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Why I Wear Makeup to Readings

I go glam for all my readings. For my first, I wore pink, gold and green eye makeup, painted my nails magenta and ironed my hair into a giantly high faux hawk-ish structure. This week, I’m planning to spray myself with glitter, wear a gold lame zip-up and draw a giant teal star around one eye.

Yesterday my partner asked me whether my aesthetic theatrics might not be sending the wrong message by drawing attention away from my texts and onto my person.

He said, “Aren’t you making it about you instead of about the writing?”

Why do I wear makeup to readings?

Maybe it’s because when I was five years old, I wanted to be a rockstar, and a part of me still wants that. Or at least wants writers to rock. I like costumes, and I like finding excuses to don them.

But I also think my cultivation of a distinctive reading persona is connected with my project as a writer. In all my creative output, I am interested in disruption, particularly of narratives and norms related to sexuality and gender. I am additionally interested in the relationship between artifice and surface — particularly shocking, garish, grotesque or glamorous surfaces —  and interiority, intellectual and emotional complexity and even startling honesty. I am interested in the malleability of identity and the unreliability, perhaps nonexistence of “the self.” Increasingly, I find art most provocative when it explores tensions — for instance, the tension of “profane” or “perverse” subjects rendered in gorgeously rhythmic or lyrical prose. I enjoy the disjuncture between my glammed-out personal presentation, and the somewhat mundane and/or formal environments in which I read — dive bars, galleries, coffee shops, etc. I’m not certain where I am headed w/ all this, but I am having a great time.

25 thoughts on “Why I Wear Makeup to Readings

  1. with respect to your partner, i think that’s silly — however you dress, you will be creating perceptions that are more about you than your work. that’s part of why people *go* to readings — to get an impression of the author.

    i wear makeup to readings, too.

    also, as evidenced by pics on your blog, you look awesome in makeup. ;)

    1. “however you dress, you will be creating perceptions that are more about you than your work.”

      This is absolutely true, but to be fair to him, the makeup and hair I’ve been donning is extreme and admittedly designed to provoke.

    1. Thanks… I shit myself a little when I saw Elizabeth Ellen and Barry Graham had been added last minute and the time limit had gone from five minutes to four.

      For some inexplicable reason, I had previously decided I was intimidated by Elizabeth — maybe it was her uber hot Facebook photo — which was very silly, b/c we have since communicated and she seems totally nice.

    1. Oh God, I’m totally meek and people-pleasing and anti-confrontational and often rule-abiding in person.

      I think that’s part of why I’m so inclined toward irreverence and transgression in writing.

      I think it’s part of the costumey-thing too. I’ll totally be at home in the crazy makeup all, “I’ma be badass,” then show up and hide in the corner until it’s time to go up to read.

      …Thankfully, once I actually start reading, I’m not one of those painfully awkward readers, I think b/c I did a lot of theater in middle school-high school (although reading one’s own words is clearly scarier).

  2. Tim,

    If you really are wearing that outfit, my existence as one of the Quickies! hostesses will be complete.

    I will wear sequins in solidarity.

    Oh, and if you’re not allowed to plug the reading, I will:

    ( http://quickieschicago.blogspot.com/ )

    Tuesday, January 12
    The Innertown Pub


    Tim Jones-Yelvington
    Robyn Pennacchyia
    Jessi Lee Gaylord
    Goldie Goldbloom
    Byron Flitsch
    Brandon Will
    Elizabeth Ellen
    and Barry Graham

    and a new four-minute time limit!

    1. That’s awesome. I was thinking that the five-minute rule was too long, honestly. Most readers I’ve seen there finish easily in under four minutes, then stand around drinking a beer.

      1. I finished in three minutes and 41 seconds, or at least that’s how it timed out the three times I practiced it on the bus with a stop watch.

        The crowd was considerable, as big as it was for their fundraiser earlier this fall. I totally had a blast.

  3. I once did a long one-person reading dressed top to bottom all in tight white while standing amidst a collection of life-size Grecian plaster statues, from behind the audience. I had been standing there the entire time that they filtered in and in an orderly manner faced themselves toward the front of the room.

    It freaked them for one because they had to figure out where the voice was coming from. They all turned around, and then they had to realize that I had been in plain sight the entire time. It was good fun.

    Don’t ask why, just go freak the scene and have a good time. Enjoy performance and send pics so that I can pretend to look like the infamous you.

  4. Yeah, Tim. If we didn’t want the person, we wouldn’t go to readings. (We’ve got plenty of ‘work’ lining our bookshelves.) Post pictures after your reading tomorrow, please.

  5. tim, i totally wish we were going to be getting ready together tomorrow night for this reading. maybe i’ll wear my gold lame bikini top to match you! haha. i wish i had the nerve. i’ll be the one hiding in the corner until after i read, then i’ll be fine. i have a feeling your reading will be the highlight!! i’ll have to make sure not to follow you. ;)

  6. Great post, Tim, sorry I’m coming to it so late. I’m glad the reading went great, and no surprise that you rocked. This resonated with me:

    “I am interested in the malleability of identity …”

    You go.

  7. In my opinion, readings are rarely performative enough. Reading aloud for an audience is a performance whether the reader acknowledges it or not.

    I prefer that they acknowledge it. And that they practice. Beyond that, the sky’s the limit.

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