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Heart's ease - an infusion was said to help mend a broken heart

Sunday, 23 March 2014

Being makeup free

My parents being strict about things like makeup, I naturally acquired a secret stash along with adolescence, and wore it to parties, being careful to wipe it off before I got home. My friend, who was a few years older and whose mum was more laid back, gave me a lesson in how to apply it, so hopefully I didn't look too lurid! But interestingly, once I had left school and parental control, I continued in this vein, and only ever applied makeup on special occasions, and even then only when I "could be bothered."

New College gargoyle - photo by Margaret Wilson RSCJ
I have no idea why this was, because I certainly took a lot of care with my appearance. I had a thick, long mane of hair, for which I had a mountain of  scrunchies, bows, clips, combs and scarves in a multitude of colours. My outfits were always colour co-ordinated, with beads, belts and high-heeled shoes toning and harmonising with whatever I wore. I happily painted my nails with pearly, iridescent varnish... but 95% of the time my face remained completely unenhanced and unadorned.

Partly this was laziness: I am always sluggish in the morning, and styling my hair took long enough, without a full makeup routine as well. Partly, too, a mixture of vanity and self-preservation: my friend told me several times how much she envied my clear, blemish-free skin, and attributed her own spots to wearing foundation (which she had to go on wearing, to hide the spots!) since her mid-teens. But largely I think it was simply because it just never occurred to me to feel any sort of pressure - from within or without - to put on makeup before leaving my flat and "facing the world", whether for work, shopping or leisure.

I wasn't oblivious to the fact that many other women wore makeup - sometimes very heavy or striking; just as I also noticed (and envied!) their clothes and hair styles, and noticed those women who looked unkempt or whose appearance definitely made a statement. It just never entered my head that my bare, unadorned face might also be noticed because of its bareness, or be seen to be making any sort of statement. Maybe I've always been weird, but I just didn't wear makeup, and never gave it a second thought. Certainly, when I entered religious life, whatever else I might have thought I had to give up, wearing makeup was nowhere on my list!

I still take care of my appearance, just without all the beads, bows and stilettos of yesteryear. And I still notice other women's clothes and hair, but until recently I never gave their makeup a second thought. But recently I discovered that a couple of attractive young women I know - like my friend Esther - are trying to give up makeup, whether for Lent or longer. (Here's Esther's update) And then last week social media exploded with makeup free selfies, and women of all ages risking the exposure of au naturel photos of their faces to raise money for a cancer charity. Time and again the word "brave" was used to compliment women whose selfies looked lovely to me, which has made me wonder, with sadness: do they truly believe they look hideous without their makeup? (Because they most certainly don't!)

New College gargoyle - photo by Margaret Wilson RSCJ
Is what I have always regarded as adornment, even a way of highlighting certain features and drawing attention to the wearer, really a mask, a way of hiding or disguising oneself? Do other women regard makeup as some kind of protective armour without which they feel vulnerable because they're convinced they don't look attractive? And do any of them look at me and think I'm "brave" for not bothering? (Because that's certainly not how I feel!)

If any of that is how things are, even for a small minority, then it's so sad to think we have come to this...

Yesterday, Digital Nun wrote about this on her blog, iBenedictines.org. Her final paragraph is especially worth noting, for any of us who have ever worried about any aspect of our appearance:

The next time you look in the mirror and notice a spot or wrinkle, or think sadly of how you used to be able to run or jump, remember this: the body you were given was chosen for you from all eternity. It is the most perfect one you could have been given. It is not only how you know God but, even more important, how he knows you.

3 comments:

  1. Love this post Silvana - thank you! I think for many people posting no make up selfies IS brave, but because they feel insecure without the mask. Not, as you say, because they are ugly underneath. So by posting photos they are overcoming fears which shouldn't need to be there but are unfortunately there nonetheless.

    Your post was a refreshing reminder of the need to teach women that their fear or insecurity needn't even exist :-)

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  2. As a Christian woman, and one in training for the ministry, I struggle with this. Although I am almost always make-up free, I wear some make-up for special events and am always surrounded by a cloud of people telling me how lovely I look. I would like to be judged as the person I think God has created me to be, and I find it difficult to contemplate that my attractiveness as a person is seen so strongly through the eyes of the world.

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  3. Thank you for your comments. It is so sad that we women have been brainwashed into being so anxious about our appearance, weight, clothes etc, that even lovely-looking women can feel so insecure about their natural, God-given looks. And as Anon says, the only loveliness that should really matter is the one God created us for.

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