My Relationship with Makeup

For as long as I can remember, I have had a weird relationship with makeup. This is a post that I’ve written many times, and a subject that I talk on and off about, but I wanted to revisit it now. As someone who now wears light makeup everyday to work and has now come to view my face as looking messy and unattractive without it, I needed to revisit it – more for myself, rather than anyone else. The mindset that is starting to develop around my use of makeup today worries me, because after years of rarely using makeup as I a) couldn’t be bothered to spend so much time and money on it and b) not thinking it necessary, I’m now struggling to figure out how I feel about it all.

When I was a teenager, I had incredibly bad acne which in turn made me extremely self-conscious. Part of me thinks that a lot of my problems might have been solved if someone had shown me how to use makeup to cover up all the flaws and insecurities that branded my face. If I had known that it would only take a few dabs of concealer to cover up the worst of it, I like to think that I would have been far more confident in my day-to-day life.

The other part of me is grateful that I didn’t wear makeup, as I’m certain the reason my skin is good most days now is because I didn’t clog up my pores with foundation every day during puberty. I’m very much of the belief that makeup is yet another commodity sold by the media to women in a society where still women are made to feel that their best asset is their beauty. Businesses manipulate women into buying makeup by playing off those insecurities that are practically bred into every little girl to think that to be beautiful is what is most important.

I suppose that’s one reason that has been in the background of my thoughts toward makeup. Not wearing makeup was as much as a declaration as wearing makeup was, and by deciding for myself that I wasn’t going to wear any made me feel stronger and confident in a way that makeup didn’t. Makeup was a crutch, in my mind, and a crutch that society was telling me that I needed.

But just because I had made my mind up about this by no means meant that others had the same approach. Whilst in my head I was telling myself that makeup was a means of expression and should be optional, not mandatory, others may well have been looking at me thinking that I didn’t look polished or pretty. Or, better yet, thinking that I could be pretty if only I put some effort into it. And how damaging is that? Beauty is a standard set, one that we can never truly obtain – once you use makeup, you’re encouraged to use more and more until you leave the house wearing a different layer of skin.

Family members would tell me before interviews, all meaning well, that I should definitely wear some makeup to look more ‘professional’. They were essentially telling me that if I didn’t wear makeup, I would look like a slob. As if makeup was no longer a choice, but an expectation that I was meant to fulfil in order to get a job. And once I got the job? I felt so much pressure to keep up a good appearance that I started wearing makeup everyday, which brings me to now. Whilst I don’t wear a lot of makeup, everyday I make time to put on concealer and powder, to wear some mascara and blush to make myself look better. Whereas in my last job I rarely used makeup, not at all concerned about not wearing it, I now look at my skin and think that it doesn’t look nice without it.

This was the mindset and outlook that I was scared shitless of obtaining, like it was some sort of plague sweeping across the nation which I had somehow managed to avoid. Is it not outdated, believing that women have to wear makeup in formal situations? If you saw a man and a woman with pimples on their chins, would you only think that the woman looked bad as she wasn’t even trying to cover them in makeup? Would she look sloppy, whereas he maintained a professional appearance? Would a man be judged for having bags under his eyes?

I stand by my belief that makeup should be something for the individual, something you choose to wear to express yourself, to show off your creativity and flair. It shouldn’t be a requirement, and nobody should make you feel like it is. I shouldn’t be viewed as seeming sickly, lazy, or untidy simply because I didn’t want to spend time that morning caking my face in products for other people’s benefit.

So now I feel stuck between a rock and a hard place. Stop wearing makeup and feel insecure again, or continue wearing it saying that I personally prefer having it? It’s a statement either way, and I’m so terrified of making the wrong one. After years of feeling like not wearing makeup was part of my identity, am I now betraying my past self by caving to its appeal? Am I caving to the societal pressure and belief that makeup will make me look far better? That my own skin is just not enough?

It’s a maze I have been unable to navigate thus far. My feelings and emotions are conflicted, feeling attacked when people tell me I should wear makeup, as if they are saying I’m ugly instead. As if they’re saying that nobody would want me, be it to hire me in a job or to date me romantically, if I didn’t wear makeup. It’s a conversation and discussion that seems to have been going on for so long, that there can’t possibly be any sort of end in sight. It’s a conversation I’m sure I’ll be participating in for many more years, one where I wish I knew what the conclusion will be.

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Female Beauty

I have a notebook obsession – seriously, it’s a bit of an issue that I try to handle every single day. I even tried to get rid of a few old ones the other day, and as I was flicking through  the pages of one of my numerous ‘ideas’ notebooks, I came across a small passage that I wrote. It was a first-person rant by a female character who was fed up of being called arrogant for thinking she was beautiful. When writing it, I think I must have been maybe fourteen and most definitely insecure about my appearance, so of course I wrote about characters who were confident, strong, and took absolutely no shit from anyone.

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Anyway, it got me to thinking – a rare activity for me – about why I, along with so many other girls, are so insecure. Yes, the easy answer is media and body-shaming and blah blah blah, but I think it’s more than just telling girls that they need to be skinny or it’s beautiful to have flawless skin and long flowing locks like some sort of Disney princess. I think you could go far enough to say that we’re not telling girls just about what beauty is, but that they can’t be beautiful. Or at least, they themselves can’t think that.

I’m not making much sense? Right, let me take you to a classic example of a pop song by a boy band beloved by most young girls. Heard of that horridly catchy and irritating What Makes you Beautiful by One Direction? Now, not to hurt too many feelings, I’m sure the boys of 1D did not intend to fit into the stereotype of putting down girls nationwide, but they certainly do with that number. Yes it might sound cheerful and seem sweet about a boy telling a girl she’s beautiful, but let me remind you of the killer line ‘You don’t know you’re beautiful, that’s what makes you beautiful’.

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I know, I know, they seem very cute, but STOP THAT RIGHT NOW. Are you seriously kidding me with this line? Let me elaborate what they’re saying here several times:

  • You don’t know you’re beautiful, that’s what makes you beautiful
  • What makes you beautiful, is that you don’t know it
  • I like the fact you think you’re ugly, it makes you more attractive
  • You have no self-confidence, which I like
  • I like to be superior and for you to feel inferior

Ok, maybe the last one is going a bit too far, but I’m standing by my point. We are telling girls that it’s better for them to have no self-confidence. It’s not good to think that you’re pretty or beautiful because that’s too close to arrogance which isn’t at all attractive. Far better for a boy/man to find a girl who thinks she’s worthless so he can be the one to reassure her, or not. We go back to the ageless stereotype of thinking girls should be meek and quiet who need to be saved by strong men. Stop that right this instant.

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And so we’re back to the classic slut vs stud dichotomy; women who sleep with lots of men are sluts, men who sleep with lots of women are studs – simple! You would think we’d be past this by now but, alas, we are not. And boy bands are partly to blame. Sort of.

Why are girls encouraged, still, that having confidence isn’t great? In an age when we’re trying to get girls thinking that they can be just as good as boys, and telling both boys and girls that they don’t have to fit the stereotype of being strong all the time/quiet and meek all the time, there are still a million and one issues. Beauty is one that we usually think we’ve covered, like there’s some long list and after the numerous attacks on body-shamers and huge long articles about plus-size models and what not, we’ve ticked that box. Hate to be the party-pooper, but we’re a long way from done. Girls are told to be confident in themselves and their abilities, but that doesn’t yet truly extend to being confident about their beauty.

So, let’s please change something. Even if it’s just a song that now says ‘You don’t know you’re beautiful-oh wait, you do know? That’s great news; I find your confidence attractive and I like that we’re on equal footing’, although that’s a little less catchy.

Get with the Times

You’d think that going out to buy a laptop in this day and age would be a pretty straightforward process, and you’re probably right seeing as I went out yesterday with my saved up money to buy myself a new laptop and am currently writing this post via said laptop. Now once you’ve decided what you need/want out of the laptop, have researched into different models and pretty much know what you’re going to get. What I didn’t factor in, however, was the fact that I’m a girl going out to buy a laptop.

Now don’t get me wrong – we, as a culture, have come a long way in terms of equality and, more recently, understanding that ‘feminist’ isn’t a word for a woman who wants to be superior to all men etc. However, there are some businesses who haven’t quite advanced to this stage and the laptop-buying scene is one of them.

So, let me tell you my tale of laptop-buying woe.

I first went to John Lewis with dear ol’ Dad, armed with my credit card and ready to rumble. It was a Saturday, so the shopping center was pretty busy, but we managed to wrestle our way into the technology section and have a look around. I was feeling pretty confident in my abilities to decide what I needed, but we still sought the advice of one of the employees.

This is where it goes downhill.

Immediately this man turns to my Dad and tells him all about the particular laptop we’d commented on, despite the fact that we’d just told him that this laptop was for me. Of course I want my Dad’s opinion, but I’d rather here the information about it from the employee and not have it told to me afterwards just because he won’t talk to me. You could argue that maybe the man thought my Dad was the one who was going to buy the laptop for me, which is fair enough, but this immediate assumption meant that there was no way that I wanted to buy a laptop there.

Onto PC World.

This was slightly better, but I briefed my Dad before and we clearly told the guy that I wanted to buy a new laptop for university. We did so much better, the guy actually talked to both of us and we decided on a laptop. The problem came when we approached checkout, as the man turned to my Dad and said ‘Will you be paying by card?’. So, obviously, I stepped in front of him and said maybe slightly too loudly, ‘Yes, I will be’.

You might be thinking that this isn’t that big of a deal, and once again you’d probably be right. It isn’t that big of a deal. It’s pretty irritating though that some people just haven’t got the memo that girls can actually venture into departments like technology, know something about what they want and actually pay for it themselves even when they’re in the presence of a man. So, if anyone cares enough to listen, this is me asking everyone to get with the times already.