I Peer Into: Molly, Writer
Molly is a bright, lively, idiosyncratic character whose creativity and uniqueness perpetually amazes me. She's one of those humans that makes you wish you could capture their souls into a tiny locket and keep it tight to you forever.
Molly holds an MFA in Creative Writing, and her work has appeared at Bustle, McSweeny's, and most recently Dilettante Army (amongst many other places). She has an often humorous, but touching and moving quality in her writing, and her unique, fresh view of the world provides one with a much needed respite from the mundane. Never afraid to lend her voice on women's issues, and vocal about her past struggles dealing with ideals of beauty, I was therefore eager to interview Molly for this third installment of the I Peer Into series.
I hope you enjoy this interview as much as I did.
How do you define beauty?
I feel like it’s one of those things that’s impossible not to think about in relationship to a beauty standard or what is considered conventionally to be beautiful. At the same time I think of beauty in the most broad sense, as kind of like experience of pleasure and joy in art. So I’m someone who uses that word a lot to talk about people, places, experiences, a beautiful afternoon…I think there’s a huge context of seeing art and life as beautiful. In the concept of the physical, human person beauty, I think the word conflict is a perfect one because I feel a lot of conflict about it: knowing what the standards are, wanting very much not to be controlled or defined by them and yet finding myself still holding myself up to that.
What kind of standards?
Well, from body stuff, like standards of thinness, that’s something I struggled with at different points, and also like skin—soft, blemish free—you know, a symmetrical face, all that kind of stuff that’s so hard not to put yourself in comparison with those standards, which are all moving targets too.
And do you try to fight that in any ways?
Yeah I mean I wish I could be someone who didn’t care at all. I wish I didn’t give a fuck, that I didn’t look at myself in the mirror, that I could get up and put on a sack and feel great all day. And maybe I’ll get there someday but I’m pretty far from that. I do care! And I think that’s more of the battle: how much I care and hating how much I care.
I got into the habit a few years ago of reading body-positivity blogs and tumblrs, and that’s really good to radically expand your idea of what’s beautiful. And I think there’s a lot of great conversations in these spaces.
I think there are a lot of conversations about why are we even trying to achieve a standard of beauty at all. I think they really expand how people can see themselves as beautiful, and saying like, fuck convention, and fuck your rigid narrow stereotypes of what’s beautiful.
I think, personally, I do care what I look like but I also like to look different. I like wearing weird clothes and different vintage stuff, but I would be lying to myself if those are a function of me not caring, like that’s still curated, I’m still thinking about an aesthetic.
Do you think of yourself as beautiful?
Oh man (laughs). Like, sometimes. There are times when I definitely really dislike myself and think that I am ugly and it bothers me and there are times when I feel really great about how I look and how I’m moving through the world, and I do think that the times that I feel best are the times where I’m not thinking about it. Like when I’m so intellectually engaged in something, or socially engaged in something that it fully recedes onto the back-burner, and I wish that could be more of the time. Maybe that’s more of a goal, to have it so secondary or tertiary to what I’m thinking about or engaged in that it doesn’t matter.
What’s your favorite feature?
My Braiiiiiiin. I think that uh, physically, I really like thinking about what your body can do, etc. So like in that way I like my legs because they’re strong and I love to dance and run. I think I’m less critical or celebratory than I used to be about specific features. I think especially when I was struggling with eating issues more seriously then I would think really more specifically about “what’s my neck look like?” “what’s the length of my neck?” “How do my bones look right here?” but I don’t think about those much anymore. I also like my butt. My butt’s been a revolution because I used to think it was too big but now I like it.
Do you think that’s in part because of a cultural shift concerning butts?
I think it has something to do with a cultural shift and just becoming sexual. I think as a very skinny teen wanting to be even more skinnier I really hated anything that was curvy or bigger and now I’m kind of realizing people like it (laughs).
How often do you wear makeup?
Pretty much every day. Like every weekday at this point. And if I’m really not doing anything on the weekend then maybe not, but pretty regularly. My relationship to makeup is especially conflicted because I don’t like wearing it but I find it very hard to stop. I think it’s really cool, and I love watching other people do things with makeup, but for me, it’s not something that’s very exciting and fun, except occasionally when I’m going out.
I have this very conflicted relationship with [makeup] because I don’t like that I wear it everyday, but I also do it because I feel self-conscious about the way my skin looks, so it’s probably going to be a back and forth for a long time.
I think my big thing about beauty products is that I feel really illiterate about it and at the same time highly skeptical. I don’t know what to trust, I don’t want to spend very much money, but I’d be willing to spend more money if I knew I was doing it for the right reasons. This thing [points to Benzoyl Peroxide] my dermatologist said it would be amazing but I can’t tell if it’s helping.
How different do you feel when you have makeup on?
It’s become something that’s kind of like, that’s when I’m ready to get out in the world. And I do wish it wasn’t the case, but it does feel like a barrier.
When do you think that started to be the case?
It’s been a long time. Probably in high school I started wearing it every day. Again not very much, just more to cover acne pretty much. But more than 10 years now.
What do you use the coconut oil for?
I think the coconut oil has been helping my skin because it looks better now than it has been in a few weeks. I use it for washing [my face] and then rinse very lightly with a washcloth. I decided to try it out and this one seemed like the most inexpensive. But now I only use a little dab of it because I’m scared that it can make me break out, so I’m mixing it with what I think is a pretty gentle cleanser. I definitely think it’s helped with the dryness, though I’m still trying to figure out how much to use to not make me break out.
Do you enjoy a skincare regimen more than makeup?
No, I don’t enjoy it that much. Again I wish I could just get up wash my face and not think of it. Sometimes I do, but more often it’s jus something that I’m getting through.
Do you think our beauty rituals go against feminism?
I definitely think about that.
I think that feminism(s), should be about inclusivity and each person and each woman and each gender-non-conforming person finding an expression of self and a way to move through the world that feels authentic and individual. That means really different things for really different people.
If anything, for me—whether it’s the family I grew up in or my high school friends— I sometimes felt more negative pressure from feminists who were like “ooh don’t wear makeup, don’t shave your legs.” Those kind of voices, being like “don’t sell out!” have sometimes made me feel more pressure and judgment, whereas I haven’t felt other voices directly tell me “oh you aren’t conforming enough.” I never feel direct pressure to wear more makeup. There’s a ton of implicit pressure, but from people in my life I’ve heard more voices being like “oh why are you putting in so much time shaving your legs?” and those voices more directly have an effect on me and that doesn’t feel good either. That much more chips away at my sense of independence.
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