I mentioned in last week’s link roundup that I’d be participating in Rabbit Write’s No Makeup Week, and I kept my word. I’ve said time and again that I’m a total newbie when it comes to cosmetics, and I think most of you are aware that my daily makeup routine consists of an eyebrow pencil and some lipgloss. (Lipgloss only when I remember.) So is my participation in this experiment even valuable? What does it matter if a woman who only wears minimal makeup goes without?
Well, here’s the thing. I could only stomach doing ONE DAY without my penciled-in brows and made sure to wait until yesterday, when my menstrually-inspired acne fest had mostly cleared up. I’m certainly not ashamed of my bare face, but I was apprehensive about how different I’d look without my usual cosmetics. I certainly have no problem drawing attention to myself, but I prefer to be intentional about it. I worried that subtracting something that contributes to my perceived daily appearance might just look like an oversight.
And so it was with mild apprehension that I high-tailed it to the office yesterday looking like this:
And no one noticed. Or, at least, no one commented. In fact, as HM and I were saying our goodbyes before work, he told me I looked especially beautiful. I said it was naked-face day, and he said he’d never have noticed if I hadn’t pointed it out.
Does that mean I’m going to stop filling in my eyebrows, or ditch the lipgloss? No. Does that mean I look “better” without makeup? No. Does my participation in this project mean that I consider makeup a tool of oppression, that I believe makeup devotees hate their natural faces, or that I think all women should go bare-faced every day? Hells no.
Makeup is one of many tools we have at our stylistic disposal, and it can highlight what we love about our gorgeous faces. It can also mask what we don’t love about our gorgeous faces, and that is not inherently harmful. While total self-acceptance is a worthy goal, as we travel that long road we are allowed to chose for ourselves what we celebrate and what we downplay. And makeup can help us do either or both.
But I don’t think any woman should feel obliged to wear makeup in order to feel gorgeous, presentable, or like herself. I will admit to being troubled when a woman tells me she panics at the thought of being seen without makeup – even by her spouse, partner, family, or close friends. Because I believe that self-love and acceptance should include all versions of the self: Done to the nines, work-ready, gym-ready, sleep-ready, and buck-naked top to toe. If a woman prefers how she looks with a makeup, that’s fine. I prefer how I look with a belted waist, so I belt my waist most days. If a woman thinks she’s a repellent goblin without makeup, that’s something that should be pondered. And if I ever get to the point where I can’t wear a sack-shaped tunic and flats without having a panic attack, that’s something that should be pondered, too.
Enter No Makeup Week. Rabbit asked women to examine their relationships with cosmetics during the course of this week and draw their own conclusions. She said, “The philosophy is this: Makeup is great. It is a powerful tool, a way to express yourself, your mood, and your interior life. But when you can’t go without something, it loses its spark.” And I agree. Understanding the powers and limitations of any tool helps build a healthy, beneficial relationship with that tool. But when an appearance-related tool becomes integral to self-acceptance, it may impede important emotional and personal growth. So I applaud Rabbit for creating a project that encourages us to question and ponder and discuss.
And although I only went a day without makeup, I believe that my relationship with cosmetics is sound and healthy. I am unlikely to go to work or to coffee or to a business meeting without patting on a bit of powder and glossing my lips, but I go to the gym without a stitch of makeup two to three times per week. More importantly, I still feel like me when I’m barefaced and I still recognize myself when I look in the mirror. The decisions I make about makeup are informed decisions, choices about how I want to present myself to the observing world.
I prefer myself with a cinched waist. I prefer myself with my hair worn curly. I prefer myself in bright and jewel-toned clothing. I prefer myself with a darker, more defined brow and a splash of lip gloss. I’m defining those preferences myself and acting accordingly.
And that’s my prerogative.