For five years I stopped looking in the mirror before work. There was no point in wasting time; I knew what I’d see. My face — naked, flaws and all — gray and green camouflaged blouse, cargo pants, and boots: the uniform of the US Army. But while I didn’t care what I looked like then, at an earlier time in my life, I had cared far more about my appearance.
I’d spent my high school mornings parked in front of the bathroom mirror applying blue mascara and straightening my blonde and fuchsia hair. My favorite outfit had consisted of a blue mini skirt, white tube socks, and hand-painted Chucks. I spent more hours than I care to tally in front of various mirrors before I let myself leave the house.
I wore my kaleidoscope wardrobe, makeup, and hair as a way of trying to display my personality on the outside. A lifelong introvert, I struggled to make the first attempts at friendliness. Neon blue eyeshadow and purple mascara seemed to put people at ease, or at the very least it sparked curiosity, which meant I didn’t have to do the work of initiating conversation. It helped that I genuinely adored bright colors, but it was more than that; it was my identity. It was also vanity: I didn’t dare leave the house without covering up pimples or outlining my eyes. I used my look for confidence and as a way to display my personality.