Monday, April 23, 2012
Recently, I saw an extraordinary article in USA Today. A couple of women in Charlotte, NC, decided to run an experiment. They were the leaders of a workshop on self esteem for young girls and they frequently fielded comments like, “You keep telling me to love myself as I am, but you wear makeup.” The two decided to see what life without makeup would be like, so they pledged to go for sixty days without it. Also without having their hair done or shaving anything.
That strikes me as courageous, but that’s largely because since I started wearing makeup at twelve, I’ve seldom appeared in public completely without it (that, of course, doesn’t count sneaking to the hotel Starbuck’s bare-faced because I desperately needed coffee before my morning shower). Now that doesn’t mean I wear full warpaint at all times. For me, the minimum is eyeliner and lipstick. Others might choose mascara, and I know a couple of pale beauties who swear by blush. But I know of very few women who are self confident enough to venture out with nothing at all, not even moisturizer.
Which is probably sad, when you think about it. Yeah, makeup is fun—like other women, I enjoy playing with different eye shadows and lipsticks. But the underlying assumption in that play is that without makeup, your face isn’t quite…right.
It would probably be better if I felt happy enough with my face to wear nothing at all. The fact that I don’t—that the idea of going to the grocery store bare-faced makes me uncomfortable—is probably a measure of how well I’ve been socialized to believe that beauty is a function of artifice. And unlearning that belief is incredibly hard. All the women in my strength training class, for example, wear some makeup, even though we’re going to be sweating and groaning and doing extremely unbeautiful things during the course of the morning. It’s not that we’re trying to entice the elderly men in our group (trust me). It’s just that none of us is quite gutsy enough to show up without the usual cosmetic support.
So I wish these women luck. And I hope the girls in their workshops decide they don’t need makeup to be beautiful. But I’m not sure it’s going to work, at least not for women like me. I wish I could say that I’ll follow their lead, but I just don’t think I will. Maybe it’s enough that the rest of us start thinking about why we’re so nervous about being seen without artificial help.
So what about you? What’s the absolute minimum makeup you’ll wear in public? Do you ever appear bare faced, or do you, like me, figure everybody would wonder why you look so weird?
Posted by Meg Benjamin at 4:00 AM