Plus Sized And Allergic At The Mall (or Why Many “Shoulds” Are Choices In Disguise)

Exhibit B

This is how I apply mineral makeup if I don’t want to sneeze it off. (Image by Golda Poretsky.)

A few weeks ago, I found myself at the Queens Center Mall, killing time before my chiropractor appointment.*

There isn’t all that much for me in this mall. There are no plus sized stores at all, other than the plus size departments in Macy’s and JCPenney’s, and the tiny plus sized area at Forever 21.**

I eventually wended my way over to the Bare Escentuals store and decided to check out their products and get a makeover.

The Dangers Of Trying To Be “Normal”
But here’s the rub–I’m allergic to a lot of makeup. Makeup has never sent me to asthmatic rattles that last a week (cats, you know who you are) or near death experiences at dude ranches (horses, I’m looking at you) but makeup has been known to puff up my eyelids til they looked like they would burst, and make my skin break out horribly.***

My makeup routine for the last umpteen years has been eyeliner, clear mascara on my eyebrows****, and a little liquid makeup to cover anything wonky. Maybe lipgloss and/or mascara if I’m feeling like doing it up. But lately, I’ve been desiring more of a “grown up” makeup routine, and I’ve really wanted some eyeshadow that wouldn’t create undue eyelid agony.*****

Exhibit A
Golda in Macy's dressing room

My made-up face looks suspiciously like my non-made-up face. (Image by Golda Poretsky.)

I had my makeup done, and it felt okay. My eyes felt pretty normal. I left there feeling pretty good, and I had a Macy’s gift card burning a hole in my pocket, so I went over to Macy’s and tried on some clothes (Exhibit A). I kept looking at my eyes in the mirror, looking for signs of puffiness or itchiness. No signs appeared.

I went back to the Bare Escentuals store and got their basic foundation kit, reserving judgment on the eyeshadow and some other items until the following day.

Shopping And “Shoulds”
I ended up not getting their eyeshadow, because my eyes did feel very weird the next morning, despite careful makeup removal.******

But here’s the larger issue, and the reason I’m bringing up buying makeup at the mall. I’ve been feeling like I should have more of a makeup routine. I’m in my mid-30’s, and I feel on some level that there are things I should be doing. I should be better with makeup and use it more. I’m supposed to be using moisturizer on a regular basis. I’m supposed to know what to do with eyeshadow and wear it well.*******

You’re probably thinking, “But Golda, you of all people are not supposed to worry about what you “should be doing” and doing what everyone else does! Didn’t you write blog posts on giving up the dream of being thin and letting go of the “have to’s”and fitting out rather than fitting in?! What’s all this about?”

You, blog reader, are so right! I’ve spent a lot of time working on my thinking about all of the things I’m supposed to do and be. If I really was all of the things society tells me to be, I’d be married and have kids and still be practicing law and I’d be thin.

I’m happy to tell you that I walked around that mall that day not feeling bad about my body because I couldn’t fit into the clothes at nearly every clothing store. I didn’t even think about it, except to think that there was something wrong with the stores, not with my body. The makeup thing is just a red herring!

Changing “Shoulds” Into Choices
I think it’s important to remember that most of our “shoulds” are really choices in disguise. A really small example of this is that I have found that I really like wearing mineral makeup, but it makes me sneeze if I don’t put cotton balls in my nose (Exhibit B). It is rather ridiculous that I have to do this, and there may be a point where the cotton ball thing feels ridiculous enough that I make a different choice to go back to wearing less makeup (or finding a liquid I like better or whatever).

Similarly, how much we decide to fit in or fit out should be recognized as a choice too. Even if you have certain requirements (like a dress code for your job) you often can do more within the confines of those restrictions than you realize. And I find that really embracing things about you that others might find “weird” is often the key to getting more acceptance or finding that acceptance matters less than you originally thought.

Dieting fits into this category too. If you’re dieting to fit in better (and I think that dieting is often about this) realize that this is actually a choice, not a requirement. In other words, you can think about dieting and whether the benefits, if any, outweigh the negatives. Maybe, right now, it’s a bargain you’re willing to make. And that’s okay, because it’s your choice. But if the benefits aren’t stacking up, you can make the choice not to diet.

What “shoulds” of yours may be choices in disguise? Let me know in the comments section below!

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Golda is a certified holistic health counselor and founder of Body Love Wellness, a program designed for plus-sized women who are fed up with dieting and want support to stop obsessing about food and weight.  Registration is now open for her group program, The Big Beautiful Goddess Academy. Click here for details!

*My chiropractor’s office is right next to the mall. It calls to me every time I get adjusted!
**Can we talk about Forever 21? I mean, their 3x is like a 20, am I right?
***This blog post is rated R due to the graphic nature of its allergy stories.
****This is a tip I learned from Sassy Magazine circa 1991 — it holds your eyebrows in place!
*****I know. You now know more about my makeup buying habits than you could possibly want to know. I’m getting to the point, I swear!
******Undue Eyelid Agony is an excellent band name.
*******Those of you who are my facebook friends know that I googled “Rachel Maddow makeup tutorial” last Tuesday. :)

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14 thoughts on “Plus Sized And Allergic At The Mall (or Why Many “Shoulds” Are Choices In Disguise)

  1. Heh, sounds like my experiences with allergies and makeup. I’m a knitter and have massive, widespread allergies, especially to animal fibers, oils, and dander. After a trip to a fiber show (featuring ALL THE MINIMALLY PROCESSED YARN), I’m usually bloated, red, half-blind, and unable to feel my fingers. Totally worth it, though–last time I picked up a charkha, an Indian spinning wheel, for $40, complete with a MOUND of unbleached cotton roving. SCORE!

    As far as makeup goes, I wear Sally Hansen Naturals foundation, the airbrush stuff, though I hold my breath when I spray it on my sponge. It gets applied atop a layer or two of heavy-duty sunblock. Otherwise, my makeup is mostly mineral stuff from Sweet Libertine and Aromaleigh. I’ve had fewer problems with them than mainstream mineral makeup lines like Bare Escentuals. I tap my eyeshadows off my brushes VERY well before applying, too, and blot rather than brush, which helps keep them out of the air. Also, if you have eye allergies, Ecco Bella has a faboo mascara that only has six ingredients. It’s the only mascara I’ve ever found that doesn’t make my eyes itch, burn, or swell shut. Not 100% waterproof, but still pretty water resistant. If you need a good, hypoallergenic makeup remover, coconut or olive oil will be your best friend. They’ll remove even the toughest mascara, eyeliner, kohl, or eye primer.

    My “should” is that, according to my parents, I should break up with my girlfriend. She’s in Ohio, I’m in Oklahoma. She’s 21, I’m 35. We’re perfect for each other: we’re at the same unusually high intellectual level, we’re both Aspie, we’ve got similar hobbies and interests, and even our peeves and phobias are fairly complementary. We make each other happy. Hell, she makes me want to fight through CNS vasculitis. Without her, I’d be on the fence as to whether I wanted to push back against my insurance company, which is trying to stop me from completing the diagnostic procedure, even though it’s pretty obvious at this point what the problem is. Without treatment, the condition’s got a 100% mortality rate, and given my previously dx’d health issues, the treatment would be lifelong chemotherapy. If it means I get to have a life with her, I’ll spend five hours in a chair every week or month, chugging water and getting pumped full of cyclophosphamide. I have no idea why my parents think that’s a bad thing, but they may have an image of me as weak and dependent. In any case, forget should. I’m doing what’s right.

  2. Oh my goodness – cats, horses and eye make-up? SNAP! This is just weird.

    My latest ‘should’ that risked my mental wellbeing was attending the wedding of my second cousin (aka daddy’s little princess), but the family would likely not have survived the fallout had I not attended. I barely survived the night, and much free alcohol was involved. Although this was not so much about fitting in, I’m still going to count it, because fitting in to my dress was a life lesson in itself!

  3. I feel your pain lol. I am also allergic to most makeups. I usually by from since I am a redhead and they make loads of hypoallergenic stuff. I am not good at makeup at all. I wear basics. Brown mascara and eyeliner. I put a small amount of brown on the lids. All are safe for me and I am very allergic to perfumes etc. Marcelle brand is good too.

    Also, I wanted to mention some Canadian online plus size stores which are great. Penningtons and Addition-Elle. Very good stores.

  4. Love this post, Golda! Around the time I turned 30, I started noticing the “peach fuzz” around my upper lip and on my cheeks more. I have no idea whether it actually became more noticeable, or if I only noticed it because I was scrutinizing myself more closely for signs of aging.

    Around the same time, a major drugstore skincare company began a big promotional campaign for their facial hair removal kit. I decided I really “should,” really “HAD to” go buy this kit and start using it on a regular basis.

    But then something funny happened.

    As I stood in front of the display at the drugstore, looking at the $30 price tag, I started to feel righteous indignation. I thought “I already spend so much money to conform to the pointless standards of hairlessness! I shave my legs and armpits and bikini line. I get my brows waxed. Do I really need another area of (perfectly natural!) hair to obsess over removing? Do I?”

    The answer, for me, was no. I walked away without buying the kit and my facial peach fuzz doesn’t bother me anymore. I choose to keep it and say NBD! Anyway, your story reminded me of this breakthrough moment.

  5. Thank goodness I’m not alone. Allergies restrict my ability to wear makeup and jewelry. 2 hours of eye shadow=1 week puffy eyes. pefume=asthmatic weezing. gold, silver, steel=rashes and infection. Nevermind the mascara and contacts issues. I’ve been asked to “step it up” for work purposes and I’ve been trying to figure ways around all this. It’s hard to get people to understand that the normal cost/benefit analysis of whether or not to use these items doesn’t apply. It’s hard to feel positive about looking “better” (by their standards) when you know you are doing harm to yourself.

    1. I so relate, DaniJo. You are not alone. And, I agree that it is hard to “step it up” when you’re allergic to makeup and jewelry. (Plus, being plus sized limits your choices, of course.)

      Even gold and silver mess you up? I’m okay as long as it doesn’t have nickel in it. I can’t wear white gold because that’s gold with nickel, which most people don’t know!

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