I recently had the very fun experience of doing makeup for a lovely group of women who were performing a dance to the Cheetah Girls song “Different Colors.” They wanted everything to be as over-the top as the Cheetah Girls themselves (seriously, have you seen their first names? Galleria, Chanel, Dorinda, Aquanette…it’s like the Ecstasy dream of a jungle stripper). I did some very fun things with glitter, black eyeliner, and tropical eye shadow colors that night. And honestly, it was very easy for me because I have worn most of what I did as a day look.
I’ve never been shy or subtle with makeup. I didn’t start wearing it until I was fifteen, but when I did start, I went from “just mascara” to “45 products are on my face” in about a week’s time. There were some terrible, awful, blackmail-worthy looks going on for a couple years, but without those awkward missteps, I wouldn’t be at the place of full-blown flawlessness that I am today. I have not tried contouring, probably because I foresee considerable difficulty in contouring a face as perfectly round as a basketball, but maybe someday. I distinctly remember my mom telling me in high school that I can’t match my eye shadow to my outfit because “no one does that” and being like, well, they should, and I do it to this day. I love wearing dark lipstick and winged eyeliner and I never shy away from color. It’s fun for me, it’s a nice and calming morning ritual, it’s a little form of daily creativity that I treasure, and it helps me feel put together and on.
I think it’s a little bit of a vanity point for me that at my small school, I’m really the only girl who wears statement makeup regularly. If I just wanted to go for a more “natural look” (ugh, that phrase is one of my trigger words), I just wouldn’t bother with makeup at all. Here’s why: I love my face. I think my face is so pretty. On one level, I like its features. My eyes are big, my eyelids are wide and deeply creased, my eyelashes are long and thick, my nose is adorable, my lips are full and dark, and I have a great complexion. I have no cheekbones, but I like the roundness. I hate my resting double chin face, but that’s about it.
On a deeper level though, I’m my own best friend. That’s not something I tearfully and/or drunkenly recite to myself in front of a mirror – it’s a startling truth for which I’m constantly gaining a deeper appreciation. I’m with me through successes and failures, lonely nights and laughter-filled days, hours of creativity and quiet tears, my worst and my best. I like myself and I know myself. When I feel that way about other people, I don’t care if they look like Steve Buscemi, the sight of their face will be beautiful and welcome and warm. And that is how I feel about Steve Buscemi. (What? He’s a great actor.) When I catch myself in the mirror, whether I just woke up or I’m covered in makeup, I like the face I see because I like the person who it represents. It represents the well-loved little girl who grew up in my childhood home, the recent college graduate trying to figure her life out, and the grown-ass woman who will become the first female president to win a Grammy, an Oscar, a Golden Globe, and an Emmy and marry a 25-year-old underwear model, or something similar.
Basically, I like my face enough to let it be what it is, in public and in private. This is why I hate the assumption that every girl who wears makeup is doing it to hide her insecurities or present a false identity to the world because she doesn’t believe she’ll be liked for the “real” her.
Yesssssssss, some girls DO do this. Disclaimer section: over.
The thing is, I get the feeling that some people really go to town with this assumption in regards to me because like I said, I’m basically the only girl at my school who regularly wears makeup in shades other than brown. And by “people” I mean boys. Whenever I venture out into the world with a bare face (which is not often, once a month at most), I guarantee you that every guy I meet who I am even peripherally friends with will comment on how pretty I look. It MIGHT be because my face with no makeup is pretty, but I suspect it’s a heroic reassurance move. In the backs of their minds, I know a lot of these guys are thinking, “I never see her without makeup. This is my chance. Maybe if she hears how pretty she looks today from enough people, she’ll have enough confidence to FINALLY be free of the wicked shackles of Covergirl.” When someone earnestly tells me how pretty I look, of course I just say thanks. I think I look pretty too, and the best way to agree with a compliment is to just be grateful for it. I know that seems like I’m reading too much into a simple compliment, and maybe I am. It’s far preferable to the ever-popular “Are you sick/tired/grief-stricken?” There’s something ineffably humiliating about uttering the phrase “No, I’m just not wearing makeup” to someone who is visibly concerned about your health.
Also, I cannot tell you how often I see guys post something on Facebook that encourages women to toss out their makeup. A lot of pop songs, too! One Direction, Bruno Mars, John Legend…I’m looking at you. What, so now are you supposed to be the soft and sensitive, faithful and accepting hero I’ve always dreamed of? Is this supposed to be your way of notifying all the ladies out there that you’re not superficial “like other guys,” and I can finally, at long last, be with a man who only cares about “inner beauty?” That with you, I can “be myself” because there’s no way I could be myself with so much makeup on? Are you going to unlock the angelic woman who has been too caught up in glamour and vanity to spread her wings? Sorry, I know I sound like a jerk, but it bothers me when people think they know about me just by the way I choose to look. I find it especially annoying in this case because the underlying message is “I want to see who you really are.” YOU ARE SEEING THAT. There’s something so frustratingly ironic about hearing people essentially say “I care about who you really are, so don’t be who you really are in terms of how you look because it makes me feel like I’m not seeing who you really are.”
Conversely, though, enough with statements that shame women for wearing makeup. “This is why I have trust issues” memes featuring before-and-after makeup shots are a dime a dozen, and they’re disgusting. First of all, if you’re really stupid enough to believe I have blue and pink eyelids, then that’s on you. Secondly, the fact that someone could betray your trust simply by having a normal human face says a lot more about you than it does about her, and it might explain why she felt the need to “deceive you” in the first place!
The bottom line here is, guys who aren’t my dad or my boyfriend need to stop caring so much about whether or not I’m wearing makeup. You know that old, sexist saying, “Men want her, women want to be her?” That that’s the only fantasy? Well, if someone wants me or wants to be me, fine. I don’t really care. I care that people want to be with me. I don’t wear makeup to attract men or to impress women. I don’t just do it for myself either, though. If I did, I’d be in full makeup right now just to sit on my couch. There is no bigger letdown for me than looking awesome and then not going anywhere cool or seeing anyone I care about; hence my current appearance, which could be better described as “slovenly greaseball.” No, I wear makeup because I love it. I think it expresses the person I am. It makes me feel like the Sasha Fierce version of myself. I feel like my yellow lipstick and turquoise eyeliner is just such a very Allison way to look. It looks like the me that I know people love and want to be with, the me that I know is real. I’m a colorful, glittery, bold, vibrant person, and I like that my makeup can reflect that. Those qualities define all that is the best in me, and it’s nice to be reminded of that when I look in the mirror. I appreciate the compliments I get for my no-makeup face, but I like the ones I get for my makeup face a little better. Exuberance trumps earnestness for me, every time.
I’m not going to rhapsodize on whether it’s good or bad to wear makeup. I do love scoffing at “go makeup free” challenges, but at the same time, I have never seen a person and thought that he or she should change the makeup or lack thereof that they are wearing. I know it’s become one of those irritating first-world feminist issues, but I say, who cares? If you wear makeup and you like it and you don’t feel oppressed by it, wear it. The social or historical or cultural or whatever reasons there are why you do it don’t matter. Don’t make yourself feel a way you don’t feel about something as trivial as makeup just because you feel like you should. And, if you don’t wear makeup, the same rule applies. Be happy with the ways you look and choose to style yourself. The only little caveat I have is to buy your beauty products responsibly – try to only buy from companies that don’t test on animals. Like I said, makeup is trivial, but living things are not.
So I say the solution is, erase the double standard. Men should be able to wear makeup too, stigma-free. I love beautiful men! Ruggedness has its appeals, but…meh. Have you seen RuPaul’s Drag Race? Those men are GORGEOUS. Also, probably not options for me, for many, MANY reasons, but that’s neither here nor there. This is very similar to how I approach solving the feminist conundrum of shaving off body hair. I applaud those women who have thrown out their razors in the name of smashing the patriarchy and then go on to NOT lord it over the heads of their clean-shaven fellow feminists as a point of superior enlightenment (ahem), but I tried it for like five days and felt disgusting. Ugh. It’s just not for me. Then I realized that I don’t like hairy men, either. I think men should shave their armpits, to be honest. Armpit hair is gross, dudes. I’m not saying we should all be Kim Kardashian glossy, but…I will argue for universal upper-body hairlessness. Anyway, I digress.