Giving up Makeup

Haha, NO.  I’m not giving up makeup.  But one of the pastors at our church gave up makeup for Lent earlier this year.   She’s pretty hip.   She’s a good many things, actually, but I think hip is definitely one of them.  Several years ago, when Jason was on staff at the church, he decided that it would be a grand idea to surprise me with some new clothes (more on that later) so he asked Pastor Gail to help him out.  I was two months postpartum after having Isaiah and admittedly in need of some new duds.  Transition clothes, if you will.   And Gail was glad to lend a hand.

Turns out, though, that Pastor Gail is way beyond me in terms of clothing cool-ness.  When I tried on the dress that Jason proudly proffered after their shopping excursion, he literally laughed out loud.   He, of course, immediately started to backpedal and was all like, “No, no, love, it looks good on you, I promise, it’s just uh…. uh, maybe not quite your style?”   Turns out they had veered away from my beloved Old Navy and into the likes of clothing stores I hadn’t even heard of at the time.   The world just wasn’t ready for it, people.  I returned the dress but I did keep the jeans.  I was straight-up fashionista in those jeans!   No “mom jeans” for THIS lady.

But I digress.  The POINT is that Gail isn’t some sort of (so-called) frumpy woman who doesn’t really wear makeup anyway.   This was a genuine “giving up” and it was hard.  She had folks tell her repeatedly that she looked tired and/or stressed.  Her kids thought she looked more Asian without her makeup and she nearly said no to preaching on Good Friday when she realized that she’d still be makeup-less.   It sparked many conversations among my friends, male and female alike.  And I’m still thinking about it 5 weeks post-Easter.

The first question that comes to mind is, of course, would  I do it?   I’ve mulled this over quite a bit and decided my answer is M A Y B E  but I would have some stipulations.  I would do it if I could keep wearing lipstick.  Maybe cover-up, too.  Cover-up AND lipstick.  Tinted chap stick at the VERY least.   If there is a special event, I get to break my fast.  And I get to wear my glasses everyday.  Soooo… in other words, no.  No, I wouldn’t do it.

I find this unsettling.  I think that’s why I’m still thinking about it all these weeks later.    What’s wrong with me?  Over dinner a couple weeks into Lent, several of my male friends asked the women why we wear make-up in the first place if we all wish that we didn’t have to?  Why give in to the pressure of society, they asked.  Why not buck the system?   Some other male friends mentioned in comments on Facebook that they just “don’t even really notice our make-up” or that they prefer the “natural look.”

What I don’t think my male friends understand is that the so-called “natural look” takes an awful lot of makeup and effort to achieve.  And if they don’t notice our makeup in the first place, why did they all  notice Gail’s lack thereof during Lent?    I think, if my friends were shown a line-up of women WITHOUT makeup and then a lineup of women WITH makeup, they would all think the made-up women looked better.  Even if they were unwilling to admit it.  And this isn’t to knock on my male friends.  Not at all.  I would find the made-up lineup of women more attractive as well.  Their questions and comments reveal that they all genuinely want to understand and to BE understanding.  But they can’t extricate themselves from the culture any more than we can.  Mark Manson mentions this is his blog post about American culture when he explains,

…some of the stuff we do, some of the stuff that we always assumed was normal, it’s kind of screwed up.  And that’s OK.  Because that’s true with every culture.

wish that I didn’t care about my appearance.  I wish that I could step outside the culture and just “buck the system” but I know that I won’t.  I hate it when my boys wander over in the morning and ask about my mascara.  Or my eyeliner or my lipstick.  What’s it for?  Why do you wear it?  Should I wear some?   I don’t know how to explain WHY I wear it.  I don’t want to tell them that I do it to look beautiful because I’m supposed to believe that I’m beautiful without it.  But obviously I don’t.

I opened a magazine last week and saw this ad:

photo1 (3)

Then yesterday I was sick on the couch all day.   After two episodes of Scandal, I decided to browse Pinterest and I saw this:

pinterestpicThe caption?  Flat stomach and thigh gap inspiration.

Is it really any wonder why I don’t feel like I could even begin to buck the system?  The system that tells me I need to “mattify” the shine on my forehead, reduce my PORES and work endlessly on the ever-illusive thigh gap?  The system that tells me I need full and frizz-less lockssmokey eyespouty lips, long eyelashes, a belly as flat as my 10-year-old niece (see above), and completely hairless, evenly tanned skin?  It’s exhausting.  I’m exhausted.  But I don’t know how to get off the rat wheel.

At the writing conference I told you about last week, David James Duncan shared with the group that he doesn’t watch the news anymore.  He hasn’t watched it in over a year.  He reads the news and listens to it on occasion but he doesn’t watch it because he needs the quiet; he needs to protect a place inside of him that is still tender.  It made me wonder what tender places I might need to protect inside myself and yesterday as I stared at that ridonkulous thigh gap, I realized that this might be one of them.   I’m not going to delete my Pinterest account or swear off Facebook but maybe I need to shut it down and shut it out more often so that I can better hear the song that God is singing over me.  Because as Manson wrote a little later in his article,

…we don’t really get perspective on what’s close to us until we spend time away from it.  Just like you didn’t realize the weird quirks and nuances of your family until you left and spent time with others, the same is true for country and culture.  You don’t often see what’s messed up about your culture until you step outside of it.

I feel like I should wrap this up by saying that maybe I’ll throw out my makeup after all.  But I’m not ready for that just yet.  It’s for your sake, really.  I mean, I wouldn’t want to expose you all to my humongous pores and less-than-luminous lashes.  Sheesh, that be terrible.

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writing about life and the intersections of culture, faith, gender & race

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