Have you heard of the Man Repeller Writers Club? Every month we pose a story idea, you write about it, and then send it to us ([email protected]) with the subject line “MR Writers Club.” We go through all submissions and post the winner on the first Friday of every month. Ready? Let’s go.
When I was a child, my dad would tease me for looking at myself in reflective surfaces. It was playful, but I suspected he kind of meant it, which is why I flushed with shame every time he called me out. He didn’t want me to be vain, and neither did I, but what would it mean if I were?
Later I came to see my stolen glances more kindly, as an expression of curiosity. What do I look like? they seemed to ask. And what does it mean if I’m not pretty? It was a matter I pondered for years, more subconsciously than literally, but also quite reasonably: How else should a little girl respond to fairytales of Disney princesses for whom love befell them before they’d even spoken? Even if they were sleeping? I wanted love, too.
My adolescence, or maybe more accurately my life, has been an exercise in wrestling with these ideas. Internalizing them, denouncing them, reconfiguring them, repeat, repeat. The only constant in my pursuit of expressing myself physically is a lack of consistency. I still ask myself all the time: Can vanity be good? Can expressing myself aesthetically be important? Can it be harmful?
Last week I chopped a foot of length off my hair. As I made my way to meet a friend for coffee afterward, I peeked at myself in shop windows and glass doors. How do I feel? I wondered. Occasionally the answer was “less conventionally attractive,” but more often it was “more like myself.” And curiously, I felt comfortable with the former as long as the latter remained true. This felt like a shift; a realization that vanity can lead me back into myself as quickly as it can lead me away. And the cycle continues.
Vanity can take many forms. For this month’s Writers Club prompt, we want you to tell us about a time that vanity served you. It could be your own or someone else’s; it could serve you literally or metaphorically, genuinely or ironically, in a poem or a photo essay. Be as creative or straight-forward as you like, just make it 500 words or less and send it to [email protected] on or by Friday, June 28th. See you (really) then.
Photo by Dave Hogan via Getty Images.