Made Up

I kind of love this post on Rookie. The writer’s philosophy on makeup seems to be pretty much the opposite to mine, but I think it comes from the same place.

I don’t wear makeup. I stopped about ten years ago, partly because I realized one day that I actually preferred how my eyes looked without any eyeliner and partly because I didn’t want to take the time to put it on (that’s valuable procrastination time that I’m wasting!). I completely reject the idea that people (women) should have to wear makeup to be considered presentable, but I don’t think that really factored into my decision to stop. I think I was able to reject the idea in theory while still sometimes wearing makeup in practice.

Once, I think I was in grade 8 or something, I decided I wanted to do something dramatic on my face, so I swept green eyeshadow across my eyelids in a style not unlike Mr. Spock’s. Several classmates told me that I was wearing too much makeup. I don’t know if they thought I had meant to create a more natural look and just screwed up, or if they just didn’t like how it looked and felt I needed to know that. Anyway, it bugged me. Thankfully, no one has ever made a comment about me having too much hair dye on when I made my hair green or blue or purple. Maybe things are different for hair and face. I’m not sure.

A few years after I stopped wearing makeup, I considered buying something really bold and bright, like a bright eyeliner or something, just to maybe wear on occasion when I felt like looking different. I walked back and forth in the makeup aisle of the drugstore several times, trying to decide if I should buy something or if it would just be a waste of money because I would hardly ever (never?) use it. In the end I decided not to buy any makeup, not so much because it would waste money, but because I didn’t want to support that industry. If makeup really existed to make people’s faces look exactly how they want them to look, like that Rookie post says it should, and if it were marketed that way, I might have bought something. But that’s not how makeup is advertised. Makeup companies make money by telling people (women) that they don’t look good enough on their own. And I hate that and I don’t want to support it, so I won’t, except when I did last month because I needed to dress the way I did in high school so I bought a black eyeliner for my goth look. I had fun wearing it but I didn’t like buying it.

I used to sometimes feel smug about my lack of makeup. I don’t really anymore because that’s obnoxious and I don’t judge people for doing what they need to do to survive and have fun in a patriarchal society. I have sometimes felt a bit betrayed when someone would tell me how amazingly attractive it was that I didn’t ever wear makeup, and then start dating someone totally glam who wore it all the time. But I think I’m over that too, because I’ve realized that we are all more than the stuff we put on our faces.

I know I have a lot of privilege in being able to not wear makeup. Like when I said earlier that I first stopped wearing makeup because I preferred how I looked without it? That isn’t a thing that is true about everyone. And I have a job where I’m taken seriously without having any makeup on. And my looks fall under the conventional definition of attractiveness enough that without makeup I think people still see me as conventionally attractive, and there are a lot of benefits that come with that. Also my eyelids are naturally darker than the rest of my face, so I kind of look like I have eyeshadow on all the time.

But when I’m tired, I look tired. When I have a zit, I look like I have a zit. When I’m pale, I’m pale. I don’t feel like I’m making a statement by not putting anything on my face to change how it looks. I might not feel this way if I had spent a larger part of my adult life wearing makeup regularly, but I guess I’ll never know. As it is, it just feels like being me when I drag myself out of bed, brush my teeth, get dressed, and maybe moisturize if my face is itchy. And that’s where I totally agree with Meredith who wrote that Rookie post:

It’s a question of agency and visibility. Exactly what makeup you wear and how and when is unimportant—the point is, it’s your choice. Now get out there and face the world.

Okay. But first it’s bed time.

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2 Comments on “Made Up”

  1. Q. Pheevr says:

    Sometimes, when I interact with someone who’s wearing makeup—especially when the makeup looks both artificial and conventional, rather than being either a very subtle amendment of the person’s natural appearance or a more radical and idiosyncratic aesthetic choice—I feel as if it creates a sense of distance. (Partly because I feel that I can’t see their face clearly, but perhaps also because that style of makeup implies a difference in our cultural backgrounds and assumptions.) And if I try to imagine what that distance feels like from the other side, it occurs to me that the makeup functions in part as a form of protection or defence. And then it seems sad that anyone should feel that they need that kind of protection, while at the same time it would be horrible to tell them that they shouldn’t have recourse to it if they do feel that way.

    • Copcher says:

      Yeah, I think I have similar feelings about it, even regarding my own face. If I did wear makeup to cover something up, that would be a form of hiding something. And I should be able to hide things if I want to, but I shouldn’t feel a need to hide anything, and maybe part of the reason so many women feel a need to hide certain pieces of their face is that so many women do it.


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