I Recommend: Insouciance, or, Looking Like Shit On Purpose

I have an endless font of appreciation for people who look like they’re dressed very cool when they’re actually being lazy. The Other, for instance, has two haircuts: a shaved head, and hair that has grown back from having been shaved. He wears the same three pairs of Levis, the same two black jackets, the same handful of t-shirts in varying stages of decay, and looks like a goddamn model. I, on the other hand, spend hours trying to put together a t-shirt and Levis, frowning at myself, tucking and untucking the shirt looking for the right balance of artfully undone.

I’m incredibly vain. I look in every mirror I see, tilting my head this way and that to admire myself. I revamp my wardrobe and haircut with alarming frequency. I love to look good. And yet, I’m pretty resistant to the idea of doing anything more than I have to to maintain my physical form. I like bold experiments better than maintenance. I’ve only recently developed a skincare routine. I only get through the bare minimum of maintenance (taking out my contacts and washing them, brushing my teeth, cleaning out my ears) by reminding myself of what will happen if I don’t (eye infections, losing all my teeth before the age of forty, not being able to hear around the giant clumps of wax). But the idea of having to spend my precious hours on earth redoing the same work over and over again upsets me. And so I’ve spent years sitting at the unenviable intersection of being profoundly lazy about something I’m also obsessed with, of looking like I tried and failed, when the ideal is looking like you didn’t try but somehow succeeded anyway.

Lately, though, I think I’ve found some peace. After shaving my own head this past fall, I had a minor moral crisis where I felt wildly unattractive constantly, and somehow, that freed me up to care a little less; I had to find a way to not let that feeling interfere with my ability to show up to work, to make small talk, to have sex. I got used to it. Now, my hair has grown into a thatch that I mostly ignore. Oddly enough, now more than ever I seem to be attracting attraction. It reminded me of the feeling when I’d first cut my hair short in college, when I’d suddenly gone from being a not very successful woman to being a kind of blobbish creature of my own invention, and suddenly found myself sleeping with hot intellectual types I’d previously have never dared speak to.

My roommate recently confronted me about the lack of a hairdo. “What are you doing with this? With all this? You look like a boy who doesn’t give a shit.” I took offense, and she said that no, I looked good, and that what she was actually trying to talk about was the fundamental unfairness that a transfeminine person has to master a whole series of grooming behaviors in order to be coded correctly, whereas a transmasculine person mostly has to just…stop. That’s a reasonable complaint, and we made some noises together about unfairness.

But secretly, I was pleased. I spent years fretting over my ability to be a sexy lady and I don’t think it made me any more desirable. It feels like a psychic trick to not care and to suddenly have people really buying what I’m selling. I don’t like the idea that this is a purely masculine deal, though. If you can push a little way out past the edge of societal ideals, there’s also a really hot femme version of not giving a shit, as personified in my ex’s most glamorous look being an old M.A.S.H. t-shirt and long, dirty hair.

I think there’s something to be said for being a little bit more of a smelly animal, and maybe that’s what insouciance is: letting go of the desire to control how people see you, and instead just shaking out your shoulders, leaning back in your best stained t-shirt, and sinking your consciousness down into your body. Looking at other people without fear that they’re sizing you up; asking yourself instead whether you like what you see. So that’s my fashion recommendation for this week: try just a little bit less to look good, and try a little more to think of yourself as someone who doesn’t need to try.