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Column: Low maintenance movement thrives

*She's not your average girl from the video. The phrase "blow-dry" is not in her vocabulary. She doesn't go tanning. Her track pants are her second skin. And although she's familiar with the salad-and-water diet, it's because she feeds that stuff to her pet rabbit.

She's part of a growing trend at Duke, and a piece of the tribe labeled Low Maintenance. These girls are more concerned with getting their work done than their nails done. They dance to the Ramones like no one's watching, even at a party full of people. They wear the same jeans all week.

"Seriously," sighs the girl, pulling on her Pumas. "The BC walkway is not a runway, and my art history class is hardly Vogue headquarters. But every time I walk into East Duke, these girls stare like I'm another species." I shrug; they're probably jealous - she's gorgeous.

"Oh please," she's flippant, and flipping her hair into a knot. "Sometimes I let those stupid girls with their stupid handbags get to me, and it actually sucks." Bashfully, I cover my Coach bag with a sweatshirt and head out the door.

But that wasn't the last I heard from the Low Maintenance movement. Later at the Loop, a friend in faded jeans and an ancient prep school tee dished about her weekend. She'd gone to a date function with a guy friend, who once said to her, "I get so stressed out around pretty girls; I just can't talk to them" before thanking her for being comfortable company. She didn't say, "You're welcome."

But that weekend at the party, she decided to dress up. Her friends ironed her hair. She found some foundation. I scored her a pair of stilettos. And when the guy showed up at her door, he was totally speechless.

"I wasn't a different person!" this girl laughs between bites of barbecue chicken. "I just put on some eyeliner! And all of a sudden, he was like a complete idiot!"

We both crack up. I tell her she's one of the pretty people now. "Well of course I'm pretty!" she concedes. "If I weren't, I'd be too insecure to wear my stupid sweatpants every day. But I'd rather be known for who I am than what I wear. It's a choice."

So here's a question: Does being low-maintenance about your appearance make you low-maintenance about your relationships, too? "Umm," smiles a sorority pledge, in cute glasses and scuffed sneakers. "Just because I don't own Stila's spring palate doesn't mean I'm easy to please."

As expected, it seems everyone wants the same things out of a relationship - respect, connection, and ample excuses to lock bedroom doors.

That night I called my best friend, a Duke grad who lives in L.A, and asked him about the maintenance issue. He laughed at me. "The whole point of being low maintenance is to not care what anyone thinks!" he yelled into his cell. "So how can you even pose that question?" After teasing me mercilessly, he came clean. "Look," he said, "This is such a cheesy answer, but most of us dig girls who are real and true to themselves. If you love to dress up, great. But you can always tell when a girl dresses for other people. And if someone's trying too hard, then really it means they're easy."

The next morning, my mom emailed me a quote from Coco Chanel: "To disguise oneself is charming. To have oneself disguised is sad." I hit print on my laptop, pulled on my favorite sweatpants and headed to art history class, not caring if Chanel (or anyone else) would approve.

Faran Krentcil is a Trinity senior and senior editor of Recess.


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