Living in a van definitely has its perks. It's pretty convenient for my lifestyle, since I rarely sit around and I do a lot of traveling. It's liberating AF and majestic AF, but to be honest... I also feel rachet AF.
If you don't know what that means, it means I feel like I live in a van down by the river. Like that feeling you get when you actually realize that you live in a van and it's not glamorous.
Like that feeling I get when I am setting up my stove and cooking food on the ground in a parking lot while homeless people are hovering and watching.. and I'm wondering to myself, "Should I ask them if they want any food? Is that why they're hanging out around me?" meanwhile I'm burning all my food and it tastes disgusting anyway.
And I'm warning you now, I might sound like a shallow girl in this blog post. But bare with me, because it's a very delicate balance, this whole feminine/masculine thing.
My summers are pretty simple. I wake up, throw on a swim suit, eat breakfast and pack a lunch, work outside all day, maybe paddle a river, shower, pass out, repeat.
I've saved SO much money by paying for a gym membership basically to shower and park instead of paying for rent to do the same thing. It's pretty great, especially since I'm gone every weekend anyway.
However, I noticed that it became really easy to get lazy in the self-care department. Living in a van feels like a step above camping. Just taking care of my survival needs takes a lot longer than normal people. I don't have running water, electricity, a kitchen, a bathroom, a real mirror, or air conditioning. Not complaining, just saying that I have a pretty primitive set up right now and any time I want to style my hair, wash my face, or use a big mirror then I have to plan ahead.
I have been a van-dweller for a little over two months now. River season is winding down, so now is the time I like to get back in touch with my feminine side and get back into aerial, vaulting, and dance classes.
After spending months being outside in the dirt and rivers, participating in a male-dominated sport in a male-dominated industry, then going to aerial dance classes, where it is female-dominated, I realized that I lost touch with my feminine side a little bit.
I hadn't worn make up in a really long time and I hadn't dressed up or done my hair in a very, very long time. I just did the basics - shower, shave, tweeze, and brush hair 1x per day, brush teeth 2x per day. That's like a typical guy routine, only with a lot more shaving added to it.
I've never really been that into make up and hair, but I do know that girls that are into it have a routine that lasts like 3x as long as guy routines and they have probably 10x the amount of goops they use to make themselves look flawless. I don't know much about it, but to each their own.
Beauty tips are not my hobby, so I won't go into that.
The topic of whether or not girls should wear make up is something that I'm not going to get into. Girls can do whatever they want.
But what I do want to talk about is taking care of yourself and the benefits from an economical and social perspective. For both men and women. And when you're in society, there are so many perks to looking good and putting in the effort. So van dwellers out there, just because you live in a van and live a dirt bag life, it doesn't mean that looking like a dirt bag full-time should be a badge of honor. Because as shallow as it sounds, it's science. Attractive people are more successful. So I try to take care of myself. Even though it's more difficult to do because I'm in a van and it sometimes feels like it's one step above being a hobo.
The outdoor industry is funny. Especially opinions when comes to what women should and shouldn't do. Should they wear booty shorts while they climb? (Cedar Wright doesn't think so). Should they wear make up? Will they be respected and considered a role model only if they look a certain way? Can a professional paddler or surfer model bikinis and still be respected as an athlete? Does complimenting a young girl's looks promote sexism? It's ridiculous. It seems that women's equality is trending, which is awesome, but everyone's still trying to figure out how to do it (Read the comments on Outdoor Research's latest homage to the ladies).
And here I am, kind of being a hypocrite because I'm stating that attractive people are more successful... but hear me out.
I actually wrote an English paper on this topic in college, and it was the only college English paper I ever got an A on. Coincidentally it was the only English paper I wrote that wasn't about horses.
But there are so many facts and statistics to back it up. I've witnessed personally that I am treated way better from the get-go when I put some effort into lookin' fly before meeting people, and I also get way more free stuff too ;).
People are unconsciously biased and conditioned to treat attractive people better. It's called the Halo Effect, where positive qualities and characteristics are attributed to a person who seems deserving of those characteristics based on their appearance and vice-versa.
One example in my paper was a study done on elementary school classes. Researchers observed that the children that were cuter got in less trouble than their unattractive classmates. The children that got disciplinary action were more likely unattractive kids (check out a related article here).
Disney movies feature main characters and good guys as the stereotypical beautiful Damsel in Distress or Prince Charming, and the bad guys as witches or demons (as a college student, I had access to this study in a database. As a graduate, I have access to articles quoting this study in the database here).
I convince a cop that I have my life together and talk myself out of getting a speeding ticket because I look put-together; compared to the guy wearing a stained wife-beater, has gnarly teeth, and a patchy, unkempt beard, who would probably be getting a ticket AND some reason why is car needs to be searched.
And of course, I had to incorporate horses into my English paper somehow.. and here's how I did it.
In the circus/show business world, you will not get hired if you are not attractive. It happens in many industries, but at least the show business world is blunt about it. They want performers that people enjoy watching, and the more attractive human with a decent skill-set will get preference over an unattractive one, even if they have a better skill-set.
You see it in professional athletes too. Attractive athletes get better sponsorships than unattractive ones. And unfortunately, the value of attractiveness in women is weighted more than the value of their skill-set. But alas, that opens an entire other can of worms and could be saved for a future blog post...
There was even a study that concluded that babies spend more time staring at attractive adults than unattractive adults(*). BABIES! PURE, INNOCENT, UNCULTURED BABIES!
My actual paper is buried on a hard drive somewhere at my parent's house, but I do have videos that I made as a source of research called "personal observation". I conducted my own experiment to personally witness how people treated me when I was attractive versus unattractive. See my research below...
This is a video of me falling at an attractive person. When I fell and spilled my box of stuff (that made a huge mess with about a 15 foot radius), the hallway went completely silent. Then when I started to pick up my things and people helped me, I observed that people were more likely to joke around with me... or sit from the sidelines and laugh.
In this video of me falling as an unattractive person, people treated me completely different. They were way more sympathetic. They did not laugh or joke with me and one guy even put his hand on my shoulder and told me, "It happens to the best of us". If they did not choose to help, they pretended that they didn't notice and went about their day.
So the point that I take home is that putting time into the way you present yourself exudes confidence, and people tend to buy in to the idea that you actually have your stuff together. Maybe that's why it's way more hilarious to watch the video of me falling on my face in high heels and kind of sad to watch me fall on my face while wearing a hoodie, skirt, and sandals.
And when you tell people that you live in a van and paddle rivers, everyone thinks about the Chris Farley skit, which is ironic because it's portrayed as the definition of being a low-life. And now that I live in a van, I'm realizing it's actually really easy to skip over the part where you take the extra time to put yourself together because you're too busy being all outdoorsy and sweaty and stuff. And trying to find bathrooms that are open at certain hours, private, and where you can do the whole getting ready routine without people realizing that you're homeless.
There's a saying that I was taught as a young Mormon. It goes, "Be in the world, but not of the world".
So I'm going to go ahead and apply to a completely different context, which I'm sure wasn't a teaching of Jesus, but it works.
I am in the dirt-bag, van-dwelling world, but I am not of the dirt-bag, van-dwelling world.
Wow, that sounds pretty pretentious...
But perhaps another way to phrase it is even though I literally live in a van down by the river, it doesn't mean that I have to subscribe to the standard of putting off the practice of self-care by improving my physical appearances because I am living a minimalist lifestyle in a dirt-bag world. I feel the weird contradicting pressures from both sides of the outdoorsy/minimalist van-dwelling and feminine girl spectrum to be a certain way. So I err on the side of science.
And with this all being said, if you live in a van down by the river, and you feel great doing you, then do you, and there's nothing wrong with that!