Skin Deep

I recently read this article at the Dove website.  Ever since, I’ve been seriously thinking about the virtue–or lack thereof–of wearing makeup.

Let me preface by describing my relationship with makeup and my face.  I started wearing makeup when I was in junior high, and by the age of 16 I was almost unable to leave the house with a bare face.  I don’t know if I can make you understand how self-conscious I was about my skin.  I felt so ugly, and worse, I started to believe that being ugly meant that I was unworthy to make friends, have attention from boys, be successful with my extracurricular activities, be smart, be happy…all that was supposed to be reserved for the beautiful people, not ugly people like me.  So, with makeup, I could make people think I might be one of the beautiful people.  Or, on my more honest days, I wore makeup to convince myself that I was making others think I might be beautiful.

Complex, yes?  And much to deep for a relationship with cosmetic products?  Of course.  But it is what it is, and it became a habit, and it doesn’t really go away.  So far, anyway.

So, do I think that it is immoral to wear makeup?  No.  Even on days when I feel really gorgeous, I think wearing makeup is fun, something girly we can do to make ourselves look the way we want to look.  Like nail polish or jewelry.  This isn’t about right or wrong, or what I should do.  This is about my relationship with makeup.

The article is called “Love and a Face Full of Zits.”  The author is recounting a story of a first date that happened right before she had to get on a 20-hour flight.  So she wasn’t wearing any makeup, which was not how she usually went on dates, and she wasn’t very comfortable with it.  She and the guy had talked on the phone and emailed, but never met in person.

“And here I am in the middle of rocking a great breakout of zits that I chose not to cover up tonight, so here you go, the woman behind the makeup.  Here she is, zits and all.”


He was just looking at me.  I thought maybe he was scanning my face to inspect my zits.  How embarassing.  What was I thinking?  Why did I agree to this?  Just as I felt my inner critic fire up some more insane musings, he grabbed my face in his hands and kissed me.  KISSED ME.  I told him I had zits and he KISSED ME.

He followed up that bold move with another.  “Jess, I think you are beautiful, whether you have a zit or not.  I like who you are as much as I like what you look like.”  DING, DING, DING, we have a winner!

This article hit me like a hammer between the eyes.  I found myself with a small, quiet thought:  “Well, she shouldn’t point them out!  What is obvious and horrible to you, someone else might not notice.  Just…shh!  Besides, do you want to give a guy the impression that you’re insecure on the first date?”  And then, another thought responded: “Wait…I would be tempted to say the exact same thing.”  When I can stop myself from apologizing for myself, it’s not because I’m standing up for myself.  It’s because I want people to not notice the things that I would like to apologize for.  So I cover them up, hide them, and I don’t mention it.  Any steps I can take so that people can’t see me.

And then Sara over at Walk Slowly, Live Wildly blogged about her dreads.  So, I’ve been thinking dready thoughts again!  I think I mentioned them awhile back…yep, found it!…and what I said back then is still true.  I do not want dreads.  However…how wonderful would it feel to take a shower, wash my hair, dry off, moisturize, and be off!  No mousse, brushing, blow-drying, curling iron, hairspray, foundation, powder, blush, eye shadow, eyeliner, mascara, lip gloss… none of that.  Sounds kind of like what I imagine a guy feels like to get ready in the morning.  What if I could just be myself, hair doing what it will, face looking like whatever it looks like, and still feel like a girl?  Still feel worthy and valuable?  Still feel attractive?

I don’t really know how to get there from here.  Except…

In the beginning of getting to know Mike, I made it a point to not put my best foot forward every second that I was with him.  We spent time together playing ultimate frisbee in 90 degree heat, and in the rain, and swimming, and whatnot.  And if I wouldn’t have worn makeup if Mike weren’t going, I didn’t wear makeup.  I didn’t know if Mike liked me or not…well, okay, I sort of knew, but we hadn’t talked about it!…but for once I wanted a guy to get to know me, first, before he got to know polished, perfected, first-date me.  Because eventually someone is going to get all of it.  Sometimes they’ll get to see polished, perfected, right-from-the-blowdryer, just-did-my-makeup, fancy me.  But every day they will get to see rumpled, mussed, just-out-of-bed me.  So if that version is so awful that no one will ever be willing to be with me, then I’d rather not get my hopes up by only putting forth the polished version.  Or, I’m weeding out the guys who want a perfect girl before I get attached.  However you want to put it.  But my point is…look how that has worked out so far!  I feel like I could do whatever I need to do to my appearance, and Mike will say whatever it is he needs to say about it, but he will still be here.  He will still accept me.

So, how about I take that attitude with every relationship I have?  Well, two things…One, it’s not all that healthy of a motive.  “I need to look my ugliest so that I’m never a disappointment?”  Come on!  And two…there are times when it is appropriate to put my best foot forward.  I’m specifically thinking about work.  Should I go to parent-teacher conferences with a bed-head and dark circles under my eyes?  Of course not.  There are times when I need to make sure that my image reflects a dedicated and competent professional.  (Hmm…am I a competent professional if I’m not sure how to spell competent?…haha…)

I think I need that spiritual journey that comes with dreads.  Sara and another blogger, Jaymi, talk about so many things they learn about themselves, about the world, and about God by wearing dreads.  For one thing, patience.  It takes a few years to get them to the point of being neat, tidy, locked up dreads.  For another, the value–or lack thereof–in images and first impressions.  Standing up for who you are despite what it feels like others might think.  The value of being unable to blend in and be “like everyone else,” of having no choice but to display exactly who you are.  Commitment.

Although…dreads or no dreads, it’s still just hair!  I need the journey, but I don’t need the dreads.

It’s funny, as I write this I’m listening to the lyric, “To find someone you love, you have to be someone you love,” by Nada Surf…  🙂


2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Mom
    Jan 23, 2009 @ 07:54:58

    I have always thought you are beautiful and I have always loved regardless of whether your makeup is done or hair is perfect. Of course I know that is what mothers are supposed to do. But then I really havent’t seen any ugly people. A few animals have seen a bit ugly; they just don’t look well proportioned or something, but never people.


  2. Doris Jacobs
    Jan 23, 2009 @ 13:14:36

    then those ugly animals also look ugly when they are all bathed, brushed, clipped, and trimmed to perfection. Somemthing is still out of balance. that is to keep us humble and glad we are made in the image of God, perfect in his eyes. that is all that counts.


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