Reflecting Allowed

Maha Bali’s blog about education

Vanity and the Keynote #oer17

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Blame it on Sheila and Lorna and add Donna. They encouraged me to go ahead with this post after a fun discussion about clothes (inspired by my metaphor of an Egyptian expression on spoiling trousers when trying to fix the shirt – Lorna’s post, Sheila’s post).

I am one of the least vain people I know. I was never notably pretty and for some reason this never bothered me at all. I always knew, then, that people were attracted to my personality (so humble!) which you need to spend a few minutes with me to discover (not long!)

I don’t wear makeup. Like, I spent maybe 5 years not wearing ANY makeup (except eye pencil) and had to buy some recently for a wedding – i had forgotten what color lipstick I used to wear. Really. I wasn’t sure if I used to wear a pink shade or a dark red shade. Yes. I only used to keep one tube of lipstick and it would last like, a year or more, coz I don’t wear makeup. I actually uhh forgot to put makeup on at my cousin’s wedding when my daughter was around 2 years old. This is pretty weird, most people will think, because I don’t have a great complexion, so not wearing makeup at a wedding (usually at night in a hotel ballroom) is…ridiculous… But soooo me 🙂

I like wearing simple clothes. I like wearing nice clothes, and occasionally I will buy something fancy…but I don’t go all out on the clothes. I am perfectly happy in a white shirt and nice jeans (I usually have nice jeans with embroidery on them as well as several plain pairs). I love floral prints and nice materials but I like being comfortable most. I love shoes, but I love them as in I love comfortable shoes from Clarks and Skechers and Timberlands and Geox. I don’t wear high heels. Like, almost ever. I’m tall enough as it is (170cm). And why would I want to hurt my feet again?

Anyway. So what to wear for the keynote? Because you know, it’s livestreamed and stuff. Of course, most of the time while virtually Connecting I am wearing PJs and a headscarf, so uhh most of my YouTube presence is… Really underdressed. A few recent sessions I was wearing a hoodie. 

I’m not very photogenic, and I hate having my picture taken . That Twitter profile photo was taken JUST for that purpose. And it’s airbrushed. My complexion ain’t that smooth. 

So… Ignoring my face (do I pack lipstick? I know i can’t take a laptop, so the big L question is lipstick now).

Do i buy new clothes for the keynote? No one much has seen me below the shoulders, so really, they have not seen my old clothes, right? So no new clothes

Next question do I:

  1. Wear a floral shirt and a plain headscarf… Or
  2. A plain shirt and a floral headscarf?

 Ha. You weren’t expecting that! Because you don’t wear a headscarf 🙂

At #altc I wore black jeans and a nice white shirt and sneakers (and a patterned headscarf). I don’t think I will wear jeans and sneakers but I still wanna be comfortable. 

I looked at my wardrobe and wondered if the way I dress could exoticize me more or less. And what I wanted. I will possibly be the only headscarved person in the room, though I know for sure not the only Arab, Muslim or African. So that’s good to know. 

Do I wear my headscarf back like my profile photo which looks nicer but can occasionally slide backward, or do I wear it covering my neck like I do on hangouts which is slightly more comfortable/stable but I don’t do it much anymore coz it takes ever so slightly more work to get right? (and looks slightly less nice).

Funnily my mom recommended a particular top (it’s a dress that i wear as a tunic) and I said “but Jim Groom saw that one in Rome last year!” hahaha

I need a huge bag with me at the conference coz i am carrying loads of gifts, including two surprise rewards for ppl in the audience who help me with a guess and a story (stay tuned), and most people who matter aren’t at the same hotel. So..that.

And shoes! I settled on the shoes. They’re comfy but not sneakers. Will take a photo of em just for Donna!

Anyone have stories to share about dressup decisions for keynotes? I think Laura Czerniewicz lost her luggage on her way to Keynote ALTC in 2015.

Do men think about these things? I remember Sean and Jesse in DPL Cairo asked whether to be more or less formal, whether or not to show tattoos.

Do women who keynote a lot continue to think about it?

4 Comments

  1. Maha wear what you are comfortable in – it’s what you are going to say that will be most important, that’s what we’ll all remember. I have to confess to having similar anxieties- and I think some men do too. Remind me to tell you about my colleagues son’s hunt for the perfect pair of trousers for his wedding! I always wear shoes that make me smile, that way if I look down and see them when I look up again I will be smiling.

  2. > I think some men do too.

    Ah but for male academics looking like you have been sleeping in your clothes is a sign you are a serious academic. Some food stains marks you out as a world leader.

    • Lol. Been trying to explain to my mom that wrinkled or stained clothes are a sign i am a career mom, but she won’t have it

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