Author Zadie Smith has a way with words, even when she’s using them to implement rules in her home.
“I saw that she had just started spending a lot of time looking in mirrors,” she said. “It was infuriating me. I decided to spontaneously decide on a principle: that if it takes longer than 15 minutes, don’t do it.”
The rule came into effect when Smith noticed the disparities between the amount of time it took her son and daughter to get out of the house in the morning.
“I explained it to her in these terms: you are wasting time, your brother is not going to waste any time doing this,” she said. “Every day of his life he will put a shirt on, he’s out the door and he doesn’t give a shit if you waste an hour and a half doing your makeup.”
Smith went on to say that her daughter saw the limit as a practical time-saving method, so Smith didn’t have to give her “a big lecture on female beauty.” But she cited trends such as contouring as being a waste of time. “She sees me and how I get dressed and how long it takes.”
Smith, who herself typically appears in minimal makeup, has explored the relationship women have with themselves in her work, as well. In her book “On Beauty,” she writes about the struggle of shielding daughters from the inevitable self-esteem struggles associated with being a woman.
“Kiki had dreaded having girls: she knew she wouldn’t be able to protect them from self-disgust,” she wrote. “To that end she had tried banning television in the early years, and never had a lipstick or a woman’s magazine crossed the threshold of the Belsey home to Kiki’s knowledge, but these and other precautionary measures had made no difference. It was in the air, or so it seemed to Kiki, this hatred of women and their bodies.”
Considering that Smith’s daughter is only 7 years old, their interaction speaks volumes about how early in life women begin to feel pressure to look a certain way. Having said that, the 15-minute mirror time limit is something we all could stand to implement in our own lives, whether we’re 7 or 70.