THE BEAUTY EXPERIMENT ~Phoebe Baker Hyde
“How I skipped lipstick, ditched fashion, faced the world without concealer, and learned to love the real me.”
When TLC online book tours contacted me about reviewing THE BEAUTY EXPERIMENT they asked for something a bit different. The agent asked me if I was willing to practice some of the exercises in the book for about 2 weeks before I wrote my review. “Definitely!” I replied because that sounded like something fun to experiment with in the New Year. I also requested that the book be sent early so that I could have adequate time to do the experiment. THE BEAUTY EXPERIMENT came very early and I read it from cover to cover and began my changes and workout- journaling my thought processes.
Just a few days ago an email arrived with the Possible Activities and Inner Voice Activities the author was suggesting. I shaped my experiment results into the suggestions and will write a bit longer review. Ms. Hyde did a large survey group for the book and the answers to the questions were quite informative.
THE BEAUTY EXPERIMENT was a delightful read and I was so pleased that a 30+ year old was discovering things I had learned in my lifetime also; she added the bigger cultural expectations and had a perspective from living in Hong Kong that was not available to me when I was in High School. I do not shop and I do not find anything fun or relaxing in going to stores. In my work career, I have only received a living wage and benefits for 4 years and my family could not get health insurance coverage for most of my life (my partner and 2 of my 3 children were able to have coverage if we independently paid full rates and fees) I have never had the privilege of shopping for “wants”. I have always eaten and cooked with “clean” food because it cut our medical expenses and we were rarely ill, and we all had beautiful skin. My youngest child loves fashion and makeup and I hope someday she will try THE BEAUTY EXPERIMENT herself.
Phoebe Baker Hyde took a year off from makeup, haircuts, shaving, waxing, looking in mirrors, jewelry, impulse purchases, or purchasing any shoes or clothing. She did have to get a new bathing suit as her old one disintegrated during the year. She set aside money for charity when she was going to make an impulse purchase. She also cleaned her closets and threw out things that she did not wish to wear any more or did not even have the tags removed. She was not working and had just had a baby girl and wanted to truly discover what she desired to teach her child. She did cut her long beautiful red hair to begin the experiment.
Here is my experiment and the thinking that I worked on during the reading of the book: First it was my mother’s voice in my head every morning asking me if I could not find something to do with my hair and then she dressed me until I was 12; it was expected that I would work to pay for clothing, shoes and college savings. Even when she was dying at age 94, my mum was wishing I would go get a perm and do something about my hair and clothes. Now that she is gone I can still hear the voice in my head about my hair and my clothing. I never had enough money from my work for college and for fashionable clothing – I just bought a few things each year to refresh my wardrobe, shoes and save for college. Nylon stockings nearly broke the bank every month they were so expensive and fragile. I was allergic to most perfumes and makeup and so I did not try to use them. I thought I was homely, plain and a “brain”.
A professional model at my youth group was my mentor for 2 years. She found me make up and classes to train me in decorum and the art or facial applications, and for 2 years of my life I was the highest paid teen model in Cleveland, Ohio. I worked for a number of stores, companies, and agencies during that time. I felt beautiful and it was also helpful that I was not expected to do my hair as that was done for me each event. Also when I sang professionally, the agency arranged clothing, makeup and hair; someone else was making the decisions about my beauty and I was making enough money for 2 full years of college. (Not enough for travel home for holidays and still not enough to keep me in stockings)
Full dress was required at my college – no slacks, jeans, or sports clothing in any classroom. When I could not afford stockings, I just started wearing my required raincoat and boots over my pajamas to class. I stopped shaving and for the first time in my life I let my hair grow. The inner voice still says,” Can’t you do something about how you look?” I find it impossible to pick out what to wear in the mornings; I feel dissatisfied with my post Cancer body and my heavy legs and upper arms. My thin, wispy baby fine hair is still a problem for me. I have stopped perming, cutting and just decided to see how long it will grow this past year. I spent 2 weeks after reading the book, looking in the mirror and admiring my hair every day. I have to admit I now like it and do not feel like a huge body with no hair on the top! I like brushing it dry and seeing the silver streaks and how it frames my beautiful face, how it shines and moves. I no longer purchase any product to make it do anything!
One might look in my closet and say I am a uniform dresser. It is all variations on the same theme of comfort. I only have 6 pair of shoes at a time. I usually get a new pair every three years. I have 4 pair of slacks and 2 pair of jeans, the latter I purchase every other year. I bought a lovely and very expensive afternoon outfit at Harrods in London because I was in the UK and had planned to do it. I am not the typical shopper or make up person now and I do so worry about all the hype, bling and pressure that young girls are exposed to these days. The expectations which go unchallenged and are constant reminders of women’s dirty – ugliness just persists in perpetuating the inferiority because they are female. When I became pregnant the first time, I really researched and stopped using toxic materials of any kind on my body or in my body. I do not use products which are politically toxic either. It takes a lot of research and care of self to make this kind of commitment. THE BEAUTY EXPERIMENT is very helpful in taking a very good look at what you believe about yourself and your looks; finding what is most important to you.
Would you be willing to give up all your beauty aids for year? Would you want to research all the products you use? How about not shopping for a year? How about not having conversations about shopping or deals you discovered? What do you want your daughters to know about beauty? What will you demonstrate and how will you share your love of self with others? You might be very surprised about what you believe, about what is beauty and what is just a money maker for someone else.
This book has a worthy message and will make you think and I guarantee this even if you are not a shopper or a beauty whiz kid. It is a deeper look at how we truly think about and express our self-love. Worth it – THE BEAUTY EXPERIMENT.