I grew up in the 80s and 90s when big hair, blue eye shadow, and having a “fully done face” was normal. I remember the makeup “tips” in the magazines like Seventeen and YM but I always struggled in regularly doing my makeup once I was allowed by my parents and into this new decade of life. I CAN do it and make it look pretty good but doing it on the regular was always a struggle.
As the calendar pages dropped and I became 40 (I really have to keep reminding myself because I still don’t believe it, in my head I’m still in my 20s) I dug into the stories I tell myself about makeup and what that meant for moving forward:
- There are only two options — completely made up (you know the routines that involve 3 types of foundation, 2 types of bronzer…etc) or bare faced
- You should change your makeup to “go” with your outfit AKA cool colors to go with cool colors and warm colors to go with warm colors
- Multiple colors of eye shadow MUST be used
- Skin tone must be completely evened out and “perfect” when you’re finished
- If you wear make up you’re giving in to societal pressures and beauty expectations but if you don’t your bucking the system
- Wearing make up regularly would teach my daughter (and my students) that you HAVE to wear it
There are a few more and maybe you have your own stories to add to the list but as you can see my stories ranged from the superficial to the existential. I had to sit with these stories for a little while to figure out where I fell. As a self proclaimed “tomboy” and screw the expectations of others kind of woman I really had to lean into why I had such a hang up around make up, wearing makeup, talking about make up with my daughter and so on. Why was this little thing such a big deal to me?
Eventually I came to the answer: I feel better when I have SOME of it on but the idea that I felt better wearing make up than not butted up against my “damn the man” and “I will not conform to societal pressures of beauty!” attitude. Could these two things co-exist in my own mind?
Who knew that such a tiny thing (it usually takes me 5 minutes in the morning) could be riddled with such emotional turmoil? And not to mention I know plenty of individuals who wear all different levels of makeup (or not) and are totally fine, beautiful, amazing human beings living their own truth. Why was I struggling with this so hard in my own life?
From the time I was a kid all the way until now, I have been a person who does things their own way. Through this introspection I discovered that NOT wearing make up all the time was just as inconsistent with being authentic as wearing the full face all the time. Both of those things were about others expectations of my body and not really about my own. By not wearing it I was telling the world “ha! Look at me! Screw your systems of oppression and I am going to flaunt my naked face!” even though sometimes that felt just as performative as I envisioned wearing it all the time was caving to societal pressures.
At this point, I have found some messy middle ground of where I feel comfortable and authentic in my own face however it looks on a daily basis. I didn’t realize when I started this exploration that make up was full of existential land mines for me, who knew? It really took me digging into those feelings and reflecting on them to know where I really stood moving forward.