Applying makeup used to feel fun, but now the repetitive ritual just wears thin on my nerves. It’s simple for men to spout off, “If wearing makeup bothers you so much, just don’t wear it!” The honest truth is, I’ve only left the house with a bare face perhaps a handful of times in the past five years.
Since middle school, insecurities and societal pressure have molded my mornings into a complicated, precisely-timed routine. Though the routine has shortened through the practice of self-acceptance and technique mastery, it still is in play. In high school I allotted 20 minutes a morning for makeup application, oftentimes missing my bus because my time had run over. Going to school without my mask of defence was completely unimaginable. I don’t believe that I let it happen once.
I began this tradition in seventh grade. Each morning I would stand before the mirror and smear the thick foundation across my skin. Blue eye shadow across my lids. Pink blush accented my cheeks, still plump with baby-fat. By eighth grade, it had only worsened. Red lipstick was added to the mix, and the blue shadow was replaced by thick lines of eyeliner. Circling my eye with the dark pencil, I felt as if I were hidden and protected. My face was becoming a mess from the never-ending cycle of products, but I didn’t care. . I just piled more and more formulas upon my virgin skin.
Now in college, I seldom spend more than seven or eight minutes putting on my face. A layer of light foundation, a dab of concealer, set it with powder, finish with blush. Although I’ve switched to a more natural routine, the layers of insecurity still hover behind the need to paint myself before I leave the house. I spend the time because I have to spend the time.
Advertisements, movies, music, television shows. They all depict women a certain way. A certain way that we’re expected to look. My boyfriend once remarked to me that he couldn’t imagine spending the time to apply makeup every morning. I retorted that I couldn’t imagine not doing so.
Although men often face the same skin challenges as women (under eye circles, blemishes, dry patches, or ruddy skin), they are never expected to paint on a new face. We accept them as they are and ask nothing of it. When women go natural they’re asked if they’re ill, or they’re looked at as being unkempt.
Women are beautiful whether or not they choose to wear makeup. I’m not trying to insinuate that we should all stop wearing makeup in order to love ourselves. But sometimes I wonder if I’m really doing this for myself. If that’s the case, why don’t I wear makeup when I’m alone and sitting around the house? Or when my boyfriend and I are together and binge-watching television?
The truth is, I wear makeup because I was raised in a world where middle-school girls are concerned with losing their virginities; where most women report being catcalled by men as early as age twelve. I was raised in a world where women are over sexualized by middle school. A world where I would sit and watch MTV before school, where I considered Britney Spears, writhing on stage while singing Womanizer, a cultural icon.
It’s hard to find yourself as a woman in this world. With so many different ideas of how a ‘true woman’ should look, talk, or walk. I can feel so many different identities ebbing and flowing in my mind, struggling to break free. It might seem strange to an outsider that a conversation such as this could stem from something as mundane as a tube of mascara. But what people don’t understand is what that darkened wand of mascara can signify. Hopes, fears, insecurities. All bundled up neatly in one little makeup bag. A world of opportunities, yet all of the doors seem to open into nothingness. Where is there for women to go from here?