A new way to understand why people don’t understand you

Melissa told me about a new company that makes makeup in extra small sizes to fit in a purse. Most company ideas are terrible, so when I hear about a new company I start thinking about why it’s terrible.

I tell her there’s no barrier to entry. A barrier to entry  is what keeps another, bigger company from doing the same thing. For example, I could start a company that sells black t-shirts with green trim because I’ve never seen those.

Let’s just pretend, for one minute, that people might want to buy that shirt. Let’s say I got people all excited about it. Well, then there are about 100,000 other companies better positioned than I am to manufacture and sell those t-shirts. (Gap, Target, Walmart, etc.)

So I told Melissa any company could make small sizes of makeup. So if the company is actually addressing a huge need, there are a million other companies that can address that need. (Estee Lauder, MAC, NARS… you get the idea.)

Then Stowaway sent me product samples. And I love them. The first thing I love is that they sent me five things: blush, lipstick, eye liner, concealer and mascara. Because having little samples that fit nicely everywhere made me realize I don’t need to carry around so much makeup.

I also love that everything is small. Why do I have such huge cases of makeup? I never use them up and they take up too much space. I’m sold on Stowaway.

I told Melissa I loved the makeup. She was smug, of course. I am not as fast to be open minded as she is. I am always too quick to want to say something is stupid. Because then I don’t have to think about it. I don’t have to reorganize how things line up in my brain.

It’s exhausting to have to process information that challenges the notions I already have. I am great at coming up with a million points of denial, a million logical arguments for why I do not need to process new information.

I think I used to be this way about homeschooling. The first homeschool family I met, years before I started homeschooling, I wrote off as too weird and lacking ambition and no point trying to be friends. Then the mom turned out to be a great support system for me when I took my kids out of school.

Sometimes I forget how anyone could think homeschooling is not right for them. But then I have moments, like when I said no to Stowaway, and I remember how hard it can be to accept a new idea.

26 replies
  1. Cáit
    Cáit says:

    So many people are the opposite of Snap critical evaluations. In my homeschooling book club I find that so many of the moms are like “it’s written in a book so it must be true.”
    I am currently facing a major personality type challenge. Baby naming. I am an INFJ so I think how a name’s meaning changes over time and history and the spiritual meaning of that change to me in this moment. I consider all the layers of meaning. My husband is an ISTJ so he just wants it to be “normal.” My mom
    Is an ENFP so she just names people she likes and suggests those names. It’s really hard between me and my husband..

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      Oh, I’m so happy that you mention this because I research this stuff obsessively. What you name your kid actually has a lot of influence on the kid. Like, abnormal names are more likely to lead to abnormal lives. People who have a Z in their name are more likely to marry someone with Z in their name. And here’s an amazing one: professional baseball players whose names begin with K are more likely to strike out.

      My favorite thing is that it’s so on-trend to name kids gender-neutral names, because a gendered name is so loaded — for anyone. Mark Zuckerberg and his wife named their daughter Max (short for Maxine). I like that.

      There are a lot of reasons why I would change my kids’ names. For one thing, they are unpronounceable. But I like that they are so weird that they are gender neutral. I think that when our kids have kids, the old people will have gender-specific names.


      • Desirae
        Desirae says:

        Honestly, reading this makes me feel like I’m being a Typical Millennial about it, but there is no way my kids will ever have gendered names, especially if they’re girls – it seems awful to say but I would love it if no one reading their resume knew at first glance if it came from a man or a woman when they’re grown up.

        But also, glad that I seem to be on trend and not totally off-base on this, haha.

        • YesMyKidsAreSocialized
          YesMyKidsAreSocialized says:

          I love baby name discussions! ♥

          I have three girls!! Two of them were given masculine middle names. Savannah Peyton, and Alyssa Jordan. If they choose to, they can easily use their middle names on resumes if it becomes necessary to hide their gender. I guess my middle daughter will have to use initials if that is an issue in the future. Although, I’m banking on there being a lot more hiring managers that are like my husband. He really goes out of his way to recruit women into his very male dominated industry.

      • Bostonian
        Bostonian says:

        The overwhelming majority of girls born today have gendered names. The top six girls’ names for 2015 all end in a: Emma, Olivia, Sophia, Ava, Isabella, Mia.

        Some fancy rich folks are happy to burden their kids with a name like Maxima (which she will hear is a plural about 2,000 times in her life, and a cheap car 10,000 times), but it’s her last name that matters more. Stupid first name plus famous last name is practically a formula. I’m talking to you, Dweezil.

        Most middle-class people avoid weird names because they tend to mark you more clearly culturally. If your name is Azalee, everybody knows you’re from Utah. And I feel a little bad for that boy named Armani, because we are all biting back asking his sister’s name. I think kids are going to have enough problems without us laying that noise on them.

        The non-gendered trend is fairly narrow. Most of the names that were ambivalent a few decades ago (Harper, Evelyn, Avery, Aubrey, Addison, etc…) are almost never given to boys anymore. Almost nobody gives boys names that are gender-ambiguous. Noah, Liam, Mason, Jacob, William, Ethan, James… the top names are all unambiguously masculine. So going forward anybody with a gender-ambiguous name will be assumed to be female.

        When I named my kids I had three criteria: people should typically know how to spell the name, it should have analogues in other languages, and it shouldn’t be so common that there will be multiple kids with the same name in their classes.

        • Isabelle
          Isabelle says:

          It is a really good point that “neutral” names get shifted to being “girl” names, and “boy” names that become “neutral” are then on the way to becoming only “girl” names. (Ashley, anyone?)

          • Leonie
            Leonie says:

            This is so true.

            Gender neutral names are given to girls 99% of the time, so if you’re trying to mask gender that seems like a very inefficient way to go about it.

            Maybe this would have worked in the 20th century before the internet, but now everyone is on Linked-In (or whatever the next site is) and it’s increasingly common to have a personal webpage for your work – and your photo. You can name your daughter John or Mathew, but unless she decides to live as a man, it won’t help her hide her gender.

            Plus, why would you want to? I think that’s the biggest problem with this line of thinking. She won’t be able to pretend to be a man at work, so why try to hide her gender in her name?

            (Note, I’m all for naming your child whatever name you like, but it’s the reasoning that having a masculine name will somehow be a benefit that I take issue with.)

        • Pat Sommer
          Pat Sommer says:

          Same baby naming criteria plus one: had to know at least two people by that name otherwise it would be too ‘named after’ in my mind. There went a few great names.

          The method was to draw up list of 20 each parent then take turns crossing off each other’s list till we had 6 finalists. 48hrs after birth mutually matched her looks to a name.

          I picked the middle name in 5min just to make the whole roll off the tongue. Should’a given more thought because family turned it into a hillbilly name

      • Jessica from Down Under
        Jessica from Down Under says:

        I read somewhere that ‘Annes’ usually have a calm and gentle personality and ‘Sophies’ usually have a bit of a wild personality.

        Our first kids (twins) were born overseas in a country where they would not allow names foreign to that country to be first on the birth certificate. So the twins got a first name native to that country, and then we just kept going with the rest of our kids because I didn’t want them to be lop-sided. Then we only ever called all of them by their middle names because they were the names we really wanted to call them. Some people think we are being difficult, but it’s just the way life happened to us at that time.

        I do think it’s cool that my kids are the only ones in the world with their names (I know for sure).

        I have a fairly conventional first name and middle name, but a rare surname, so I was surprised to find another person of the exact same (3) name(s) about 15 years ago. It was really weird, too, how many similarities there were between us eg. she was a few years younger than me and she was studying the same language at university that I had studied and was planning to enter the same career that I was already in! I always wondered if it was having the same name that made other aspects of our life follow a similar pattern…

    • Erin Wetzel
      Erin Wetzel says:

      My husband (Matt) hates that his name is so common, so it’s important to him that our kids don’t have obnoxiously common names.

      The thing people always ask me about my name (Erin) is how to spell it, even if they don’t need to spell it. I curse all the parents who named their daughters Erinn or Errin or Aaron (seriously what?!?!). So I wanted something that would be common enough that the spelling would be obvious.

      Our baby-naming tendencies are definitely reactionary, not only to our own experiences with our names, but also the trends we see around us.

      If someone close to us stole one of our favorite names, we would not use it. But it took FOREVER to agree on names we like. So we don’t tell our list to anyone. Not even family.

  2. ellen
    ellen says:

    i love this post and i love tiny makeup, i will have to try this stuff. tiny makeup is perfect for when you go dancing, or when you’re with someone and you don’t want them to know you wear makeup. the tinier the better, if it can fit in your bra that’s ideal. it’s hard to find tiny mascara. it is hard to be open minded (i would know) in an office. it’s depressing, no one wants to hear any ideas or anything at all. they want to stay stuck and do things as usual. major bummer.

  3. Jim Grey
    Jim Grey says:

    Does quality overcome the lack of barrier to entry? That is, if the makeup is truly great, would it not work for other companies to follow suit with smaller versions of their lesser makeup?

  4. Deidre
    Deidre says:

    When I saw the title, it matched so closely to how I feel today… I feel really misunderstood by my best friend (seen from both rolling of her eyes as well as statements like “why would you think, do, believe that” or even worse “surely you don’t think…” when I truly DO. But for other reasons I love her dearly. Do I confront, explain or just shut up like I always do?

  5. Mark W.
    Mark W. says:

    I love your honesty. I think fitting in is good but knowing yourself is even better. Homeschooling was largely foreign to me before reading this blog. And I was schooled myself so this blog has helped to unschool me.
    As far as Stowaway is concerned, I’d be interested in the market research that led them to forge ahead. It seems to me to be a niche market. Very brand centric. I went to their web page. I like to read the About pages. The company was founded by two women who saw and wanted to fulfill a need for the product. The last sentence is – “They joke that they are the yin to each other’s yang and came together to offer smart beauty solutions to women just like them.” Yin to each other’s yang seems to me to describe you and Melissa.

  6. Karmine
    Karmine says:

    When I started experimenting with online content back in 2011 I used different profile photos and names and different perspectives so I could gauge people’s reactions. Those experiments concluded in 2013.

    My more “masculine” profile photo garnered no negative criticism, whatsoever. At the time, I was also participating heavily on a Q&A forum (which I won’t name) and my answers received little to no backlash or negative reaction. Just upvotes and support, for the most part, because my sex was ambiguous.

    When I used a more feminine yet “dolled-up” profile photo, a photo which showed obvious effort being placed on grooming and appearance, the backlash was palpable. People felt much more comfortable and inclined to mention how I looked and whether they liked it or not. Men were more forward and women were more disdainful. The fake compliments were the most obvious and would always come from women. My content received little to no acknowledgment either way, except from men I worked with in real life who knew who I was.

    Give everyone every opportunity to show you their best and worst sides and see what happens. That’s the best way to gauge why you’re being misunderstood.

  7. Emma
    Emma says:

    I have no background in anything to do with retail or product development, so I preemptively acknowledge I may be as wrong as can be.

    I went to the Stowaway website to check things out.
    I understand that the point of these products is the compact size and the likelihood of being able to finish the product before it expires and gives you facial cooties, but the pricing theory faff gives me pause:

    They say one of their lipsticks (for example) is half the size of a standard lipstick, and therefore half the price.
    From the “Our Philosophy’ page:

    “Everyone else manufactures makeup to sell at the highest markup, even if it isn’t convenient for you.
    We’ve cut out the middleman.”

    If they have cut out the middleman, shouldn’t it be less than half the price?

    Also, half size refers to the physical size of the final packaged product – it doesn’t necessarily mean that the volume or weight of the product is half of a standard product. Perhaps the Stowaway product is actually less than half of a standard serving, thus perhaps effectively more expensive. I know ‘standard’ sizes can vary quite a bit, as of course can pricing, so it’s hard to compare with any precision.

    As I said, this is not my field at all, but as an ordinary consumer it irks me that they use it as a featured selling point.

    • jessica
      jessica says:

      The makeup industry is brutal. When I read this article, I thought ‘wait a minute, couldn’t I just walk around Bloomingdales be handed the mini samples’. I don’t really need mini-sizes, but I get the appeal.

      Their copy for selling is meant to make a point that the customer is receiving added value at no cost (no hinderance on quality). It’s to convince you that their product is worth buying, because it is the same as the big guys (the market they are in).
      At their prices, they are competing with the luxury makeup industry. If it was a sub-par product, also at half the price, no one would bat an eye because who really wants to buy that? They aren’t trying to compete with the dollar store.

      • Karelys
        Karelys says:

        Can I tell you something funny?

        Your comment sold me more than any other post re Stowaway that I’ve seen in any other blog and this one.

        I’m all about minimalism. And traveling light. I’m going to give them a try.

  8. Renee
    Renee says:

    Great post (and interesting discussion). My husband and I purposely avoided gender neutral names. I wanted people to hear our kids’ names and know if our children were male or female. Our oldest is 20, and I wouldn’t change that decision. We did, however, give all of our children unusual names. I feel like the whole point of a name is to differentiate one person from the next, so it seemed silly to give them names that were popular. We have an Apollo and Enoch and Mordecai, to name a few.

Comments are closed.