The other day I leaned into my mirror, eyes held wide open while I struggled to steady my hand and draw on a little eyeliner. I was out of practice and let me just say, wow. It came out looking like I’d grabbed a chunky magic marker, handed it to my daughter and said, “Have at it, sweetie”. I reached for my makeup removing wipes (which took me a while to find behind the tower of stockpiled toilet paper) only to discover they’d all long since dried to crispy little husks. Well…this was going great. Finally, I applied my makeup - foundation, concealer, cheek stain, something that’s supposed to brighten, and mascara (I abandoned the eyeliner). Nothing too dramatic, but it was makeup. On my face. Did I mention that at this same time, I was wearing jeans? Like real jeans. Ones with a waistband and a button fly and a super cute little cropped kick-out at the ankle. (That’s a thing that’s kinda in, right?) And my shirt. Was it the same one I’d slept in? It was not. Was it the Game of Thrones one that says you can hate the game but not the player that I got as a joke gift five years ago? Again, no. It was a real shirt. I might even call it a…blouse. With a dainty little dot pattern and a slightly puffed shoulder and again, buttons. Real buttons. And underneath that shirt, guess what? There was a bra with a clasp and underwire. That’s right, everyone. I’d put on actual clothes, done my makeup, and used a curling wand on my hair. Mama was going out! I practically had Lizzo in my ear when I took one last look in the mirror. I was doing my hair toss and checking my nails and damn straight, I was feelin’ good as hell.

Yep, I was ready to go to the optometrist for a Tuesday morning eye exam. (Cue the depressing tuba whaa-whaaaa sound effect.)

“Uhhh, should I be jealous of Dr. Dobbins?” my husband asked, referring to the 75-year-old eye doctor I’ve had since I was a child. (Granted, Dr. Dobbins is no slouch and competes in Ironman Triathlons - dude is fit.) Buuuut…kind of a sad commentary on my appearance for the last few months that the sight of me in a normal outfit (well, normal for pre-COVID times) caused my husband to take notice. I was just so excited to have a reason, any reason, to put a little effort into my appearance.

Is anyone out there feeling me? Anyone else weighed down with the drag of these times on their appearance? Initially, when stay-at-home orders kicked into effect, it was kind of nice not to put on makeup and do something with my hair every morning. It felt almost freeing. My straightener and eventually even my blow dryer got relegated to a bottom drawer beneath a collection of trial-sized samples I save for traveling. (Remember traveling? Those were the days.)

Only rarely did I do the bare minimum with my makeup when stay-at-home orders were first in place. And aside from the occasional Zoom calls when I had to face other people, it was so comfortable to wear lounge and athleisure clothes all day long. And it was ok. But lately, I’m really feeling that my drab and lazy appearance is affecting my overall mood. The shiny upside of always being completely comfortable has tarnished into more of a what’s the point? mentality. I mean, it’s not like I skip showers for days on end and wallow on my couch in an old college shirt and my husband’s sweats with my hand buried in a Party Size bag of Cheetos. It hasn’t come to that. (At least, not yet.) But I’m feeling like I need to do a little something to snap out of my funk a bit.

It’s hard, you know. It’s not like I’m going anywhere fun these days. And my kids - the people who see me the most anymore - they’re as interested in my appearance about as much as they care about the Dow Jones Industrial Average. But man, these days I miss a reason for putting some effort into how I look. I used to coordinate my leggings and bra top when I went to the gym and even do some very basic makeup. I felt like I worked out harder when I looked the part more, you know? I just don’t exercise as vigorously when I’m wearing some stretched out pajama pants and an old concert tee to a streamed barre class at my kitchen counter. So what does that imply about my feeling of self worth and motivation for every other aspect of my life when I look the way I do now - no makeup, hair in a ponytail, leggings, sports bra and sweatshirt?

I remember a girl living on my dorm floor during college who rolled in for a final one morning looking amazing despite the fact that we’d been cramming together until about 2:00am the night before. She was emblematic of every possible sorority stereotype there was (even she wouldn’t have argued otherwise with her perfectly whitened teeth, dewy skin that seemed to glow, and perky disposition). She looked like a regional weather woman about to give you the weekend outlook through her sparkly smile and perfectly tailored business casual dress.  She must have noticed my jaw drop when she strode into the testing hall. “Dress well, test well,” she said. It’s always stuck with me as one of those little pearls of wisdom from an unsuspecting place. Our outward appearance can impact our emotions and interactions with the world. (Think about those power poses people do to amp themselves up before performances or big presentations!) When our exterior exudes confidence and polish, our interior can follow suit. So maybe it’s not unexpected that I’m feeling in a rut based on how scruffy I’ve looked for the last number of months?

But without an occasion or event, I guess I just really miss having a reason to assemble a nice looking outfit that other people will see me in and maybe even compliment me on. I miss digging my wallet and lipstick out of my daily mom bag and slipping them into a cute clutch for a night of dinner and drinks with friends. I miss taking a little more time to apply more eye makeup to sit across from my partner in a bustling yet cozy bistro for a romantic dinner. I miss getting excited to order a few on-trend pieces for the change of seasons or even invest in one nice piece for the year - a timeless bag, a trendy top, or even some beautiful, splurgy earrings. But what’s the point? No one’s seeing any of that right now and honestly, it feels so shallow to even admit that I miss that stuff.

And I guess that’s a big part of this that’s bothering me, too. I feel guilty. I know how petty it sounds that I’m whining about not wearing cute clothes out to a fun restaurant when other people’s lives have been completely turned upside down, devastated emotionally, financially, and in other ways. And believe me, I get it. I’m so grateful for what I do have and I continue to look for the silver linings in this worldwide pandemic. I’m trying to help where I can in terms of donations of time and resources as well as do my part to stay the heck out of the way and follow scientific recommendations to help stop and slow the virus’s spread. But even given all that, I think it’s ok to recognize as well that I miss some parts of my past life. And no, it may not be as grave as what someone else is missing or struggling with and please understand that I’m not tone-deaf to the severity of what’s going on, but it’s a little piece of my normal that’s gone right now. And I miss it and am waiting for it to come back someday.

So maybe to make myself feel a little better so I can be more equipped to help someone else out, I’ll put a little more effort into what I’m wearing and my overall appearance. Heck, I may even do one of those foot peeling masks I hear so much about that people find so grossly satisfying and then give myself a pedicure in a vibrant color. I’ll try wearing some real pants a few days a week and putting on mascara once in a while. Maybe even organize a little backyard dress-up happy hour with friends to pretend we’re all just meeting up after leaving the office. It’s worth a try, right? Anything to feel a little more in control of this situation and give myself a mood boost. I think in order to be more helpful to others during this time, I need to be in a good headspace myself. It’s like putting on your own oxygen mask before you do your kiddo’s mask. This oxygen mask just includes some non-elasticized clothing and maybe a little bronzer.

So if you’ll excuse me now, I’ll quit with my lament. I’ve got to get back to homeschooling my children and squeezing in some work time and checking in on my parents and figuring out what to make for dinner and walking the dog and emptying the dishwasher again. (But, I am going to find a little time in the schedule  to practice applying eyeliner.)