Meditation on Makeup

January 26, 2010

This morning while waiting for the bus, I was seized with a 30-second panic, wondering if I had remembered to put on makeup this morning.

Now, I’m no beauty queen and I don’t spend hours in front of a mirror, but I know better than to leave the house for work without makeup on. I reassured myself that yes, I did everything I needed to do to prepare myself for work and I needn’t worry.

But this got me to thinking – why is it that we, as women, have taken on and accepted as a part of our consciousness that we are incomplete, faulty, most of all, embarrassed – if we don’t wear our makeup? We can’t bear to look ourselves in the mirror – and we cringe at the thought of others seeing us – as we really are.

This is especially hard for teenage girls, when they are beginning to form this consciousness. Oh sure, part of the makeup is that it is fun; part of it is experimenting to find their own “look” – but I believe that the makeup obsession is part of the reason why young women give up their souls – their identity – their strength and their heart – as they go through adolescence.  (Think I’m exaggerating? Read the classic Reviving Ophelia and others like it.)

This morning, when the wind whipped my hair and my makeup faded as my skin paled against the cold, I recalled an incident many years ago, where I first came to realize how the makeup issue can so powerfully affect a woman’s self-esteem.

I was camping (no makeup needed or expected here) and most of the other campers were some good guy-friends and a few families.  One of the families had a teenage son, about 16 or so. Poor guy, he had horrible acne.

I thought – wow – if he were a girl, he would be devastated – but at least she could cover it up with makeup. As a boy, of course, he did not have that option.

I realized if I were in a similar situation – bad skin, right out there for the world to see – that I’d have to “power through” it – I’d just have come to terms with it and move on.  It would actually give me confidence. Self-determination. Inner strength.  What a contrast to what it is like as a girl.

Even though I never had such a severe problem as his,  I realized for myself – even as a grown woman – a blemish here and there would seem catastrophic. I had to cover it up! I couldn’t let anyone see – that I was less than perfect. That I was not completely in control of my own skin and appearance.  That without makeup I was a failure – less of a woman, less of a professional – a perfectly capable but physically (and therefore, by extension, perhaps in other ways, too) flawed human being. Putting all of my failings – by that one little  blemish – on display for the world to see.

Even in the camping situation where makeup was not expected and would be pointless and a pain (it was summer after all), I felt insecure.  I saw this young man – and took courage from him. If he could do it – so could I.

This one experience helped me see the vast differences in how – just even in this one small area – we continue to teach and encourage our young men to be confident and secure no matter their situation – and how we do such a disservice to our young girls by buying into the charade that “without my makeup I must die” mentality that we all seem to have in our culture.

I don’t have a teenage daughter, so I don’t know how I would try to balance her need to explore and affirm he own identity – sometimes via makeup – versus losing herself and feeling exposed, embarrassed, and ashamed if she didn’t have makeup. Perhaps sports or another activity would give her a chance to spend equal time experimenting without makeup and give her a chance to discover herself – her confidence, her true, natural beauty, and learn who her real friends – and boyfriends – really are.

Thankfully, I’m old enough now that I no longer have the fear and insecurity that I had when I was younger. I wear makeup or don’t wear makeup as I choose – though clearly I still follow the cultural expectation that I shouldn’t leave the house without it. (And I panic if I forget!)

© writingreading, 2010


Two Inspiring Young Women

November 1, 2009

Just this week, I’ve heard two stories about two young women – both age 12 – who are truly inspiring.

The first is Dorothy Dark, who creates original headbands and sells them at a boutique in Nashville, Tenn. They’re going for $8-$12, folks. She’s 12. What a talent, and what an entrepreneur.

The second is a young woman who may be about 14 by now, but the story I learned about her concerns her life when she was 12 and 13. She was making a movie, and not just any move, but a feature-length film – about zombies. Emily Hagins’ story is told in the documentary Zombie Girl – and it follows her through two years of filmaking. She was 12 when she did this, folks. Twelve. As in – in middle school. And this is no ordinary feature-length pre-teen zombie movie. It’s the Real Deal. Makup. Slates (“action”), film-editing, sound boom. The works.  (With lots of help from Mom and Dad and her schoolmates. And the local IGA, until the zombies left a trail of blood behind after the filming – but we won’t talk about that.) What’s more, she won a $1000 Texas Filmmaker’s Production Grant that helped her family recoup some of the funds they had put into the film. It took her two years to create the film before Pathogen premiered to a sold-out crowd in her hometown of Austin, Tex.

I really loved the documentary about the making of her film, because it showed her passion for filmmaking, her professionalism at such a young age, and her desire to do good work, and see her project through to completion. I mean, really – how many 12 year olds can keep their enthusiasm and momentum going on one subject for more than a few weeks – let alone two entire years? It was impressive and inspiring.

It was neat to see, too, how she and her mother got along during the entire zombie-journey. It was amazing to see how supportive both of her parents were of her endeavor, but especially her mother who provided transportation, and served as caterer, sound crew, makeup artist, props department, and special effects technician. Sometimes Mom tried to have too much influence in production, which led to some artistic differences and tension between mother and daughter, but her story, too, as mother of a child-film-producer was also interesting to watch.

I’m interested to see where these young ladies are in another 2 to 10 years. I wouldn’t be surprised at all if one is a major fashion designer and the other is getting her first Academy Award or Sundance Film Festival honor at age 18.

Young women like these inspire me. If we as adults, particularly us women, believed in our dreams and followed our passions with the heart and drive as these young girls – what might our world look like? Well, it might be full of zombies wearing hip, cool headbands – but I’d venture a guess that we’d all be happier, and those around us would be happier, too, because by following our passions, we would bring joy and laugher and pleasure to others. What’s more – we could inspire others – just like these young women are inspiring me – and I hope, you too!

 

© writingreading, 2009