The Day I Put Down The Makeup

Do you realize how weird the act of applying makeup every day is?

I remember the day that I put down the makeup. 

The day I let go of the notion that any anti-age this or beauty cream that could ever have a place in my life. I let go of the hold I had on it ― the control I thought it gave me ― and in turn, it let go of me too.

“Free” is the only way to describe the feeling it gave me. And oh my gosh does it ever feel good.

It was a Saturday in mid-April of 2014. I was finishing getting ready to go to a wedding for which I was doing a reading; I’d gotten my hair done, my dress was on and I’d just finished applying my makeup. I took a step back to survey myself in the mirror...

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It was the first time I ever wore makeup. (Do most people remember these kinds of things?) I was smack dab in the middle of 8th grade, invited to a coed birthday party for a girl I hardly knew. I arrived wearing a sparkly red top and had applied eyeliner for the first time ever in my life. I felt unsure. I didn’t think I liked it (the eyeliner or the top) but it felt expected. I wanted to run to the bathroom and take it off. But then someone, I honestly can’t remember who, called it out. And they said they liked it. That I looked pretty.

Like any young teen girl, subject to modern-day Western culture (and advertising), it made me feel good. And I learned, in a very boiled down 8th-grade-teenage-girl-sort-of-way: Wearing makeup made me pretty. Being pretty was of value.

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It’s senior year and I am on fall homecoming court. I show up to the football field dressed in my business professional attire, face freshly painted. “You look pretty, Laura.”

I went to the bathroom and wiped away as much makeup from my face as I could.

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I am a bridesmaid at one of my best friend’s wedding, caked in professionally-clad makeup. The words “you look so pretty” and “I love your makeup” wafting around me. I wanted to bat them away, but wanted them at the same time.

Why did I want them?

I went to the bathroom and wiped away as much makeup from my face as I could.

****

… and here I was again. Standing in front of the mirror, face slathered because some event, some occasion, somebody said I looked pretty like this. I didn’t like it. I didn’t like what I saw in the mirror. Not me, not my face ― but the paint on it. I didn’t like it. The attention it got me, the fact that I wanted that attention or that I thought it could ascribe some sort of worth to me at all. I felt an overwhelming urge to get. it. off.

I grabbed the nearest towel and wiped as much of the paint from my face as I possibly could. But I didn’t stop there. I then grabbed all of the newly purchased makeup containers from the counter, popped the trash can lid and watched them tumble to the bottom with a resolute wave of thuds.

“I am done,” I thought.

****

“Freedom feels better than pretty ever will.”

I first encountered these words on Amanda Gregory’s Instagram. She had quoted Morgan Day Cecil, and elaborated on what these words meant to her personally. They stopped me dead in my tracks and took me back to that day in April. They resounded in my ears and made my heart cry out. The only words, or rather word, that I kept shouting in my mind was: THIS! This!

If I am to be perfectly transparent that resolute feeling I had that day wavers from time to time. Maybe even a lot sometimes. Like late last year, I was in yet another wedding and felt pressured to wear makeup again. Not by any one individual, but by circumstance. And honestly? I’m pretty sure they all [the bridesmaids] felt it too. The words “you look so pretty” beckoning them just as much as me. Our own visions of “pretty” distorted by so many years of seeing made-up faces.

My point? (I know! Finally, right?)

How can we live in the year 2016 and women still feel some sense of worth from being deemed “pretty”? That pretty must come first. How can it possibly be that I can scroll through my Facebook feed and find girls and women apologizing for “makeup-less faces”? “Tired eyes”? Or more accurately, less than perfect physical appearances?

We blame the media, Hollywood, Victoria’s Secret, magazines, you name it. But from where I’m standing, they only feed us what we will consume. What we will buy into. What we already believe. We can see it and we can hear it, but we are given the choice to speak it. And when we do, we give it life. Give it meaning and give it worth.

This is me speaking life to words that have worth, that should have a place in our minds and hearts.

From where I’m standing, I see many more friends and family members ― whom are much more influential to me ― speaking and spreading false images we blame for wrecking self-esteem and body image.

“You don’t understand. You don’t need to wear makeup, but I do.”

“I woke up with tired mom eyes, but thanks to the new concealer I have, they’re all gone!”

“But it won’t make you skinny!”

It might sound dramatic ― insane even. But every day I inch closer to the conclusion that wearing makeup (or rather putting down the makeup) is the last frontier. The only way to kick the notion that a gal should be pretty and painted first and only then can she be noticed for her valuable characteristics and strengths is to: put down the makeup. (*Note: this “pretty comes first” mentality is so deeply ingrained that when I first drafted that last sentence it read: “only then can she be noticed for other valuable characteristics and strengths.” Because being pretty is something to be truly valued?)

Do you realize how weird the act of applying makeup every day is? How just flat out strange it is for it to be acceptable (encouraged even?) for women to do so: “Put some effort into your appearance and at least put some lipstick on.” And then, in the same breath, shame worthy should a man do the same?

I am a mom of two young boys and I don’t want them watching me paint my face on every day, for that to be the norm. That will always matter more than what they see on any commercial or in any magazine. Those? Well those aren’t real. But me? I am real. And if I’m empowering it, then why wouldn’t they believe it? Why wouldn’t any of us?

I want them to reject the notion that women should wear makeup at all. I want them to see it for what it really is: the real reason we continue to project unobtainable physical appearances upon ourselves ― and not the media we’ve used as a scapegoat for so long.

Aren’t you bewildered when you really break it down? I know I am.

And I am done.

“Freedom feels better than pretty ever will.”

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