Friday, May 18, 2012

One Year Blog(g)iversary (What? Don't look at me like that, it's totally a word people use)

One year ago tomorrow, I wrote my inaugural BJB post. I wasn't sure if the blog would actually be a thing that I'd want to continue doing, and for awhile, I only told my closest friends about it (and actually, for the first couple weeks, I didn't tell anyone about it!). I've learned so much in the past 12 months, about myself and beauty and blogging, and it's hard to believe that I've actually stuck with it for so long! It's funny reading my first post, because comments like "it's really unlikely you'll find much full-price luxury stuff discussed here" and "I've given up on nail polish (I can never get it perfect, and my OCD self won't allow anything less)" have been proven so untrue (that last thanks to bent eyeliner brush, 100% acetone, and a magnifying lamp!).

One of my friends recently asked me what inspired me to start the blog. I told her that it was because I'd turned in my final college paper and was at a loss for what to do with myself, since after 4 years of endless academic challenges, it felt very strange to not have some sort of responsibility. But I've since realized that only explains why I started a blog, not why I started a beauty blog, and so I've been mulling over why I felt a) inspired and b) equipped to do so. The second can be explained by hubris and naïveté: having spent a couple years extensively reading other blogs and having an interest in beauty, I (bafflingly?) thought my comparatively paltry stash, meager budget, and relatively shallow history with cosmetics would be sufficient for adding something new to the conversation, and figured it would be nice to just be able to share some of the things I learned, both up to that point and beyond. I failed to realize how time consuming blogging is, especially if one wants to have a resource that is somewhat helpful to others, which has always been the primary purpose of this blog––most of my traffic comes from people who come upon it when looking for product reviews, and I've always wanted them to leave feeling better informed as to what to expect from the product. Whether I've succeeded or not is debatable, but I do think I've improved over the past year in providing relatively quality, reliable content. (This post is an exception; it's basically just 5 paragraphs of me navel-gazing and hating the patriarchy. Read at your own risk. Though there is a fun surprise at the end!)

I've read posts from other bloggers on how to increase your reader base, how to build relationships with brands and get your name out there, and I read them, enjoy them, and completely disregard them. This blog is a hobby for me, and I just don't have the motivation (or interest, really) to make it into a bigger thing. That's not to say I don't get giddily excited when I see my visitor numbers go up, or when I get comments, or when people respond well to a post, because oh my god do I. But I kind of like being a little fish, and I have no delusions of grandeur. I'm just not willing to put in the time and money to make BJB into a Real Blog, and I think that's okay. Blogging is, after all, supposed to be fun, and for me, that means being low-key and promotion-free. I'm also pretty terrible at the whole social networking thing, because as an introvert, even online communication is draining, but I have actively tried to get better about commenting on others' posts (I always read them, but sometimes feel I have nothing interesting to say in response, which I realize is stupid, because I love every single comment I get and other bloggers are probably the same!) and sporadically using Twitter. Nothing on the blog has been promotional, and I plan to keep it that way (not that there's brands knocking down my door or anything!), because it helps me keep it manageable and true to my own interests. Plus, it means I can write scathing reviews without fear of repercussions, and lord knows I love a good rant :)

But what about beauty? What is it about the topic that captures my attention so? Why is it worthwhile to spend hundreds of hours thinking, researching, writing, reading, talking about (not to mention $$ on!) such a commercial, materialistic thing? I mentioned above that I didn't tell people I had a beauty blog for awhile; part of that is because it wasn't something I was yet proud of, so I didn't want people to see it, and part of it is because I worried they would judge me. I'm a proud die-hard feminist from a liberal hippie college town, who went to a liberal Quaker college, and I am all too aware of the societal inequalities women face. The constant barrage of "you're not good enough how you are, so buy this shit so people [men] will love you", with its even more sinister shadow "you dumb whore, if you hadn't been wearing so much makeup/such a short skirt/had boobs he wouldn't have had to rape you" are messages I've had to wrestle with and battle time and time again. Do I perpetuate those sentiments through my interest in beauty? Am I buying into the patriarchy?

Cuteness break: Here's a picture of one of my brother's sugar gliders, taken at our Mother's Day picnic. Hi, Bandit! You're so adorable.

For a long time, makeup was a shield. I've had bad skin since I was 11, and discovering foundation helped me feel less ugly. Sure, you could say that a better alternative would be to learn that I'm beautiful even with acne, but really, do you expect a teenager with severe anxiety and depression, exacerbated by her skin woes, to actually be able to do that? I absolutely believe that everyone is beautiful regardless of makeup, but I also know that, for me, feeling beautiful sometimes requires a little help from outside. And you know what? As a woman in a sexist society, as a sexual assault survivor in a victim-blaming culture, as an introvert with a tendency towards panic attacks, I should be allowed to use every tool at my disposal to make myself feel safe, beautiful, worthy. Haters to the left.

That may have been how my journey with "beauty" began, but it certainly hasn't ended there. Makeup is still sometimes a tool for me, a way of guarding myself against the world, but it's also fun. It's something I play with because it brings me genuine enjoyment. Can I really explain where that enjoyment comes from? No, though the length of this post should suggest that I'm still trying to. But it's like people who enjoy playing golf, or watching football, or making ceramics. It doesn't really matter why, exactly, these things hold such pleasure, only that they do. I dated a guy who didn't like that I wore makeup and asked me not to; at that point in my life, that wasn't a dealbreaker (though I didn't stop wearing makeup, tyvm), but now, it absolutely would be. That's just as bad as asking someone to wear tighter clothes, or dye their hair a certain color, or stop eating meat. Makeup is just one way that I express myself, and for someone who tends to spend way too much time in her own head, it's a nice diversion and chance to just play.

I don't have many regular readers, but to those of you who are, I LOVE YOU MORE THAN I CAN SAY. I feel so blessed to have people who find what I have to say, as overly verbose and pointlessly nattering as it tends to be, worth reading. There are so many amazing bloggers out there, and I still get a bit of a gleeful shock whenever I see that someone I admire has commented on a post. As I mentioned above, I'm really not great at the whole interacting thing, but I've felt so welcomed when I have managed to put myself out there, so to the beauty blogging community, thank you. Thank you for not laughing in my face; thank you for giving me a safe space to squeal about lipstick; thank you for being so kind, funny, interesting, and entertaining! And to my dear friends and family, thank you for your endless patience and willingness to wait around in drugstores while I get my beauty high on, thank you for being willing to take my leftover beauty products, thank you for not cutting me when I go off on a rant about how pretty blush is, and thank you for being awesome in the other areas of my life (seriously, completely non-beauty/blog related, but you guys are awesome, and I am so grateful every day for all of your love and support and laughter, and I wish you weren't so far away!).

Now, if you've managed to make it all the way down here, congratulations! Here's a giveaway :-)
Back: Urban Decay Rollergirl Palette
Polishes, left to right: Lapis Amethyst, South Sea Pearl, Fire Opal, Pink Pearl
UD Shadow Pencils, left to right: Clash, Delinquent, Rehab
a Rafflecopter giveaway
Open to US and Canadian residents only.
See my review of Rollergirl here, and I'll have my review of the two UD Shadow Pencils I kept for myself up next week. I can also post swatches of the polishes over black, if you'd like! And I'll contact you to customize your polish jewelry once you win (the jewelry options aren't shown in the picture above because I was too lazy to take pictures of all the pieces, but I can send them to you once we've talked).

Any feedback? Anything you'd like to see changed about the blog? Anything you particularly enjoy? And how do you feel about beauty as a hobby?
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