Why I Wear Makeup

“Well, you are good at hiding your beauty!” It was the end of the Thanksgiving holiday and  my mother listened with mild exasperation as  my sister and I discussed how glamorous my mother is.  I asked my mother what she meant about me hiding my beauty, and she responded that I do not wear makeup.

By walking around with a clean face I am hiding my beauty.

While the concept seems positively absurd when expressed so explicitly, I was not particularly surprised to hear my mother’s view. I remember how my mother used to make comments such as “my daughters are Plane Janes, but they do look great when they wear makeup!”

It is not clear that I ever internalized my mother’s views, but it does surprise me when subtler women tell themselves that they want their daughters to grow up believing that they are naturally beautiful, even though they show their daughters what they really believe by wearing makeup daily. My mother just happens to be more blunt.

A few weeks later I styled my hair and applied makeup. Then I put on glasses. I was going to negotiate. I wanted to look competent and intelligent.

I got what I wanted. It probably had nothing to do with wearing makeup, but I do wear makeup whenever I think it may give me an advantage. It contributes to a society with a skewed view of beauty. It is a form of participation in a cultural lie about what it means to be a woman. It is an act of acquiescence to a system that suppresses life in the fullest sense. But these days I prefer to participate in (mild) evil rather than sacrifice myself to make some sort of statement about what I think life should be.

Makeup is all but required for my job. In general I wear the least that I can get away with. Today I used the eyebrow pencil, mascara, and foundation pictured above. It takes me about three minutes to apply (because I am painfully slow with mascara, and yes, I curl my nonexistent eyelashes as well) and costs me about $20 each year. During times when I am motivated to improve my appearance (job-hunting, for instance) I may wear a bit more makeup.

I would not wear makeup at all in an ideal world, but for today I am unwilling to sacrifice the immediate gains that come from makeup for the sake of something as luxurious as a fully integrated self.

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3 thoughts on “Why I Wear Makeup

  1. Mandi @ Messy Wife, Blessed Life

    My skin can be very, very bad at times (it’s not unusual for me to have 10+ pimples at one time, plus all the “marks” from past ones). I feel so self-conscious without makeup. In times when my face is clear and the marks have healed, I barely wear any (just mascara) and I never wear any when I’m just around the house. I definitely don’t think it should be required and wish I didn’t feel like I had to wear any at all! I do like to wear it for special occasions, but if it was a “perfect world”, that would mean maybe once a week for Mass or a date night.

    And ouch! I’m glad you never internalized what your mom said!

  2. waywardson23

    I always wonder for myself if “participating in (mild) evil rather than sacrificing myself to make some sort of statement about what I think life should be” is a sign of maturity or a sign of “selling out”.

    Put another way, is “selling out” a sign of maturity—of picking and choosing our battles—that discretion is the better part of valor? Or is it giving up idealism and recognizing defeat?

  3. Michelle

    Personally, I have always loved makeup! At times, I’ve wondered what that told me about myself, my self-esteem. But finally, I just realized that I like it. I like making my eyes stand out a little bit more and I like highlighting my high cheekbones because I’m a bit too pudgy for my cheeks to be shallow enough to do it on their own.

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