The waking dawn can be messy, emotional and hectic; there’s nothing glamorous about it for women. Sometimes you’re stumbling through a dark kitchen trying to get a much-needed cup of coffee before rushing your kids out the door. Or maybe you’re just sitting motionless in your bed dreading the day ahead of you.
In the age of social media, where perfectly-produced lives are presented all over the internet, those raw, sometimes depressing, or even downright embarrassing moments are often lost.
But now, women in the Twin Cities are showing the power of opening themselves up during a vulnerable time of day. Two creative souls – St. Paul writer Brittany Chaffee, 28, and Minneapolis photographer Dave Puente, 32 – have met with nearly 40 women in the past year to document their routines right after they wake up.
“The most human aspects are often not showcased,” Chaffee said, referring to the stylized photos we often see on social media.
The duo’s Instagram page and book-in-the-making, “The Wild Morning,” was inspired by a curious question: What is it really like to be a woman in these early hours? Chaffee and Puente thought it could be valuable for other women to see that they’re not alone in their struggles.
“I had random questions about people,” Puente said. “What are you like at 6 a.m.? Be honest, do you eat leftover pizza?”
Local media figures, ordinary women featured
From teens to the elderly, women of all different backgrounds allowed Chaffee and Puente into their homes right after waking up – including local media figures like Falen Bonsett-Lambert from KDWB, Jana Shortal of KARE 11, Emily Engberg of “Twin Cities Live” and author/blogger Nora McInerny.
But more often than not, the two found the women through social media or referrals. Liz Welle, a 26-year-old Minneapolis resident featured, said there’s a “uniting invisible sisterhood” in the process of all women coming into themselves in the waking hours.
“I know this sounds weird but it's like, ‘Oh wow. She wakes up in a dark bed with her hair in a messy bun just like me,” said Welle, a social media marketer and a popular name in the local Twitterverse.
Puente and Chaffee told each participant to not put on make-up, and to just go about their mundane morning routines while they photographed and casually conversed with them. Some of the women were first reluctant, and felt unworthy of being in the book.
Chaffee said some participants would say things like, “Why me? I’m super boring.” But the two would tell them there’s “extraordinary in the ordinary.”
“I am not my most confident without at least my eyebrows filled in and some concealer helping out my extremely pore-filled skin,” Welle said of the effect of being interviewed right after waking up. "You haven't yet ‘turned on’ for the day. Beyonce's ‘I woke up like this' lyric resonates for a reason."
Welle herself is also a firm believer in being honest and candid on her own social media accounts.
“Because then we're not all contributing to other women's depression by posting this highlight reel of our best selves, unknowingly making other women think they're not enough,” Welle said. “We're all in this together.”
A gratifying experience for the women, and the writers
In its entirety, Chaffee said the mini movement has built a community of women excited to learn and understand other women, instead of comparing themselves. Puente said they hear a lot of people telling them they see themselves in the other women photographed.
“They say things like ‘Oh hey, I sit on the floor, in front of the mirror, surrounded by my hair tools too,’” Puente said. “It's these little commonalities with these fleeting moments that seem to be where extraordinary things are happening with our viewers.”
Some of the people they met with told them hadn’t opened up about their selves in ages, and said the process was very rewarding. But it wasn’t gratifying for only the women.
“I feel this experience has inspired me under my own roof, to see the extraordinary, the grit and glamour, in my wife,” Puente said. “Being around incredible women has made me a better man.”
On a personal level, Chaffee was also positively affected by the nearly 40 women they talked to: “It feels better and safer seeing other women like this,” she said. “I’ve never felt this calm in my life.”