When I was 14 years old, my grandma took me to a Walgreens and informed me that it was time for me to wear makeup. I was a late bloomer, and not very interested in the things she really wanted me to be interested in: boys, clothes, and makeup. But given my serious skin issues, she wanted to help, and her way of helping was teaching me how to cover that problem up.
So I allowed myself to be dragged along, and applied (very inexpertly) everything she bought me, but I wasn’t thrilled by it or interested on my own account. I gradually started to care a bit more, but I’ve never been comfortable wearing a ton of makeup.
I’m fairly sure this is the most makeup I’ve ever worn (for a random college yearbook pic), and looking at this photo freaks me out because of it:
So even though I don’t use a ton, I also am very reluctant to leave my house with zero makeup on. Even if I’m just going for a run, I usually need a small amount to feel confident enough to hold my head up in public. (And yeah, it’s kind of gross to wear makeup while exercising, but I consider it getting to “beauty base zero,” as my brother hilariously called it during the Warrior Dash.)
On the other hand, I know women who either always or sometimes wear no makeup, and they’re beautiful with or without it. I admire them so much (for many things!), and I really want to learn to be more comfortable with my actual self the way they are.
I didn’t grow up thinking of myself as a feminist, although I was. My family was (and is!) pretty conservative, and so I was exposed to a lot of weird Republican ideas about feminism, and therefore terrified of the term. One too many days listening to Rush Limbaugh bloviate about “femi-nazis.” (Ugh.)
When I left home and broadened my ideas, I pretty quickly abandoned right-wing thinking, but it took several more years for me to finally be comfortable calling myself a feminist. Great first step, but I’m still learning a lot about what that means for me.
All that is to say that I’m aware of the weird societal pressures that have shaped my brain into thinking that I can’t be seen by other people without my eyebrows filled in. I’m still investigating all of this historically and culturally and emotionally, but I wanted to acknowledge that I know I’ve been socialized to believe certain things. Although I’m aware that these outside pressures exist, I’m also still affected by them.
So anyway. I don’t want to worry all the time that I am being judged for what I look like, whether that includes makeup or not. I want to be able to wear it if I feel like, or not if I don’t, and then not think about it again at all.
Also, I hate it when strangers comment on my physical appearance. It reminds me that people are always looking at me. I’ve spent a lot of time fighting to convince myself that other people don’t care what I look like, or about what I’m doing. A sample of the comments I’ve received in the past month:
- A grocery store cashier commented on my “sunburn.” (I had just been running, and I get super red when I exercise.) She said, “Look at that sunburn! Your skin looks like it hurts; you’ve got to be careful in the sun.”
- A Sephora employee asked me how long I had braces to get my teeth straight, and then told me because I have good teeth I should be an actor. (Oh. Okay?) Maybe this is what Sephora employees tell all customers, though?
- I was returning shoes to a department store, and the clerk asked me if I was “mixed.” My response to this was a confused face, so she elaborated: “You look Mexican, are you? Or Indian. You should be in commercials.”
None of those were negative, really, but at the same time, I don’t want to think about strangers noticing what I look like. That feeling only reinforces my desire to somehow make myself better–as much as possible–with cosmetics.
So the challenge, of course, will be to wear zero makeup for one full day: to work and then to at least two public places. As I plan this, I keep trying to convince myself to cheat (“Just a little swipe of mascara!”), which makes me even more determined to do it all the way.