It tells you something that when I was a kid, when we pretended to be models, we also pretended that we were going to be so beautiful that we weren’t going to need to wear makeup.
I’ve never worn a lot of makeup— I’m usually good for sunscreen, eyebrow shaping, and skin-care, and I usually have lipstick with me that I scramble for if I’m going to meet someone important or someone pulls out a camera. I used to wear more in the way of eyeliner and shadow, but once I started developing eye allergies, I got careful even about that. My eyes are really sensitive to products and I have to be careful about what I use around them, and I rub my eyes a lot when they itch or when I’m tired, and it always felt like I’d take the time to put it on but it wouldn’t much matter because it’d be gone by 10 am, anyway. As I got older, I’ve had some dramatic eye incidents (unrelated to makeup) where an eyelash follicle got clogged and my eyelid swelled shut and I had to put warm compresses on several times a day for days, and that happy little corneal infection last year, and now I’m to the point where I religiously throw out all my hypoallergenic eye makeup mostly unused every three months, remove it on the rare occasions I wear it like my life depended on it, and mostly have to force myself to wear it unless I’m traveling for business.
I do get more self-conscious about makeup if I’m dating someone, if I’m outside my regular sphere where the impression I make matters to my success, or if there’s going to be lasting photographic records. But I’m also a big believer in the point of diminishing returns— if I put 20 more minutes and $50 more in products into getting ready, I had better be significantly better for the efforts. And I’ve noticed that while a little emphasis on my eyes and lips helps, I’m pretty satisfied with how I look without it, most days.
(And now I’m having a mean girl flashback to 6th grade, where, at a sleepover with my new best friend’s house, her old friends (she’d transferred schools mid-year) asked me if I thought I was pretty. I knew they were trying to make me feel bad, and so I said “I think I’m beautiful, but I don’t expect you to.”This is philosophically one of my proudest moments (pretty awesome display of self-respect against the odds for a 12-y-o girl in America in the late 20th century) and also one that makes me cringe the most to have lived through. I definitely played right into their nasty little mean girl hands, with this response.)
I’m wondering whether this is just all too old and cranky of me. It takes me about 2 minutes to line my eyes and throw some mascara on, and would it really kill me to do it every morning? Or even during the week? Even as just a sign that I’m making any kind of effort? Many of the people in my life spend a lot more time on makeup and hair than I do, and they look nice. Pulled together. I feel okay about the way I dress for work, but I’ve definitely stopped putting effort into makeup and accessory selection. I don’t want to be one of those people who feels like she can’t leave the house without her “face on,” because I like being someone who recognizes that most people don’t care that much what I look like.
But I’ve caught myself walking the dog in my painting clothes (because he needed a walk and I was in between coats or because I was going from painting to weeding and didn’t feel like a wardrobe change was in order) and have started to fear that my neighbors who don’t know me think I’m the area homeless woman with the very friendly dog. It’s a nice neighborhood, I’d rather not be the sketchy one in it, and so I’m starting to pay better attention to what I wear while walking the dog. And I’d like opportunities for advancement at work, and spending a little more effort on my appearance can pay dividends there. And it goes mostly without saying that it should pay better dividends in the dating world than my “I can’t really be bothered by how I look” stylings.
Sometimes, I find that I don’t look at myself in the mirror. This is a big change from teenager-hood, where I’d have long chats with myself in the mirror. I have mirrors, they’re not broken or covered up, but I don’t really look in them at me. And I wonder if it’s so that I don’t have to think about me or my life or the choices I’m making. Putting on makeup involves looking in the mirror, and if I’m avoiding hearing myself say uncomfortable things, then these things could be just as valid as eye allergies and whatever else I’m telling myself.
Ex-haus-ting. I’ll start trying again. And see how it goes. I can always surrender to entropy again tomorrow. Or talk me out of it— that works, too.