Second month.

I still haven’t bought anything new, but mostly because I have been procrastinating from various tasks that would have required first-round consumption.

Audrey, my darling bicycle, is well wrecked — Felix tried to fix her but just broke her harder — and I’ve left her chained up at the station for almost three weeks because I haven’t had the time, money or inclination to take her for repairs given the rain. (I am, sheepishly but stolidly, a fair weather cyclist.) I might go to the bike repair workshop at Loophole to get a used wheel but it will take a lot longer than giving her over to a bike shop, and possibly still result in failure.

When it comes to manual tasks, I oscillate between being an obsessive perfectionist and a flaky slob. I will lace boots so that every cross is flat and facing the same direction; organise my bookshelf alphabetically by author, then chronologically by first publication date; and make elaborate paper cuts and cards and wrap gifts with surgical precision; but sew zips on with sloppy darning stitches; get halfway on greasing my chain and give up; or start making soup and get hungry and eat the half-sautéed ingredients. Okay, after writing that it’s obvious that I’m pedantic about the logic and aesthetics of things, blasé about restoring things to good working order, and terribly terribly impatient.

Anyhow, my headphones are also broken, but they work if I twiddle them a bit and it discourages me from listening to music while riding, which is probably good for my safety. Also my housemate is moving out, so there’ll be quite a few things ey’s taking with em that I need to replace, but I have a couple more weeks to prepare for that. I’ll start looking out for things in op shops, on Freecycle and in hard rubbish. My phone stopped working for two days as well, but it seems alright again, so let’s hope it holds up, especially as Felix and I have already exhausted the supply of spare phones among our networks this year.

Toiletries are something I’ve been thinking about. Cotton buds (q-tips), cosmetic wipes, emery boards — all things that are technically consumables, all things I don’t actually need. Should I just stop wearing make-up? Are there reusable alternatives? I do use a metal file instead of emery boards but I use a buffer for the tops which needs replacing every few months or so, and I have developed a bit of a thing for home pedicures.

Felix and I have talked about how hygiene is determined by social demands as well as practical needs — and social function is one way to measure health. But what about when those social demands are problematic? Don’t understandings of health that are based on social outcomes serve to calcify coercive norms of behaviour — eg, that a healthy person is one who is employed in the capitalist labour market, who enjoys the consumption of media and other ordinary pastimes, who has conventional relationships — rather than, say, health being measured as your capacity to engage in work, pleasure and relationships that are meaningful or enriching for you.

I think a conception of health wholly based on individual intention and desire can be problematic too (in how it would read psychosis, for example — but probably fine for neurosis), but probably not as much as one wholly based on social expectations. There is plenty of feminist analysis I could refer to here, on how the unholy marriage of patriarchy and capitalism produce the most rigid and sometimes violent beauty standards, but I’m not sure where to start. It comes up on Jezebel a lot — perhaps too much, at the expense of other issues. But maybe that’s my privilege talking — or at least, the particularities of my body and its experiences.

All this is a digression, because I know I don’t need to buff my nails. But I do need to wash, much more often than I need to wash in order to keep clean, in order to keep my job. And the level of grooming that’s expected of me as a woman in society generally is a lot higher than for men, and the scrutiny of my looks more intense. I’m in a social position where I can resist that pretty easily, but I’m sensitive to the pressure.

Anyhow, since No New Year began I have acquired a face wash, moisturiser with sunscreen, toothpaste, and nail polish remover. Luckily I don’t need disposable pads or tampons, as I use a menstrual cup in conjunction with cloth pads, and I don’t use perfume, deodorant, or any shaving/waxing products (though I have tweezers for eyebrows). I lost an eyeliner brush at some point, which I would like to replace, but I suppose I will hold out unless I can get one second hand (which seems unlikely — the only place I’ve seen used make-up brushes sold was on the Vogue forums which has since shut down its sale section).

I guess this is still the same problem I had last month: Do I want to alter my style/taste completely in order to lower my consumption? If I either grew my hair long or kept it shaved, and stopped wearing make-up completely, that would cancel many of my toiletry needs. If I give in to my bad skin, I could get by on just a toothbrush, toothpaste, and soap. I could actually ditch the soap and I would be fine. I wouldn’t lose my job, and I know enough hot crusty punks that it’s not going to affect my social life. And it would be pretty cool to have nothing in the bathroom except a toothbrush and toothpaste (maybe dental floss, too — I’ve had two unnecessary extractions already, and at 23, that’s not so great).

But right now I’m wearing pink and gold eyeshadow, metallic blue on my toes. And it looks real good, and I don’t want to give it up. It’s not essential to my livelihood or my identity. I could say that everyone needs nice things and I do think that’s true to a point, but I’m aware that this defence of decadence sounds like Amy on True Blood, the v addict who kills a vampire to drain him for his blood and says something like “a lot of bad things have happened in my life so I deserve this”. Except I haven’t had a lot of bad things happen in my life. Does everyone deserve nail polish?

I don’t know where I’m going with this. Maybe I’ll buy new make-up pads, maybe I won’t. Maybe I’ll buy them and feel guilty and then be annoyed because I’m fairly committed to not feeling guilty about consumer choices. Whatever.

Here are some things I’m definitely not going to buy, though I want them very much (helpfully, I can’t afford them anyway):

I don’t understand why I hated being dressed like a little girl when I was one and now it’s all I want. I think I would have had an easier time of this when I was eight and hated girly shit. On the flipside, femininity is famously crafty, and I’m sure I’ll find a way.

Also, I nearly forgot: I paid for it before this project commenced, but I’m subscribed to Overland. So I was wrong, I have bought something new that’s in no way a consumable and I will renew my subscription even if it comes up before this project finishes: I think supporting new Australian writing and left-wing criticism is worthwhile, for sure. I’m really happy for Overland to be the only literature I buy. I guess I could donate money and read it at the library though. Hmm. Maybe I’ll do that.


1 Comment

  1. LC said,

    September 11, 2010 at 9:45 pm

    OK, I have a good supply of q-tips and cotton makeup removers so you should defs wear makeup. Also hygiene, I’ve been so bad at it lately due to my impractical bathing situation so hope to get better, please lets not be a stinky household?

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