Monday, April 23, 2012

Bare-Faced Naked

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?


Kimberly Menozzi said...

I'm the exact opposite from you, I think. I almost never wear makeup. Even my author photo was done without makeup.

When I do a reading or another sort of "public appearance" I'll wear makeup because sometimes the lighting is dodgy and my features seem to disappear in photographs. But that's just about the only time I wear it. It doesn't hurt that my husband doesn't care for it, either.

I don't like the fuss and trouble of putting it on, or the consequences if I forget to take it off.

Once in a while it's fun to play with the colors, but generally speaking it's just not for me. I've reached the age of forty without wearing makeup regularly and people always comment on how nice my skin looks. I can't help thinking the two are connected.

Kelly Jamieson said...

I am so right there with you Meg. It probably does have a lot to do with self-confidence. I will admit I feel much more confident when I look my best, no matter what the situation. Also I have no face. Seriously. My lips are pale, my skin is pale, my eyelashes are nearly white - without makeup (or a bit of a tan!) I look ill. If I went to work with no makeup, people would be wanting to rush me to the hospital!

Leah Braemel said...

I'm with Kimberley. I really dislike wearing makeup, it makes my skin crawl. I only wear it if I'm going out to what I deem a "special event" which usually involves meeting other women at lunches and or conferences etc. But for regular shopping etc? I never bother with it.

PG Forte said...

Yep, I'm with Kimberley and Leah. I love the concept of makeup, I love the idea of playing with it, and I've spent enough time with fashion models (with and without their makeup)to appreciate the AMAZING transformations that can be achieved w/ makeup. But for myself...not only can't I be bothered, but just the thought of foundation or *shudder* powder makes me claustrophobic. A little eye shadow, a little lip gloss, applied once every two or three years on special occasions--maybe--is about my limit. Nail polish, OTOH, now that's a concept I can get behind.

Meg Benjamin said...

I, on the other hand, cannot wear nail polish. It makes my nails split and it just feels weird to me. But eyeliner has always been my friend, and lipstick makes me look a little less congenitally pale.

flchen1 said...

I'm with Kimberley and Leah and PG... my typical face is bare, and while I'm realizing that the older I get, maybe I need a little something, I haven't gotten to the point where I'm strongly motivated to do something about that yet ;) It's funny because DD joined a competitive dance team this year, and part of the costuming is makeup. It's been quite educational for me ;) And well, some of it is still way beyond me!

flchen1 said...

See, Meg, I like nail polish--I'm just too lazy to put it on most of the time, and I also use my hands a fair amount so it doesn't last long and that's annoying. But I love a good pedicure too :) I like dressed-up toes :D

Leah Braemel said...

Oh I'm with flchen1 on the pedicure issue. I love having them done! (although for most of the year my toesies are hidden beneath thick socks and shoes/boots.)