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On Makeup (for both genders)

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Photo by Siora Photography on Unsplash

Look, I know if you identify as a man you're probably uninterested in makeup. It's ok; it's your prerogative. Or, shall we say, it's your privilege. Because women have to think about makeup, regardless of what they do, where they live, and who they are, even if they don't wear it.

I've had a long relationship with makeup. I grew up in a rural community, so (obviously) makeup was something that cheap girls wore. My mom also grew up in a rural community, and she felt that she couldn't teach me how to be a woman, so she sent me on a course when I was 14. I kid you not: I attended a 12-session course on how to be a woman. We learned colour coordination, table manners, good housekeeping, and, of course, how to put makeup on. I was the youngest attendee, by the way.

I haven't worn makeup that much in high school or while doing my bachelor's degree. But when we moved to Canada, it seemed that everyone on campus was wearing makeup, even if it was subtle. So I also started wearing makeup. It was blending in. By the time I was doing my doctoral research and teaching, I was wearing makeup every day. I was quite adept at putting it on, and I knew what I liked.

When we moved to London, I kept wearing makeup daily, mostly out of habit, and because all the other mums wore it, from what I could see. Then, one day, I was talking with my daughter. She was into makeup kits that time and wanted one. I gave her some of my old makeup to put on special occasions. She asked why she couldn't wear it every day, and I explained that it wasn't good for her skin. Then she asked, well, why are you wearing makeup every day, mama?

I explained to her that sometimes, people make up their minds about you based on how you look. I wore makeup because I wanted to make a good first impression. Then it occurred to me, that I actually don't care much what strangers think of me. Particularly, I'm ok with living my life without becoming best buddies with the kind of people who make up their mind about me based on whether I'm wearing makeup. Also, I hate wearing makeup. It itches and makes me feel uncomfortable.

So I stopped. Just like that. This was about two or three years ago, and I haven't worn makeup since, except perhaps extraordinary circumstances. And when people comment that I look tired, I say, oh, it's because I'm not wearing any makeup. When people (men) tell me I could have looked so much younger if I had just tried, I tell them that I don't exist for their aesthetic pleasure. That usually shuts the debate down, mostly because it signals to (white old) men that I'm "that kind of woman" which is an accurate estimation.

Don't get me wrong; I'm all for women (and men) who enjoy wearing makeup to go ahead and do just that. I don't think we should, as a society, determine someone's worth by what they look like. Now, I can afford not wearing makeup, as opposed to, say, younger women who need to impress a boss or women of colour, which is a whole different story. Also, I hate wearing makeup. So, I'm going with not wearing makeup as a social statement.


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