Review 26: The Beauty Experiment by Phoebe Baker Hyde

14 Apr

I read this book as part of a book club I joined recently, and I believe the author is coming to our next meeting, and I’m interested to meet her in real life. The premise of this book is simple: Hyde, an expatriate living in Hong Kong with a young toddler, gives up on all makeup, beauty and fashion for a year. She cuts her hair off, tosses her lipgloss and mascara, and starts dressing in what she describes as a “mom” uniform.

Let’s start with the good in this book.  This book was actually about how Hyde was living in a foreign country, adjusting to her role as a new mother, adjusting to her life without a traditional job, and adjusting to her life with a husband who was deeply devoted to his job, and traveling extensively.  She was going through a really, really tough time in her life – and she definitely felt lost. It seemed like she felt that she had lost her identity, and she was lonely, and this experiment was a way for her to rediscover who she was (without all the trappings of beauty and makeup).

But, I didn’t enjoy this book, for a few reasons.  First, at least based on the way Phoebe described herself in the book, she wasn’t really that into beauty to begin with. She barely wore makeup, wasn’t into fashion, and basically just had long hair. So I had trouble understanding why she felt that her beauty routine was the source of her problems. This seemed like it might be a more meaningful, powerful experiment for someone who was obsessed with beauty/fashion since a young age.

And second, she didn’t really have a cohesive journey. At the end of her experiment, she was in the same place. She didn’t really seem to feel better about herself – she was still lonely, and plagued with doubt. Her thought process during the whole experiment was all over the place. She didn’t seem to know what beauty routines meant to her (or anyone else), and her problems (and her solutions to her problems) seemed unrelated to the premise of giving up her routines.

It was like she had this premise, wrote a different book, and then merged them together.

I’m at an opposite stage of my life. I’m 25, and I started teaching myself to apply makeup a month ago (thanks, YouTube and http://www.reddit.com/r/makeupaddiction).  I started to try to make myself more presentable with minimal makeup, taking care of my hair, tailoring my clothes so they fit properly, etc because I think it’s important to look presentable.  It’s like having neatly trimmed hair/beards and well fitting clothes for men – it’s a sign that you are competent, organized and powerful.

I don’t see it as a burden, or this problematic social construct. But I might be luckier than most, because I spent my formative high school and college years makeup free, just doing whatever. So makeup and taking care of myself is a choice for me. It’s not something I was forced to do since age 12 to do for “the wrong reasons,” whatever you might think those are (changing your looks, attracting boys, social requirement, etc).

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One Response to “Review 26: The Beauty Experiment by Phoebe Baker Hyde”

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. HelloKatieO’s #CBR5 Review #26: The Beauty Experiment by Phoebe Baker Hyde | Cannonball Read V - April 14, 2013

    […] I’m at an opposite stage of my life. I’m 25, and I started teaching myself to apply makeup a month ago (thanks, YouTube andhttp://www.reddit.com/r/makeupaddiction).  I started to try to make myself more presentable with minimal makeup, taking care of my hair, tailoring my clothes so they fit properly, etc because I think it’s important to look presentable.  It’s like having neatly trimmed hair/beards and well fitting clothes for men – it’s a sign that you are competent, organized and powerful. […]

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