This week is No Makeup Week, an idea that comes straight from my friend / boss / partner in crime, Rachel Rabbit White. Check out her blog for all the haps as we get excited about our naked faces and what painting them means to us, our lives & the people in them.
“Hurry UP!” my best friend bellowed at me.
“I’m COMING,” I yelled back, frantically applying mascara to my lower lashes.
“For CRYING OUT LOUD, WE’RE GOING TO A MOVIE! It’s DARK! You don’t NEED all that stuff on your face!”
I rolled my eyes, my standard teenage response, and continued spackling.
“Come ON! It’s just US!” my best friend was still yelling. “WHO ARE YOU TRYING TO IMPRESS?”
A good question.
I started wearing makeup on a daily basis in eighth grade, when I was twelve or thirteen: shimmery white eyeshadow, brown mascara, silver-pink lipgloss. I was trying to impress the other girls at my school. It was my way of saying “Hey! Look at me! I’m just like you, see? Not weird at all!” But it didn’t work. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t fit in with them and I didn’t know why. I was doing the same things that they did! Why was I still such an outcast?
I’m still working on this one.
At fifteen I was trying to stand out. I was turning my natural flamboyance into a weapon, something to be used, rather than something to be hidden. Glitter on my eyes, flowers in my hair, blue lipstick, black lipstick, silver eyeliner. I loved the process of makeup, how it could change my entire face. My high school had a relatively lax uniform policy but didn’t really have rules about this and my parents encouraged what they saw as creativity, so I was free to experiment wildly. My friends’ parents, on the other hand, were not always so excited about their daughters coming home with purple and black manicures or rainbow streaks of hair mascara poking out of ponytails.
At nineteen I transferred colleges & moved into a dorm. I was trying to differentiate myself. My roommates were blonde, tan, pretty. I felt pale, dark-haired, ugly. Something different. Red eyeshadow, black nail polish, strong lips. Rainbow eyeshadow and fake lashes. I was trying to impress the world with how UNIQUE I was in terms of how NOT LIKE the average person at my university was. I was glamourous, I was special. You’ll notice that even though I was in college, none of these messages had anything to do with being smart.
In my early twenties I was actively trying NOT to impress people. I had started modeling and was making a living off my looks. Cosmetics which gave me scarring acne, scratched my corneas and took days to scrub off were now a job. Makeup, which had always been something I’d escape to, became something I had to escape from. The accident of genetics that gave me certain features, a particular height and body shape became a commodity, something that could be bought and sold. I hated it. When I wasn’t working, I was trying to disappear. I wore clothes three sizes too big to hide the body I had dieted down to a skeleton. I cut off all my (extremely damaged) hair. Most significantly, I stopped wearing makeup. I wanted to be ugly so that nobody would see me. I wanted to vanish.
At twenty six, I am trying to impress–some may say trick–the entire world. I use makeup to look more like the myself I was before cancer, before breakups, before depression, before things fell apart. Makeup–mostly limited to the basics of mascara, concealer and lipgloss–is a way of putting on a brave face for the world. Literally. It’s a signal that it’s showtime, a way to cue myself that it’s time to go out into the world as my charming, socially engaging self.
The common thread running through all of this? Makeup is a way for me to send signals to other people about who I am, what I am, how I am in the world. It’s only partially for me. The confidence that it gives me is in relation to other people; it makes me prettier, which makes other people treat me better. It allows me to stand out / blend in at my leisure. It used to let me change the shape of my facial features to approximate what I thought that I should look like. I was demonstrating–to the world, to myself–that I could physically make myself into what I wasn’t.
This week, I’m showing off what I am. Because it turns out that what I am naturally is kind of great.
My eyes are big and dramatic and a fantastic shade of green. My nose has been broken twice but still has the distinctive shape that runs in my family. My cheekbones are high, my jawline is strong. My lips are full and my freckles are actually kind of adorable.
Makeup sends a message to the world. The message I’m choosing to send this week, and for all the weeks after, is that my naked face isn’t ugly or vulnerable. Makeup isn’t my crutch or my escape. I’m awesome, just the way I am.
We all are. I’m so proud to be a part of this.