The Life-Changing Magic Of Not Always Looking Your Best
I used to wear makeup to go running. Just a little waterproof mascara, in case I needed to stop and pick something up on the way home. When I went on a flight at 6am, I was putting BB cream on at 3 in the morning. I’ve worn blush in the pool. Or put on eyebrow gel for a run to the grocery store. If I left the house, there would be something on my face.
Most of the time, I love putting on makeup. It’s the best part of the pre-game to go out—the 45-minute ritual (or sometimes enormously longer) I spend focusing on a routine is calming to me. It feels good to make myself look good in the way that word means to me, and it’s nice to have some control.
But it’s not always in my control. At 3am on the way to the airport, it’s not about my control. It’s about protection. It's about projection. It's about fearing the way I might look to the world. It’s about being scared that people might see things about me---very human things---that make me feel sloppy or ugly. It’s about the illusion of looking better because the before isn’t enough. I'm not enough. It’s about a world that puts so much emphasis on being pretty. Naturally so, of course. Well, naturally enough that they can’t tell you’re wearing makeup, but you actually are, because how do people not realize that no-makeup makeup is actually like ten products? It's an illusion, Michael! And being a woman can sometimes feel like you are just creating an illusion.
It is not a fun and positive veil, it is a cover.
I want to learn the difference between the cover and the enhancement. I am trying to learn the difference.
I have seen women run to the door when the doorbell rings and they don’t expect it. I have noticed what they do. Right after the “who is it” and the doorknob grab, it is a look to the mirror. It’s a quick analysis. It’s a lip gloss application. It’s a hair check. And we take many little breaks throughout the day to check up on ourselves. Those little pauses where we try to see what others see; to look ourselves up and down and check to see what our acne looks like today, if any errant hairs have popped up, if our ponytail is out of place. To We want to keep that illusion up. The best we can be? Sometimes, sadly, it’s the way we look to others.
I'm not better than all this. I prefer to feel curated. I can obsess over it at times. It’s why I like selfies more than candid photographs---I have my own vision of what I want others to see. And it comes from a darker place than just “I want to look my best!” I have a very good memory for cruel or unintentionally rude things people have said about me. Your arms are hairy! Your teeth have a space in them. You look so great with a few pounds off you. I love your eyelashes when you wear mascara. I have a very good memory for what is perceived perfection, and what I believe we are supposed to look like. Small nose. Glowing skin. No visible flaws. And I have a very good memory for the flaws I have imagined for myself.
When I "fix myself up" for these reasons, I have failed myself. When I don’t want to go to the party because I have a breakout on my cheeks or because I have a bad hair day, I fail myself.
So here’s what I’m doing: I’m trying not to look so damn good all the time.
I left the house yesterday without makeup and I didn’t check the mirror for a few hours. That was not particularly easy, but for somebody who can get a little caught up in images of perfection, it’s important. It’s important to not check all the time. It’s important to put your not-best-foot-forward every once and a while. It's important to just..sit in it.
Why? Because we need to get comfortable with ourselves We also need to challenge the idea that our image needs to be so…put together. I’ve seen men announce to the party they’ve just rolled out of bed and didn’t shower and came right to an event. And I hear that and I go “imagine that.” There are women out there who don’t wear makeup or do their hair, of course. Most of the time, we don’t like it too much. We get downright uncomfortable with it. We all know that women (or anyone that presents as a female, regardless of their gender) who put ‘effort’ into their appearance are looked upon more positively by society. That’s not a particularly controversial statement. I find that kind of crazy. I'll fight to the death on how I feel lipstick is the best thing in the world, but that doesn't mean I think that every woman I know should wear it.
When Alicia Keys stopped wearing makeup, I thought a few things: a) awesome b) I like wearing makeup too much to do this c) I wonder how the world would react if her skin wasn’t completely gorgeous. We are still a world who pushes heavily towards the perfect, whether it’s real or created. And the truth is about all this, is I’m not telling you to not wear makeup. I would be a lunatic to tell you not to wear makeup, because I absolutely love wearing it. I love wearing it to look like a scary witch or a glowy alient. I also love wearing it because I do appreciate how nice it can be to cover up certain things we don’t like about ourselves. I wouldn’t tell somebody with acne that has found a foundation that gives them a much-needed self-esteem boost to throw it out. Not a chance in hell. I’m not blind to those things because I feel those things, too.
But I am telling you that you don’t need to cover those things all the time. When you’re in a rush. When you’re not doing something of importance. When you just want to feel like you. When you don’t want to spend one second of that particular day to subscribe to beauty standards, or whatever.
I’m telling you it’s important to feel comfortable with not being an image. I’m telling you to get comfortable with what you really look like. I’m telling you it’s okay to feel comfortable with not looking perfect. So go out of the house when your skin has little dry patches on it. Or when you forgot to tweeze. Or when you didn't shower and the dry shampoo is all out. Or when you just feel…not so attractive.
Let your skin breathe? I mean, sure. Or just let yourself breathe.