That Summer Necessity

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As a person with pale, combination/oily skin who lives in the skin cancer capital of the world, I have a troubled relationship with sunscreen. When my skin is crisped crimson I regret not bathing in the stuff. When my sweat mixes with my sunscreen to make an acne inducing soup I wish I was sunburnt, because then my skin would . at least be dry. Then I realised that not all sunscreen was the sticky, greasy   sludge that I had grown up with. That there were sunscreens out there that were designed to be waterproof without making your skin reflective from the sheen. I just had to find them. Things were a lot easier before I figured out that animal testing was still commonplace and not vanquished like it was in Legally Blonde 2.  In high school I used Nivea Light Feel 30+ for my body and Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Face Lotion 50+ for my face and they worked for my crazy pubescent skin. Unfortunately both companies either test on animals or outsource testing to research facilities that do, so my search for the perfect sunscreen began again.
My criteria is (I thought) simple. I’m looking for something non greasy that won’t make me break out, works under makeup, isn’t tested on animals, and is affordable. It’s been years and I still haven’t found The One, and most of the information online is limited. Its hard to find cruelty free sunscreen, let alone cruelty free sunscreen formulated for specific skin types with informative reviews. Since I’m already on my quest, I’ll be  posting reviews of any cruelty free sunscreen products I try in the hopes that this will help any other poor souls out there on a desperate hunt for the perfect sunscreen.

Please Don’t Define Me

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I quite dislike definitive statements, especially in news articles, especially when it includes the phrase ‘All women should’. I understand the logic behind it: ‘Why all women should travel solo at least once’ sounds a lot more convincing than ‘Why all women should consider travelling solo at least once’. The ‘at least once’ already softens what is meant to be a persuasive declaration. ‘All women should’ is used by women’s magazines, mainstream media, and feminist columns. It’s a confident snippet that is sure to grab the attention of the intended audience – All Women. It sure as hell catches mine, and then I wind up fixating on it for an entire day, constantly wheeling the phrase over and over in my mind. It grinds my gears because I have been batting away this phrase (or an incarnation of it) since I was young.

“All girls should play with dolls” – excellent, I love dolls

“All girls should play netball” – can we seriously not read instead?

“Why all girls should shave their leg hair” – umm ok

“Why all girls should put off shaving as long as possible” – I’m getting some mixed signals here

“Why all women should own at least one little black dress” – oh boy I’m sure glad you put the at least in there, I wouldn’t want to feel restricted at all

“Why all women should consider travelling solo at least once” – I have social anxiety and a deep dislike of navigating unknown territory alone. If I wanted to stay in a room for two weeks ordering takeout and crying, I would do that at home.

“Why every woman should shave her head at least once” – I grew my hair myself. It took me 12 years, and growing it out was the first autonomous decision I ever made about my body. Sod off.

‘All women should’ has been appearing in fashion magazines for as long as they’ve existed, and I find it particularly exasperating when feminist magazines do the same. I don’t know if they are trying to reclaim it from the patriarchy, which has used the phrase, or a derivative, to control women for centuries. Maybe the writers aren’t even conscious of it, wish to use a definitive statement, and all end up using the same one. All I know is that I don’t feel empowered when I read that ‘All women should’. I feel frustrated and caged, like the world is trying to squeeze me into a mould. I very nearly didn’t buy the book I intend to review this week, Caitlyn Moran’s How To Be a Woman, because the title filled me with the same frustration. All I could think was “Do you relate to women? Do you identify as a woman? Boom! You’re a woman.”

It’s that simple.

Elusive Inspiration

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It turns out that writing a second blog post is worse than writing the first. There’s a certain expectation that once you’ve launched you’re supposed to know more and be better. Or maybe that’s just me and the ridiculous expectations that I set for myself. Either way, I’ve been hit with a mental block for the past week that only lifted when I was in the shower and was had an amazing, inspirational idea that was going to knock off your figurative socks. I forgot that one. I’ve since spiralled into the depths of a procrastination bender, the end result being that I’ve been to a hardware store with my father to buy a 30 kilo bag of premix cement, bushwalked around Springbrook seeking inspiration with my Muse and only finding vicious Marshflies, and finally sunk to the depths of faux productivity, procrasti-baking.

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I sought communion with my Muse, but she was nowhere to be found.

I find procrasti-baking to be the best form of procrastination, and not just because you get to eat delicious treats. Even in a simple recipe, baking has repetitive movements (stirring, sifting, chopping) that fully engage your brain to distract you from whatever task is looming over you. Repetitive activities are also recommended to reduce stress, so you can tell every concerned relative that the fifth batch of biscuits in 5 days is actually good for you. Finally, as I mentioned before, there is a false sense of productivity. You made something. You were working. Either way, I made myself some damn delicious strawberry custard tarts (made the custard from scratch, people), my family was well fed for the day, and I alone am left with the lingering shame of posting a blog post about not having a blog post to post.

Five Years in Stasis

043I’ve always sucked at introductions. When I wrote reports or essays for university I always wrote the introduction last because then I knew what I had to cover. Naturally, you can’t do that in a blog, and I’m painfully reminded of a reflective essay that I once had to write explaining why I was pursuing my Creative and Professional Writing course. They wanted 800 words and all I could bring to mind was Scout Finch in To Kill A Mockingbird stating ‘…I never loved to read. One does not love breathing’.

One also doesn’t enjoy analysing their breathing. I’ve categorised this blog as a book review, but they will be few and far between. Nothing ever came as close to destroying my love of reading as having to reread segments of novels classifying the author’s linguistic techniques and determining their meanings. I have an entire shelf of Dickens that I can’t bring myself to read because his style gives me flashbacks to a particularly painful discussion of Miss Havisham in Great Expectations. Apparently Mr Dickens uses the setting to describe his characters. Now every time I pick up one of his blasted books I start picking it to threads, attempting to track the technique instead of enjoying the narrative. There’s nothing wrong with attempting to understand and emulate techniques, but there is something painful in having to do so incessantly. It warps the brain and makes reading and writing a chore, not the pleasure it should be. The habit even turned me off my own writing. I would sit for hours staring at the laptop screen trying to find and develop ‘my’ technique. I’ve spent the last five years in a state of near-permanent writer’s block, only handing in assessment pieces that had to deliberately mimic famous authors’ styles to prove that I understand them. Every time I opened a word document I immediately compared my lack of direction to what I had come to interpret as previous authors’ steely resolve to use their winning stylistics. I couldn’t even bring myself to write this blog because I hadn’t truly decided what my ‘theme’ would be (studying marketing is probably partly to blame for that).

Then last week when I was hit with the most glorious piece of advice that I have ever received: Write for yourself. Don’t aspire to change lives and win prizes. Write for the sheer enjoyment of writing and blow everyone else. I like to believe that’s what authors like Dickens and Harper Lee did. They didn’t set out to change the world, they just wrote about how they understood it. That’s what I plan to do here, in my directionless way. There’ll be reviews of books so beautiful or so atrocious that I simply have to share. There’ll be articles on cruelty free skin care and trying damn hard to live as sustainably as possible in a world founded on fossil fuels, on a retail slave’s wage. There might even be the odd fiction piece. There’ll be me, writing for me, just like every other author before.