I Still Miss Makeup

I went to CVS over the weekend, and much to my chagrin, I found myself walking up and down the makeup aisles, actually considering whether I could make myself up just once and not tell anyone. I'm also still consistently dreaming about having long hair again, and the dreams usually consist of me styling said hair and playing with it in various boring ways. I'm tired of TME. I want my old life back, even though TME been a good thing for me to do.

WTF is going on here? Well, I can think of a few possibilities.

  1. Fun: God forgive me, getting dressed up is fun for me. Using styling products, busting out the flatiron or big giant round brush, trying on a ridiculous shade of eyeshadow... I love all that crap. I know that for some women it's not fun at all, but for me, I like it-- so there may not be anything insidious or wrong about my missing it.
  2. Solitary practice: Without a group of friends to hang out with who are also covering their hair, arms and legs and eschewing makeup (like, if I belonged to a faith community where this was the case), it may be harder to resist temptation. I don't know what "beauty" looks like in any context other than Western popular culture, and I wonder if the cumulative, constant exposure to the dominant definition of "beauty" is starting to wear me down. In other words, as time goes on, it gets harder and harder to deal with standing out because I don't have a group of women who use the same standards I do. (This isn't to say that there aren't individuals who don't wear makeup or have super-trendy haircuts outside of faith or other social groups, but that they're coming from a place of not liking makeup or hair stuff for their own reasons-- which is different from enjoying all that, but making a choice to stay away from it, like I am.)
  3. "Like a man": Part of the framework for this project has been a desire to see, if only a little bit, what it's like for men, who don't have to do all the crap women often put themselves through just to look "polished." The thing is, I don't identify with images of men that I see-- I identify strongly with straight women. I am not a man, I see myself as a very feminine sort of lady, and no amount of hair covering or barefacedness is going to change that. If I felt like a man in a woman's body, that would be different... but I'm a woman, in a woman's body, and I've always identified that way. 
  4. Culture vs. Nature: I hate to sound so cliched, but at this point I'm pretty sure that it's impossible for me to separate the "me" that exists without social pressure and the "me" that I've crafted in response to it. I can't find the "me" that would exist if I had never watched TV or movies, or seen the women around me all gussied up all the time, because I can't divorce myself from my environment. If it had been possible, I wouldn't like makeup etc. at all, because when I was growing up I had no access to any of that. I was raised by my dad, and he was militantly anti-pop culture. This meant that I wasn't allowed to pierce my ears until I was 16, couldn't ask for styling products or even a decent blow dryer, I couldn't even wear nylons or shave my legs unless I was going to be onstage singing or something... dad raised me, as much as he could, to resist the popular definition of femininity. I wasn't even allowed to watch TV other than Animaniacs and Star Trek: TNG. If anyone were to hate "girliness," it would be me. And yet, I don't. In fact, I love it. All of it.
Could it be that makeup and hair and cute clothes are something between an artificial crutch and a part of my personality? I can't say what role the beauty industry plays in the lives of other women, but this project has always been about exploring my own insecurities and assumptions, not finding some overarching thesis statement about why popular images of feminine perfection are evil. How I dress now, how I don't do my hair... this isn't me, either. That's not to say that there's no merit to it-- it's just not quite me.

I just don't want to be 50 and still holding myself up to the beauty standards of 20-year-olds. I don't want to look in the mirror and beat the crap out of myself because I've gained weight, like all women do unless they really kill themselves, as I get older. I don't want to be running on the treadmill of rich, white beauty until I die, or go blind.

I want to be able to accept myself, while living in a culture that is built on dissatisfaction.

This week I will be in New York City, the epicenter of Western culture, beauty standards and all. This should be interesting. I lived there for 2 years and change back in 2007-2009, and I wonder if I'll feel different being there without all the makeup and trendy clothes... while surrounded by makeup and trendy clothes. I dunno. We'll see, and you'll hear about it!

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