POV: Beauty.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

POV ("point of view") is a series that addresses many of the same themes covered in my Equals Record column: growing up, saying yes to adventure, learning to embrace a quarter-life crisis. Each POV entry will include a photograph and a short reflection based on what’s pictured. While my previous column focused largely on ideas, POV will focus on moments - glimpses, glances, tiny stories.

Fourth of July weekend, Megan and I took a spontaneous road trip upstate. We were with two friends, boys, and we were on the hunt for swimming holes (we’d later take this terrifying leap). Hours after leaving the city, we found ourselves in New Paltz, hiking through the woods. We climbed over rocks. We crossed a river. We tramped through grass that left a mess of tiny cuts on our ankles.

Megan wore sandals with leather straps and a chunky heel. I wore a dress.

Later, sweaty and with mud-caked toes, we sat on a metal railing by the side of the road and looked out over the trees.  The boys explored the hillside, in search of blueberries. In their absence, we relived the day and our unexpected adventure. We discussed our need for a shower. We examined our bruises. 

We took pictures of the sunset, of birds, of each other reclining on the hood of our station wagon; then, in the reflection of our iPhones, we put on lipstick.


I’ve always been hesitant to talk too much - or to write at length - about things I consider girly: fashion, shopping, beauty. I'm afraid that the people who read my writing won't take me seriously, or believe that I can write about other things, too - books, and culture, and people. 
Weeks after New Paltz, I was back in Brooklyn, getting dressed for a dinner party while Megan sat and watched. I showed her treasures from a recent trip to my favorite thrift store: a satin slip; a vintage apron with yellow detailing; a red gingham dress that looked - somehow appealingly - like a tablecloth.

I put on make-up and a perfume that reminded Megan of her mother. Squinting into the mirror, she tried a neon pink lip stain sitting on a saucer on my dresser. We compared it to the purple I was wearing. Pink won. 

“I could do this all day,” I said. “Sometimes all I want to write about is nail polish and long dresses and Mermaid Spray." (Mermaid Spray is a rose-scented sea salt concoction meant to recreate the effects of the ocean on one’s hair. We discovered it one afternoon in a neighborhood jewelry shop, while taking a break from our writing.) "But I'm afraid to."

Megan - who has a passion for poetry and performance art, as well as a penchant for vintage dresses, blush pink sweaters, and No. 6 clogs - understood. 


I spent Labor Day, as I mentioned here before, at a summer camp wedding in New Hampshire. Over the course of four days, I learned to shoot a bow and arrow, paddle a canoe, balance on a tight-rope. I slept in a cabin that smelled of mold. I accumulated mosquito bites, stained my fingers blue with tie-dye.

I felt abundantly, unabashedly happy.

I shared my cabin with another writer, a fellow New Yorker who, when I met her, was carrying her laptop under one arm and searching for wifi on the campgrounds to submit a story. She wrote about art, I learned. She was fiercely smart. We found we had friends in common in the city. 

We shared other interests, too. We’d both littered the shelves next to our beds with an array of serums, soaps, and lotions. We’d packed dresses to eat dinner in a summer camp mess hall. (“Can I tell you a secret?” I said to her one night. “I brought a blow dryer.”)

Each night, we’d meet in the cabin before dinner (while everyone else hiked or raced kayaks) to shower and change our clothes. Then we’d read, or write, or sit on our beds and talk - about our work, about traveling, about relationships, about beauty. “I’m so glad you’re here,” we told each other. 

Late on the night of the wedding, a small group of us gathered by the lake. A storm had just passed, and some of us had gotten caught in the downpour. I'd been out on the water when the rain had started, in a boat lit with glow sticks. I'd gotten soaked and loved every minute of it.

After, as I started back up the hill to my cabin to change, I caught sight of my new friend, heading toward the water for a late-night paddle, oar in hand. We smiled and waved.

I was drenched, but delighted. My hair dripped. I was sure there was mascara pooled under my eyes. I imagined I looked terrible. 

But it didn't matter. 
I let it run.

You can find my previous POV entries, here, and the archive for my personal essay column on the Equals Record, hereThank you so much for reading! Photo via my Instagram.


Rose said...

This is my favorite post you've written. Probably because I can relate in so many ways. :) Thank you!

samantha hahn said...


karina // curate the day said...

beauty or talk of it, is not skin deep, as you have proved here. there is depth in anything if you are willing to look, so keep sharing what moves you. i'll keep reading, i love your writing. xx

Anonymous said...

so lovely.

Halle said...

I can relate. Thank you for sharing your thoughts - I love your writing.

Shoko said...

Thank you all so much! Your kind words made my day.

Rachel @ Existation said...

Love love love, per usual, m'dear. Your posts always leave me feeling peaceful. If I could live inside anyone's words, they'd be yours. Or maybe Anne of Green Gable's. It'd be a close tie.

Shoko said...

Rachel, you're amazing. Thank you.

angela said...

What an amazing time! I love bonding over clothes!!

Sherry said...

Yay, yay, yay's!

Joyce said...

your writing is so so beautiful. I found your blog via Cup of Jo months ago and fell in love with your POVs. Thank you for honesty which is a rare quality to find in writings these days. I aspire to find my own voice in my writing just as you have. Keep doing what you're doing because you are just that awesome :)

Joyce said...

your writing is so so beautiful. I found your blog via Cup of Jo months ago and have been following it since.You write with much honesty which is a rare quality to find these days and I appreciate it so much. I aspire to find my own voice in my writing just as you have. Keep doing what you're doing because you're just that awesome :)

max said...

oh man, this is so good. i get goosebumps when i read your stories. you have a gift.

tara said...

Such great writing!

I always hate that feeling that I won't be taken seriously if I talk about girly things. It's so stupid, and it caused me to be a total tomboy for YEARS (I am finally coming out of my shell) because I decided at a young age that I'd rather be taken seriously than "look pretty."

Heather said...

I love this one--and that kinship you feel with others when you realize you're both secretly girly. I definitely would have brought a hair dryer with me, too! :)

Shoko said...

Thank you all so much!

Jocy said...

This is beautiful, yet again. I love your voice.

I can also relate to this post. I think for all my life I've struggled with this balance of my feminine side and other side. I don't know what i would call it, but it's the side that houses my passion for individual, more rugged travel and for human rights lawyering. Most of my life, I almost felt that if I was perceived as being too into clothes or aesthetics that people wouldn't take me seriously. I think that is still true with many people.

It's only been in the last few years that I've grown more comfortable with who I am in that regard. For example, I love that, this week for instance, I sat in discussions with some awesome human rights and environmental lawyers and many of those women were not afraid of their femininity - they wore colorful dresses, in unapologetic colors.

Who cares, right? We come in all shapes and sizes. And this particular human rights and environmental lawyer happens to love beautifully constructed silk dresses and No. 6 clogs.

Shoko said...

Jocy, so right on. I love the balance you've struck on your blog. Your Rachel Comey mention today made me smile :)

Jocy said...

Thanks for the kind words, Shoko.


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