roots show, goes bare-faced or piles on three coats of mascara, embraces her wrinkles or plumps them up with Botox – it’s her business. It’s about what makes her happy.

For the record, I think Renee Zellwegger looks nice. But I doubt she cares about my opinion. Her face – whatever she’s done to it or not done to it – isn’t for me or for any other blogger or Bridget Jones fan. It’s for her.

This week, I should get my blood work back and will hopefully move onto the next step toward getting my droopy eyelid repaired. I’ve already been told by several people that I’m crazy and my face looks “fine.” Honestly, I don’t really care. It’s not for them. It’s for me.

Atlanta Half Marathon: Three Days Later

I DID IT!

I didn’t mention what my time goal for the half marathon was in my last post, because I didn’t want to look like a lame-o if I didn’t make it … but I did! WOOHOO! The goal set by my coach was to finish in 2:25:39, and I ended up finishing in 2:24:40 – almost a minute ahead of schedule! I still can’t believe I pulled it off. That’s 33 minutes faster than my finishing time in April!

Our day started at 4:30 a.m., when we rolled out of bed and dragged ourselves down the stairs. Brad’s dad drove us to the race, and stuck around for four and half hours in the cold to take pictures and watch us finish. Thanks, Bill!

Glitter and Goat Cheese - Brad and Steph before the Atlanta Half Marathon

… I now know that my cheapo Target sports bra, while fine in the comfort and support department, is not doing me any favors visually. NOTED.

The Atlanta Half Marathon is nowhere near as big as the Nashville Country Music half we ran in the spring, but there was still a pretty huge turn-out.

Glitter and Goat Cheese - Atlanta Half Marathon 2012 - Starting line

My husband, Fasty McFasterson, was two starting corrals ahead of me, so I checked out my surroundings and let the familiar feeling of mild annoyance wash over me. I’ve found recently that I really tend to fuel my running with anger … probably because I’m so cranky in the morning, which is when I usually run. I’m kind of a jerk, I guess. But how annoying is it to hear someone yelling, “You can do it! You’re halfway done!” when you’re only at mile 5 out of 13.1?! I HATE that.

Anyway, because it was Thanksgiving, there was a lot of this going on:

Glitter and Goat Cheese - Atlanta Thanksgiving Day Half Marathon - Costumes

I do not understand how people can run in costumes. I can barely run in running clothes. But somehow, I made it to the finish line. I was really close to hitting my goal time, so I dug up some energy and sped up. That’s why I look so horrific in pictures like this one.

Glitter and Goat Cheese - Steph at the finish line

Am I doing lamaze breathing?!

After I finished, I caught up with my father-in-law right away, and we finally found Brad back at the car. He was bummed out about some major IT band issues he experienced during the race, but I think he still ended up kicking butt with 2:16! We both need to remind ourselves that we’ve only been running for 11 months – just the fact that we’ve survived two half marathons each is something to be proud of.

Glitter and Goat Cheese - Atlanta Half Marathon - Finisher Medal

All that effort so early in the morning made for a pretty laid-back Thanksgiving. We relaxed with Brad’s parents and a pot of soup, and saved all our cooking and baking for Friday. Pictures and recipes are coming in another post!

Oh, by the way – my runner’s knee was nowhere to be found on Thursday. I really, really slacked on my strength-training, so I’m very lucky. I SWEAR I’m going to do better with that next time around! However, I hope this will serve as a pick-me-up to those of you struggling with runner’s knee. Despite how horrible and hopeless it seems when you’re dealing with it, you CAN get past it and get to pain-free running. Stay positive! And there’s my cheesy enthusiasm for the day. And now I hate myself.

So, how was your Thanksgiving?!

     

Countdown to the Half: ONE DAY

Holy crap, the half marathon is TOMORROW!

I’m a little nervous, but I feel SO much more prepared than I was for my last one. I actually made it through 12 full weeks of training (as opposed to my solid THREE back in April). I wish my longest run had been longer than 10 miles, but at least I know that I have covered 13.1 before, and I survived.

For the past few days, I’ve been running without podcasts to see if it helped me focus on my breathing. It did, but it also gave me a lot of time to think. Our running coach has been amazing and has very high hopes for us, and I really want to live up to his expectations. He set a time goal for me that is going to be VERY tough, and he keeps assuring me that I can do it, but all I’ve been thinking about during my past few runs is how difficult it’s going to be. But I guess all I can do is trust my training and try.

I celebrated the culmination of our training by treating myself to a couple Lululemon pieces. Lululemon is CRAZY-expensive, but their stuff really is great. With my two new shirts and headband, and my other tried-and-true gear, I should be good to go.

Left to right, top to bottom: C9 by Champion Seamless Racer Bra (similar) | Garmin Forerunner 210 | Gu Chomps | Lululemon Run: Swiftly Tech Short Sleeve | Lululemon Swiftly Headband | Lululemon Run: Swiftly Tech Long Sleeve | Nathan Sports Shadow Pak (similar) |Nike Tempo Shorts (similar) | Balega Hidden Comfort Socks | New Balance WR1400

Eeeeeeek! Wish me luck!

Any last minute advice? What are your running must-haves?

     

Countdown to the Half: 6 Weeks

Guess what, everybody! I’ve been running long enough to kill a pair of shoes!

Glitter and Goat Cheese - New Balance WR1400
Them things are dead.

Technically, my New Balance 1400s are racing flats, which means they wear out faster than regular running shoes, but WHATEVER. SHUT UP. I’m awesome! I’m a runner! Plus, my new ones are really pretty.

Glitter and Goat Cheese - New Balance WR1400
(I swear my ankles aren’t actually crooked. I’m just standing/photographing at a weird angle.)

Want to know another reason why I’m officially calling myself a runner now? A few weeks ago, Brad and I ran a race in Gwinnett called Ella’s Run, and … we actually … WON AWARDS. We both placed second in our respective age groups. Yes, you read that right. I know what you’re thinking – there must have been like, two people in my age group. INCORRECT. THERE WERE 17. You can look here if you don’t believe me. If you do, you’ll also see that my time was not fast. I mean, it was a time that someone like Bianca or Alex could get while, like, wearing flip flops and singing showtunes. But for whatever reason, 15 other women my age were slower than me. It could be because the course was really hard – half rough trail, lots of steep hills – and everyone else was like, “Screw it. It’s 9 a.m. and I’m in Buford. No one’s around to see me blow this race.” Whatever! I’m awesome! I’m a runner!

Glitter and Goat Cheese - Ella's Run 5K
Photo via Right to Hike on Facebook. I’m the one in the yellow shorts, muttering “Get out of my way, fools!” under my breath.

Other than that, training for the half has been going fine. We did a trial run with our coach a couple weeks ago so he could plan our pacing charts, and I ran my fastest mile ever at 9:55. I fully realize that 9:55 is still pretty slow, but considering that I started off running 14:00-minute miles in January, it’s a decent improvement. It’s tough for me not to be hard on myself, though. I asked my coach recently why I’m not faster. I asked him, is it because I’m not trying hard enough? Am I not in good enough shape? He assured me that it’s mostly genes. Some people are built for speed, and some aren’t. I definitely fall in the latter camp, and I have to live with that. I guess I’m lucky to have two legs, or whatever.

Anyway, I can’t believe we’re halfway through our half marathon training already! I have a confession: I haven’t been doing my strength-training to protect my bum knees. This is extremely foolhardy, considering that my physical therapist straight-up told me I’d get injured again if I didn’t keep up with my exercises. It’s just so hard to find time to run as it is, you know? But I have to get back into it. I HAVE to. After all this hard work, if I screw myself over right before the big race … it’ll be bad. Real bad.

Anyone else training right now? How’s it going?

     

Countown to the Half: 12 Weeks

Happy day-after-Labor-Day, everyone! Who’s hungover? Not me. I spent my day off watching Cougar Town and eating chicken pot pie. Holla!

Brad and I officially start our training for the Atlanta Half Marathon this week! I’m hoping to post weekly about our progress – an idea I’m blatantly borrowing from Miss Bianca and her Marathon Mondays series.

It’s going to be a rough 12 weeks. After my success with my running coach before our last big race, Brad decided to get on board for our second half marathon. We both met with Coach Sean on Sunday to run a test mile on the track and gauge our fitness. Despite our very lazy summer, I’ve still managed to shave a minute off since my last test mile in April, so that’s cool. Unfortunately for me, that means my runs are going to get a little tougher. Meanwhile, though, Brad’s test mile clocked in at 7:44. Uh, WHAT?! Brad is really fast. I am really jealous. But I’m not jealous of his training plan, which is going to be hard as heck. My runs are going to seem easy-breezy in comparison.

What that means, sadly, is that Brad and I probably won’t be running together very often. It’s a bummer. I want him to improve and do well, of course – I don’t want to hold him back – but I’ll miss his company while he’s off kicking ass.

This time around, I’m just going to stick to what worked before our last half marathon. I absolutely loved my New Balance 1400s, so I’ll be getting another pair at the end of this month when I hit the 200 mile mark. And just in time – they came out in a new color!

New Balance - WR1400 - Blue

On the agenda this week, I have a three mile run, an interval run, some cross-training, and a four-mile run. An easy week to ease back into the game. I just hope the weather cooperates. I blame the Atlanta heat completely for all the slacking we did this summer. I like running a lot, I really do – but I don’t like anything enough to do it in 90 degree weather. Not even outdoor margarita drinking. And that’s saying a lot. Outdoor margarita drinking might be one of my very favorite things on this here crazy planet.

Stay cool, everybody!