On Makeup

rabbitwrite.com has declared this No Makeup Week, and I’m hurling in my two cents:

Because I dropped out of school after 5th grade, I dodged a lot of cosmetic peer pressure. But at 14, I asked my mother for makeup. She suggested an Almay pressed powder and clear mascara. Both were practically invisible, but I believed everyone at church noticed the change. I still have the Almay compact, now filled with guitar picks.

Mascara was initially disappointing; it gave my lashes color, but made my eyes seem smaller and less blue. I’m not wearing it in most of my teenage photos, not even for holidays or weddings.

In 2002 or 2003, many girls wore shimmery, pale eyeliner. I had a chubby pink eyeliner pencil; my best friend Greyloon used white, and her little sister wore pale yellow.

I was 15 when I first thought I NEEDED makeup; I was going to see Aardvark, the man of my dreams. That night, the 6’3″ Aardvark told me his weight was “one hundred twenty-something.” I couldn’t bear weighing more than a full-grown man, so I started eating less and weighing myself six times a day. Luckily, he kicked me to the curb before I became truly anorexic. Hellooooo, silver lining!

(Years later, Grackle heard this story and said “Full grown man?! He was 17 and underweight!”)

Where was I? Ah yes, makeup.

I discovered lipstick in 2004 when my first college boyfriend (“Crumble”) bragged that his lips were rosier than mine. He was right:

Afraid to be out-prettied by my boyfriend (why was I still comparing myself to guys?), I bought two lipsticks. One was a flop, the other was “Flower Child” from Jane. I still have a smidgen, and it’s still the best shade I’ve found.

One summer at a girls’ camp, I noticed that most girls’ eyebrows are only half visible from across a room. Eyebrow pencil soon followed.

This is my naked face:

You could click to enlarge, but don’t feel obligated.

I took about fifty shots, and every one made my heart sink. I haven’t quite come to terms with the grand canyon between who I am inside and what the world sees.

I wear makeup half the time to feel somewhat prettier and touch up my skin. I deliberately DON’T wear makeup half the time, because I don’t want anyone to mistake the paint job for my real face and start seeing my unadorned self as “not good enough.”

On makeup-wearing days, I use mascara and brow pencil to make my brows/lashes more obvious, and some combination of powder/tinted moisturizer/concealer to hide blemishes and tone down my pinkish skin. To go whole hog, I might use brown eyeshadow as eyeliner and wear lip color. Haven’t experimented with blush yet, and foundation looks too tricky for me.

On one hand, I resent seeing women pushed to wear makeup or doll themselves up for public consumption.

On the OTHER hand… I predict that human beings will ALWAYS care about appearances to some degree. As long as humans are judging each other by looks, I’m glad to live in a time and place where it’s socially acceptable to alter one’s appearance in dozens of ways.

I’m reminded of chapter 10 in Louisa May Alcott’s An Old Fashioned Girl, in which Tom is disgusted to learn that his fiance “paints” — golly, what do you bet he’ll fall for the demure, self-effacing Old Fashioned Girl instead? How lucky that she’s “fresh-faced” and “pretty” with “pretty brown curls!”After all, if she weren’t attractive, would Tom even care about her old-fashioned virtues?

Yep yep yep. Makeup is a good toy and a bad master. With or without makeup, I’m grateful to live here and now. Make yourself a snack and check out all the thoughtful, bare-faced women discussing makeup at rabbitwrite.com.

How do you feel about makeup, ladies? What about you, gents?

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10 comments to On Makeup

  • Great post and reflection on use of makeup.

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  • First up, I love that you have a category labeled “Rugged Good Looks.” I feel like I may’ve mentioned this before, but whatever, it’s worth a potential second mention!

    On topic, this: “Makeup is a good toy and a bad master.” is SPOT ON. I like makeup for the “doodling on my face is fun” aspect of it, which is why I have a startling array of eyeliner and shadow, but the minute it become compulsory for whatever socially mandated reason is the moment I go “nuh uh!” and wave my unrepentant pores around. Well as much as one can wave pores around. Punchy comments aside, I actually have an awful lot to say about makeup and my relationship with it, and I’m chugging away on a post about it that I’m hoping to get done in the next day or two, so I’ll save it for there.

    And that second last paragraph? Also spot on. I remember reading on someone’s blog, I can’t remember whose (apologies if it was yours!) where her boyfriend at the time was bemoaning women wearing makeup, insisting that he liked women who looked “natural”. She went and washed her face, and he was aghast and whinged about how he felt deceived. She dumped his jerky butt, I believe, and good riddance on her part. So yeah, heaven forfend we don’t look totally flawless without warpaint.

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  • Lori

    I deliberately DON’T wear makeup half the time, because I don’t want anyone to mistake the paint job for my real face and start seeing my unadorned self as “not good enough.”

    That’s exactly why I don’t wear makeup. There was a girl who wore makeup all the time and when I finally saw her without it, I was concerned because she looked deathly ill or something. She was fine. Just without makeup.

    Plus the fact that I hate washing it off and the entire time, I feel like I have a mask on and I can’t scratch my nose. I had pounds on for my sisters wedding and it took me way too long to get it off to ever consider it again.

    And clear mascara is by far my favorite. It’s not oily or clumpy, and if you have to rub your eye – go for it. If your face gets splashed, you won’t end up being mistaken for a raccoon. :-)

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  • Thanks for sharing your makeup journey and thoughts. And lady, you look RADIANT barefaced. Promise.

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  • Smiley Woman

    What a deep and honest post! Brave you!
    I think that around 14 I asked for some makeup to my mom and she said that I was too young… end of the conversation. I’m not really someone who use much makeup. More now that I’m a grown up (or sort of it). I’ve been severely criticized for some friends, friends with benefits and sometimes for my family. I assumed they just wanted to help, but sometimes it made me feel out of place, just because I wasn’t using makeup.
    To me if I use makeup its because I want to feel kind of cute for a special occasion, but it’s not something regular. Apparently, the majority of the women use it because of others, and I don’t agree with that.
    Definitively, like you said, I’m glad that we’re living in this world (at least some countries) where you can have the appearance you desire… even when you might be “punished” socially. And unfortunately, it still occurs.

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  • Chelsie – Thank you! Have you considered writing one?

    Millie – I’ll never be waif-like; might as well embrace my ruggedness.

    My pores wave ME around. =) I’m really looking forward to your post about makeup.

    That boyfriend sounds like a complete fool. Lots of writers have quipped about how much work “the natural look” takes. I’ve seen websites where people gather to talk about how HIDEOUS some actress looks without makeup— when she looks like any average woman. I saw one guy claim that seeing Heather Locklear bare-faced had “ruined [his] sexual fantasies forever.” Good thing he was out of walloping range, eh?

    Lori – I had that same experience— I knew two girls who wore waaaaay too much makeup, but when they took it off I was startled at how “plain” they looked.

    “I feel like I have a mask on and can’t scratch my nose.” Yes! Or when you REALLY want to rub your eye, but don’t want to smear your eye makeup. Awful!

    When I saw your comment, I asked myself “Did Lori wear makeup? What did she wear?” and had no idea. I guess I remember you the way you really are! =)

    Sally – Awww, thanks! Remind me to bake you some cookies.

    Smiley Woman – I don’t feel brave, I feel embarrassed— but thank you! How funny/sad that friends would criticize you for not putting creams and powders on your face every day. Isn’t that silly?

    I wonder if/how much ethnicity affects makeup use; I sometimes wonder why women with dark eyebrows and eyelashes bother wearing makeup, because that’s the biggest reason I wear it; to make my eyebrows and lashes show. But maybe those women have been conditioned to feel as bad about their face as I do about mine… Who knows?

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  • I’ve never worn make-up regularly, but when I started to get into the habit of lip gloss and blush, I would force myself to stop wearing even those periodically because I didn’t want to depend on them to feel like I looked good. I’ve had a couple of people do a full make-over just for fun a couple of times and it’s certainly a different and defined look. But I honestly just wake up too late in the morning to even do a quick routine, so bare-faced I go, blemishes and all. I’m pretty content with being lazy in that way. I still have amassed a decent collection of eyeshadows because I love color, even if I almost never (okay, let’s go with never) wear it on my face.

    Rebekah, I think you are a lovely lady. We are constantly being conditioned to believe we’re not enough and must buy our way to sufficiency, but I look at your bare-faced photos and think, “clean, real, lovely.”

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  • Angela – I share your dislike (fear?) of product dependency— I even broke myself of lip balm addiction this summer, something I’d previously believed impossible.

    You make a good point about loving color— I’ve also wondered how often women buy makeup because they like all the pretty compacts and tubes, makeup bags, brushes… some of it’s so pretty. Maybe you could turn some of that eyeshadow into an art project?

    Back when I had work and school, I was usually bare-faced, dressed as simply as possible, and often unwashed. No one could have any illusions about my looks. =)

    Thank you, Angela. I do not see “lovely” when I look at the above photo— but I DO see that my “undereye circles” were all in my head! BONUS!

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  • Well,
    I used to use a lot of make-up in high school, when i was thinner and popular.
    Now, I stick to eyeliner and lipgloss/stick – depending on the occasion.
    The reason I decided that less is better is because I noticed, dispite face washing, I was breaking out more with make-up than without make-up during soccer season. …yea, and I dislike acne more than what others think of my plain face. ;) Now, I just do it for myself orrrr:
    (I wear blue or green eyeliner to accent my ordinary brown eyes) i noticed when i wear eyeliner, people will use eye contact more! I don’t drown my lids or anything, just a simple line on the top lid and a little on the bottom toward the outside of the eye. nothing special.

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    Rebekah Reply:

    “Ordinary brown eyes?” I’ve ALWAYS wanted brown eyes! AND dark hair.

    Interesting point about eye contact… what would happen if you wore red lipstick? Do you think people would unconsciously glance at your lips?

    I’ve never had much luck with actual eyeliner, but I sometimes use a medium brown eyeshadow as liner, applied with flat, angled little brush. Good for a person with muted coloring— you can pull off more dramatic colors.

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