In the last month or so, I’ve been pondering the future of this blog. I started Auxiliary Beauty halfway through my fourth year of my PhD program, at a moment when I felt like I might actually be in graduate school forever. I had written one chapter of my dissertation, but the end was nowhere in sight, and nothing seemed more appealing than escaping my academic concerns through beauty writing. It’s almost impossible to describe the bizarre state of being a doctoral student in the humanities. It’s like having a job, in that you receive money in exchange for work, but neither the salary nor the work seems quite real. Your life settles into a stasis that feels interminable. You have coffee with a friend you see only once or twice a year, someone who decided not to pursue academia, and she tells you about all the dramatic changes that have taken place in her life since you last spoke. In return, the most you can say about yourself is that you finished your Hobbes chapter and started your Donne chapter. It may sound like I’m complaining, but I’m not: stasis doesn’t necessarily imply boredom. It’s just that you get tired of not feeling like a real person.
Recently, though, my life has taken on a faint air of reality. I’m about to enter the sixth—and, if I’m lucky, last—year of my program. This fall, I’ll be teaching for the first time in two years and applying for academic jobs and postdocs for the first time ever. The prospect of an end has made me contemplative. Auxiliary Beauty grew out of grad-student malaise; will I feel like blogging when the malaise is gone? My boyfriend and I joke that ABD (“all but dissertation”) grad students always take up time-consuming hobbies in order to put off dissertating. Ultramarathon running, weightlifting, baking, obsessive news-following—I’ve seen it all. My own time-consuming hobby is this blog, of course, and I wonder how I’ll feel about it once I no longer have a dissertation to put off.
I also wonder if it’s a good idea for a job candidate to have an unapologetically un-academic public blog. In an ideal world, it wouldn’t matter: everyone has hobbies, and blogging about makeup is a harmless one, except to my bank account. But given the academic prejudice against makeup and other signs of “superficiality” (i.e. femininity), this blog might come off the wrong way. Maybe this is mere paranoia. I’ve always tried to keep my blog separate from my professional and personal lives, and I think I’ve done a reasonably good job: only a few grad-school friends know about Auxiliary Beauty, and it doesn’t come up in a Google search of my name. Also, I’m not exactly Temptalia: most makeup consumers don’t know I exist. Still, it’s hard to shake the worry that someone on a search committee—or, God forbid, one of my students—might recognize my face from my posts.
This is not to say that I plan to quit blogging anytime soon. It brings me a great deal of pleasure, and I like belonging to the dwindling number of beauty bloggers who aren’t corporate shills. But I’ve been thinking about what it means to present oneself as a “professional,” something I haven’t really had to worry about in the past. It would be nice if we lived in a world that allowed us to wear MAC Candy Yum-Yum at job interviews, but we don’t, and that’s not the particular hill I want to die on. I also like the idea of having different makeup for different occasions and personae. As Prufrock says, though not about makeup: “a face to meet the faces that you meet.”
So today I did a version of “professional makeup,” which ended up being a lot of NARS. I don’t think that’s a coincidence: among mid-range brands, NARS seems the most balanced between wearable and eccentric. Taken as a whole, it feels less stodgy than Bobbi Brown or Laura Mercier, but less wacky than MAC or Illamasqua. Along with my usual concealers, mascara, and clear brow gel, I used three NARS products that you’ve seen on this blog many times: Mata Hari blush, Lhasa eyeshadow, and the plum side of the Habanera eyeshadow duo. Lipstick was Revlon Lacquer Balm in Coy. I applied the shadows over NYX primer: Lhasa all over the lids, and the Habanera plum on the outer third and the lower lashline.
The result was casual but, I think, polished. It’s nice to feel polished sometimes. Soon enough, I’ll need to look professional; for now, I’m dabbling in the professionalesque.
Is it me or do I do more metablogging than actual blogging? Don’t answer that.