Tuesday, June 4, 2013

"The apparition of these faces in the crowd ..."

In a Station of the Metro
The apparition of these faces in the crowd;
Petals on a wet, black bough.
— Ezra Pound

I spent about an hour last night trying to fall asleep, but struggling, and the oddest thing was on my mind.  I really felt called to write about it, because maybe my little bit of writing might find someone who needs it someday.  What kept me up was the demand on women and teen girls to completely cover their faces with makeup.  

Now, don't get me wrong, I think makeup is fun, and I do wear it (on occasion).  However, I think the relationship that many women and teen girls have with makeup is unhealthy.  Most women and girls wear makeup because they are trying to hide their true faces, because they find them flawed.  They do not like the way they look.  

I used to be like this, too, and the road to self-acceptance was long and difficult.  When I was a young teen, I was horribly awkward looking, having developed the body of a woman already.  However, I had not exactly grown into my features yet.  I was teased and picked on by some very jealous girls, who said some very hateful things that to this day I still remember.  Add some goofy glasses, and I was very uncomfortable with my outward appearance.  I understood that, in the society of middle school, popularity was directly related to how you looked on the outside, and the girls who were the most popular (1) wore the most expensive "fashionable" clothes and (2) wore the most (and most expensive) makeup.  I honestly did not like many of these girls, and I have no idea why I wanted to emulate them, so all I can say is that the middle school years are hard and young teens will try anything to figure out who they really are.

Once I was able to get a job, I worked in the retail environment, selling "fashionable" clothing.  This was another area where outward appearance was pushed heavily, including the style of makeup that the employees wore.  We even had a employee meeting in which one of the managers spent time showing all the other women exactly how their makeup should be applied.  The constant message we received was "you are not good enough to represent the brand on your own - make yourself BETTER."

Why would anyone want women and young adults to think that their bodies are not good enough?  Well, it all points back to the driving force behind the products - money.  If women and teens think they are not good enough, they will spend an exorbitant amount of money trying to make themselves "better," be it through fashionable clothes, expensive accessories, the latest in "change-your-body" tricks and diets, and massive amounts of makeup.  If you aren't sure, take a look at every magazine geared toward women and teens.  They all tell the same thing, that we will be "better" if we just [insert change here], and it almost always involves spending money (usually from the advertisers for said magazine).

After I had SC, I had horrible post-partum depression, and it ended up being a very good thing.  I rarely did my hair (which ended up growing out very long, a look that I now love) and I stopped wearing makeup.  I just never felt like putting myself together.  I also may have spent more than my fair share of time in yoga pants and AC's t-shirts, but that is for another blog post.  

Seeing myself every day without makeup really gave me a chance to get used to my face.  And you know what, eventually I liked what I saw.  I got past the preconceived notions that I had heard from others since middle school and was able to see the real me.  Now, my skin had changed from the hormonal changes of having a baby, so once I got out of my PPD funk, I spent probably two years bouncing from cleanser to cleanser and moisturizer to moisturizer, trying to find what worked for ME (rather than the latest "fad").  Eventually, when AC and I would go out on a date, I wanted to try makeup again, but I was so uncomfortable in it.  I just didn't know what the goal of wearing it was.   I asked myself what my purpose was, and why I wanted it.  I came to realize that I liked to accentuate my features on occasion, but that even doing it for AC wasn't the right reason.  I needed to do it for me, and not because I didn't like the way I looked, but because I liked something so much that I wanted it to stand out more sometimes (like my eyes).

However, I had spent so much time away from doing makeup, I still didn't have the knowledge to find the products I needed to do what I wanted.  So, I spent time researching on the internet and looking at brands and products that I might want to wear.  I read reviews and looked up information about health/safety issues and some of the ingredients in said products.  I spent some time at Sephora getting a "free" makeover, but I didn't let them push me around.  I knew which products I wanted to try out, and I knew which I didn't.  I knew what my goal with wearing makeup was, and it wasn't just to wear makeup.  

So, now, on a daily basis I rarely wear makeup, and when I look at myself in the mirror on the way out the door (and I do look), I like what I see.  Then there are times when I want a little extra oomph and I put on makeup that accentuates what is already there.  So, here are two pics, one with makeup, one without, and I think I look beautiful in both of them.

So, ask yourself this question:  Are you wearing makeup to cover-up/mask or define/accentuate?  One of these reasons is inherently negative, while the other is inherently positive.  Whichever reason you are doing it, then ask yourself WHY.  If your answer to why has anything to do with other people or the status quo (because you feel you have to or that society has determined it is what you should be doing or someone has failed to see the real you and asked you to change), try taking a makeup break for a few weeks.  Spend some time finding a good cleanser and moisturizer, and focus on getting used to the beauty that God created.  Then, after some time with the real you, reevaluate the WHY before going back to makeup 24/7/365.

Remember, we are all created in His image (Genesis 1:27), and He is nothing if not beautiful.  I hope that I can pass this message along to SC when the time comes, that she was created beautiful, and that makeup is a fun addition, but by no means a necessary one.

What do you think on the topic of makeup, self-image and beauty?  I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments!
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